Memory Studies for the Future. Remembering (COVID-19) as Survival Value

by Adam F. Kola, Center of Excellence IMSErt, Interacting Minds, Societies, Environments, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland

Our memory is a sign of the past. Collective or social memory stores what has passed and for some reason is vital to the community. As such, the politics of memory1 is a tool of political struggle and social engineering. Undeniably, the collective memory of humanity will keep the coronavirus pandemic in its resources. In some countries or regions, it will become an essential element of building a community. It will be so in the memory of those living in the age of COVID-19, it will also survive in the next generations—in the form of post-memory2 or social traces of disease preserved in works of art. It will also become an essential element of scientific development. It seems that never before in history such great resources have been allocated for one scientific and social purpose at the same time3. Even the most significant military projects, with the Manhattan Project at the forefront, cannot compare to this. Nor have so many scientists ever switched their activities on a global scale just to make COVID-19 collapse, as well as to seek a remedy for illness, economic crisis, social and mental problems. There is no room here to talk about the inequalities that the pandemic has uncovered, but their scale is overwhelming.

Can memory studies do something today in the context of the coronavirus pandemic? Is there any sense in reaching for tools and conceptualisations developed within their framework? Can we think about memory for the future? Are the memory studies helpful here?

The most apparent lead would be to document what is happening around us. To study the process of remembering, and in later yearsforgetting or continually changing the memory of the pandemic. One can also study the memory and post-memory (memory of the next generations) of previous epidemics that affected humanity and look at what they left behind in our community4. Both tasks are now performed. There are teams of scholars and journalists who collect, document, describe5.

However, let us reach back into the past, not so far away as to give an important example, which today seems clear, and which shapes our reality in the days of pandemic and lockdown. In the memory of most adults two situations are still alive. The first is 9/11—the terrorist attack in the United States in 2001, symbolised by the destruction of the WTC Twin Towers. The second event was the crisis of 2008. They are crucial elements of the still active memory of people living in the world today. The intensity is different; the degree of impact varies. Because although the attacks took place in the United States, with New York as the most affected by their effects—not only practically, but also symbolically—the sight of skyscrapers collapsing has written itself—in the memory of all those who saw it. Mostly on TV screens, but still they saw it. However, the image is duplicated today.

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Urban agriculture: a new deal on food supply systems?

by Rinaldo Rossi, Geography, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

Urbanization is a global phenomenon, as it is a basis of contemporary spatialization of society, settled on big cities and on their integrated networks spread throughout the countryside. As the United Nations’ data shows, more than two-thirds of global population have been forecast to live in urban areas by 2050, up to 56% more than today’s rate.

Therefore, the coronavirus crisis has a close relationship with worldwide urbanization, which creates conditions for generation and spread of multiple zoonosis. Since the first COVID-19 case registered in the mega-city of Wuhan (December 2019), the contamination’s path was clearly observed as attached to human flow across great urban centers in the world, occurring the disease’s “jump of scales”. Countryside population faces great risks with the spread of the COVID-19 disease, especially in regions with precarious health-care systems; still, cities are the starting point for hierarchical contamination and the head challenge for social isolation policies.

Over the past decades, a significant number of deaths related to zoonosis had lighted a warning sign on cities’ food supply systems, mostly based on extreme conditions of animal confinement or management that favor biological mutation, environmental impacts, and health damage. During coronavirus crisis, urban citizens from all over the world are questioning their way of life; some analysts even play with Horace’s and Russeau’s notion of “fugere urbem”, to speak of the rich famous families movement towards their vacation houses on countryside areas as they keep on working from their “home offices”. Stereotypes aside, many citizens, now deprived of urban parks or beaches, started looking after their own gardens.

It is unknown how the perspectives emerged during the current quarantine will affect cities post COVID-19, but certainly they should continue to play a great role on societies’ spatialization. On the other hand, this lockdown period comes as a great window to rethink urban space and food industry.

Urban agriculture: not an exotic solution

There is a modern myth, shaped during industrialization, about a natural apartheid between city and agriculture. This principle emerged upon post 19th century scientific society, describes the city, stating dualism as bedrock of scientific study of social and spatial concepts, diffusing a thesis on incompatibility between food production and modern spatial form.

Paraphrasing M. Castells, industrialization built a false myth of an “urban culture”¹, where, supposedly, people are not even concerned about where their food comes from. There is some truth to the statement that capitalist economies tend to push food production out of the city’s borders. In truth, the history of cities, in either ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’ configurations, indicates a variety of experiences in which agriculture is a relevant function inside city’s limits. Smit, Nasr and Ratta² present hundreds of cases where fresh food production occur in urban or peri-urban areas. For Native American societies, Urban Agriculture (UA) technologies were important. Aztec chinampas (figure 1), Inka terraces and Mayan agrarian urbanism are notable examples.

Figure 1 – Diego Rivera’ painting (1929-35) shows Aztec chinampas

Some may say UA is common to ‘non-complex societies’, but not applicable to ‘modern societies’, which is a false affirmation, as pictured by industrial pioneer cities of Paris and London. For instance, in the Paris of the 19th century, UA was necessary for food supplying and sanitation, the styles of jardins ouvrier (worker’s gardens) and marais (swamps) fed people and contributed to composting.

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by Ana Helena German Drumond, Law, Court of Justice of Minas Gerais, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and Mariana Damiani Santana, Law, Court of Auditors of Minas Gerais, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil


The emergence and rapid spread, around the globe, of the new coronavirus imposed suddenly the need to adopt adaptive changes to the new reality. In the legal sphere, the adaptations caused an impact of even greater proportions than in other areas, given that, until now, the resistance of this branch to innovate was notorious. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it imperative to reduce bureaucratization of legal institutions, which is why the present work is aimed at the useful and necessary understanding of the online immersion of Law as well as the possible repercussions of that in the post-pandemic world.


In the midst of the various areas of knowledge that are in constant search for modernization and innovation, it is noticeable that the Law is timid when it comes tomajor changes. The legal world seems, in many ways, to have stopped in time.

Big data, internet of things and artificial intelligence have been slowly introduced into the daily lives of legal professionals. Even though some exceptions were noticed, this was not the rule of pre-pandemic Law.

Nevertheless, the increasing proliferation of COVID-19 worldwide and the need to try to prevent its spread has led to changes in the configuration of social, commercial, and, inevitably, legal relations.

Considering theguaranteeing role of the Judiciary and related entities, which consists in protecting individual and collective rights, paralyzing its activities until the resumption of normalcy was not an option. It was necessary, then, that the Law, previously hardened, despite all resistance, became more flexible and reinvented itself under the new conditions and limitations imposed.

Allying itself with the resources provided by technology, Law has been taking unprecedented forms and the amplification of its immersion in the online world is inevitable. And in this new scenario, issues related to data protection and security, which are even more relevant than before, will determine the success of the new ways of exercising legal techniques, since it will no longer be possible, nor desired, to go back.


In April 2020, Brazil was surprised by the adoption of an innovative and unprecedented measure: for the first time in history, the Federal Supreme Court held trial sessions via video conference. The sessions werebroadcasted in real time through the Superior Court channel on Youtube. Besides that, the Court allowed pleadings by attorneys, prosecutors and defenders active in the cases being tried, during the video conference1. The objective was to prevent the jurisdictional assistance from being interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At almost the same time, in May 2020, in Singapore, for the first time in the country’s history, a man was sentenced to death after being put on trial via videoconference, through the Zoom platform.2 The measure was also adopted to ensure the safety of those involved in the process, amid the lockdown enacted in Singapore due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.


My Peace Depends on Your Peace: A Vision of an Alternative World Already Being Built and Revealed by the Pandemic

by Erella Shadmi, Sociology, Social Feminist Activist, Beit Berl College, Israel

The new activism

Under the media radar, a lot of exciting activism is taking place – women, men, and grassroots organizations with unstoppable creativity. One can feel and hear the vibrant, diverse, and multifaceted activity. They are not waiting for the Left to re-organize, but have begun building the foundations of a new social order in Israel and around the world: the gift economy and the solidarity economy, communal families (e.g., urban communities), zoning and localism, cooperatives for work and housing, eco-villages, non-academic knowledge-production institutions (e.g., the Feminist Academy in Haifa or the University of the Earth in Mexico), grassroots services that the state fails to provide (women’s shelters against male violence, for example) or that state religions seek to obstruct (egalitarian synagogues), and courageous partnerships between so-called political adversaries (Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians in EcoPeace Middle East, for example).

These initiatives reflect a rebellion against capitalism (especially in its neoliberal version), the nation state, and the Western paradigm. They respond to the deep anxieties and insecurity of the individual standing alone (without the protection of trade unions, a stable job, the family, or the state) and confronting a climate crisis, countries that have ceased serving their residents, the corporate regime, democracies turning authoritarian, technology and artificial intelligence that profoundly transform our world, and a consumer society that wrongly teaches that the freedom to buy is true freedom. The activists who are creating the New World from below help sharpen the understanding that we are not reaching for the moon or Mars, but rather seeking warmth, care, connection, bonding, and security. To unite the disparate forces of all these initiatives, we need a new social contract and vision of a different society.

The global epidemic has revealed and clarified what many women and men have already known: our vulnerability when we are lonely and isolated; our need for solidarity, a gift economy, and bonding; the significance of human relationships, connections, and boundary crossing – such as food donations from the Palestinian Kafr Qasem to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Bnai Brak; the longing for a feeling of family. All these are practices that support us when the state fails us, exposing the wretchedness of existing institutions (political parties, the parliament, the health system) in which politicians are at a loss and the old conceptions fail at dealing with Corona just as they were helpless at dealing with inequality, the climate crisis, and human security. It is precisely the isolation, social detachment, and fears that create the opportunity for inner examination, for looking at what is important to us: our real needs, our interdependence, our craving for bonding with people and within communities. We find our shared humanity because we are all human beings, because my peace is interconnected with your peace.

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The democratization and decolonization of academic knowledge in a pandemic and post-pandemic world*

by Felipe Carvalho, Philosophy, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil

It was March of 2020, and I was just starting a new postdoctoral position at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. I was excited and motivated, my mind bubbling with ideas about conferences, workshops and classes I was going to teach. I was of course aware of the coronavirus and its devastating effects in Europe, but in the beginning of March the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil was detecting its very first cases, and the situation seemed distant enough to allow me to plan a somewhat normal semester. All doors were open and the sky was the limit, or so I thought.

Immediately after my initial bursts of excitement in the beginning of March, everything moved very rapidly. By mid-March the pandemic was advancing rapidly all over the country, the university suspended all its (in-person) activities, and most of the city was shutting down under quarantine. I spent the following weeks trying to understand the situation and what it all meant, not only for my personal and professional plans, but for the future of the university, the city, the country, and the planet as a whole. But, like most people in Brazil at the time, I didn’t have a clue about whether we would soon resume our normal lives, or whether we should prepare ourselves for deep, fundamental changes in nearly every aspect of human existence. The latter option turned out to be true.

Faced with grim and uncertain prospects, I started to ponder about how I, as an academic philosopher, could contribute to the global crisis that would follow. Shortly after I saw a call for essays on the following topic: “how the world will/should change? The corona crisis as an interdisciplinary challenge.” Well, I thought, this is it! Here’s my contribution as an academic philosopher: to provide an in-depth analysis of how the world will, or should change, due to the global crisis caused by the new coronavirus. So far, so good. Except that the question was still too generic to provide an answer to my yearnings. A first problem is that “the world” seemed too big to make the question tractable, as it refers to the totality of things and relations that exist at multiple levels of analysis, from the social to the economical, from the political to the ecological. The second problem is that “will change” and “should change” seemed to point to two different questions, which demand different answers and different methods for arriving at these answers. So what part of the world am I talking about, and which aspect of “change” do I want to focus on?

Regarding the first problem, I will talk about the part of the world that about happens to be my domain of action and expertise: academic philosophy. Although academic philosophy is but a tiny portion of the world, these changes have the potential to positively affect thousands across the globe, specially the most affected departments in third-world countries. As to the second problem, we should understand the “will/should” question not as disjunction of possibilities, but as an exercise in “grounded imagination”: to imagine the world we would like to inhabit, in a way that is fully grounded in how it is actually changing right now. In this picture, the question can be rephrased as: “what kind of change do we want to see in the world, and what aspects of how the world is actually changing point us in that direction?” I will refer to these changes as “the democratization and decolonization of academic philosophy.” Let me explain.

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Lessons from online teaching, learning and research communications due to COVID-19 related lockdown

by Aasiya Qadir, Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, and
Afroz Shah, Physical and Geological Sciences, University of Brunei, Darussalam

The emergence of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first reported in December 2019 in a city known as Wuhan, China. The exact source of this virus is still debated and a popular hypothesis has associated its origin to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. However, the spread of the disease is not controversial as it has reached global proportions, and is still spreading far and wide in most of the world. The nature of the infection has forced authorities and the public to take unprecedented decisions on how to live and work. This is also true to educational and research institutions where most of the activities are now online. The spread of the virus has encouraged the social distancing which led to the shutdown of educational institutes, markets, offices, conferences and businesses etc. (Peterson et al 2020). The global lockdowns have major interruption on students’ learning, as schools, colleges and universities are closed, and most of the activities that include teaching and learning have shifted to online mode. According to the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 192 countries have closed their schools and universities as of April 30, 2020. This amounts to about 90%, and on a global scale that means 1.6 billion enrolled learners have been affected. The only historical memory of a similar pandemic that had severely impacted the world was the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 but the devastation caused by COVID-19 is not comparable. And some of the reasons for that could be the high levels of urbanization and a steep rise in population in the modern world, which also includes the educators and students. It is estimated that 90% of the world’s young people are enrolled in primary schools compared to just 40% in 1920 (UNICEF data). Similarly, education and research related events e.g. national and international conferences, meetings, workshops etc. have to be either cancelled, rescheduled, deferred, or shifted to online mode.

Merits of online teaching and learning

An online teaching schedule is relatively easy to handle as compared to a typical university setting where the limitation of availability of classrooms, time slots, course clashes etc. can greatly influence such decisions. The virtual teaching and learning mode allows multiple courses with ease where large audiences throughout the world can participate. Similarly, national and international education, research, and other similar meetings are now slowly shifted towards the online world (e.g. Garisson 2009), and this has the potential to drastically change the process of education and research communications in the modern times. The large global audiences, which were impossible in a typical conference setting, remain one of the most beneficial aspects of online communications. Easy access, user friendly, and interactive nature of online teaching and learning tools makes it doable with little knowledge about digital tools. Similarly, one of the most beneficial aspects of online communications is the recording facility that allows instructors to record, and audiences can replay lectures etc. whenever needed.Education and research communications often require travel to local, national or international institutions, and not all people are comfortable with travel related procedures because of various problems such as immigration, illness, physical body challenges, financial, or any other personal issue. The virtual world may prove beneficial for such a group of people as it provides opportunities that were previously impossible: they can learn at home and can socialize as well.

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Coordination by De-Integration in Pandemic Times

by Elena Esposito, Sociology, Bielefeld University, Università di Bologna

The present condition of social isolation makes most of us aware of the value of sociality – that we lack. But society is not only sociality, as we realize precisely when we mustminimize physical social contacts. In the emergency we perceive society much stronger because of a condition that appears as a global threat and seems to change everything everywhere. “There is the world B.C. – Before Corona – and the world A.C. – After Corona“ (Friedman 2020). The risk affects the entire world, from Hubei to Italy to New York to Rwanda, all sectors of society and each of us. The virus is a threat to people’s lives, but also to the stability of institutions, the soundness of finance, interpersonal relations, democracy, the maintenance of jobs, international links and many other things. In this short note, I refer to society in this global sense and analyze the coronavirus emergency with the tools of Niklas Luhmann’s sociological systems theory – primarily because it is a theory of society, and there are not many nowadays.

In the pandemic, society is perceived first of all as global interconnectedness that produces a domino effect and makes the crisis spread from one geographical area to another and between the different fields of society. In an emergency, the high interconnection of society becomes a threat. Coordination is required between different countries and also between political, economic, legal, sanitary measures to face the emergency. The most common response is to demand “tightening-up” (e.g. Gelfand 2020). If everything is connected with everything else, one claims, interventions in different areas should be coordinated according to the same approach and the same basic principles. Only in this way, one argues, can interventions be effective and avoid hindering each other. By going all in the same direction one does not get in each other’s way, reinforces each other and proceeds more quickly and effectively.

The classical notion that sociology proposes to study the interconnection of society is the concept of integration. The notion refers to what holds society together and addresses the relationship of the parts to the whole. Usually integration is interpreted in a general senseas reference to a shared unity, to a common perspective one recognizes and in which one can identify herself. Classical sociologists like Durkheim (1893) and Parsons (1977: 283 f.) use the notion of integration to deal with a widespread sense of belonging connectingdifferent parts of society, which should be preserved. Societies, that’s the idea, should be as integrated as possible, avoiding risks of anomy and coordination difficulties – especially in challenging times as the present emergency.

The principle seems plausible, but putting it into practice in a complex society is not easy. Integration in this sense is threatened by the increasing differentiation of society, starting with the division of labor. The challenge is maintaining a shared feeling of belonging not when everybody is equal and does the same things, but when everybody is different and does different things. The main obstacle is the condition that system theory calls functional differentiation, considered the basic characteristic of modern society (Luhmann 1997: 743 ff.). Functional differentiation refers to the articulation of society into different areas (or functional subsystems), each directed to a specific function: economy, politics, law, science, education, art, religion, mass media, families, healthcare. Whereas in previous hierarchically organized societies the different fields shared the same basic principles, in modern society each subsystem is guided by its own logic and criteria, which are not necessarily coordinated with those of others and cannot be traced back to a single order. The programs and priorities of the economy are different from those of science, politics, religion and any other subsystem – and success in one system does not by itself translate into a positive result in a different one. While the economy is driven by profit maximization, politics seeks consensus, research is directed towards the production of scientific truths and healthcare towards patients’ recovery.

Yet the pandemic today threatens everything – health and wealth, church and commerce, law, sport and families. Differentiation, which leads to different responses in different areas, in the face of this challenge seems to prevent coordination. Medicine needs tests to see who has the virus and must stay in isolation – while the economy requires tests to see who has the antibodies and can go to work. Restricting people’s freedom and tracing their movements is effective in countering the spread of the virus, but goes against the principles of the rule of law and the guarantees of the constitution. Reducing taxes can help companies overcome the crisis, but taxes are required to support research and equipment for hospitals. Science needs time to develop and test treatments, yet politics is in a hurry to give immediate answers (Gopnik 2020).

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Home is not what you think

by Eva Illouz, Sociology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

The Corona pandemics is more easily classified as a natural disaster than a man-made evil (although this is easily questionable given that it is the result of man-made zoonotic spillovers and given that China’s totalitarian regime postponed by many precious weeks the divulgation of the virus). Yet, everything in its management was so spectacularly interwoven with politics and the media, that it became impossible to view it simply as an inevitable natural scourge. It exposed and undid the stitches with which most spheres of society were sewn: those seamless stitches have come undone. The Corona crisis was properly stunning and it is the state of stupor I want to reflect on. Stupor is, on the whole, a very rare state. It is a state that overwhelms us but for which we have no prior routine or category to cope with.

Let me thus start with a book that dealt with man-made evil, Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem because Arendt also tried to make sense of an event which produced a sense of stupor, the pan-European massacre of the Jews. To account for that sense of stupor she used a method of analysis which can be characterized as anti-historical in that she refused analogies from the past. The past cannot shed light on the present or the future because as Tocqueville put it, in times of crisis the “mind errs in obscurity.” Epidemics and even pandemics have always accompanied humankind. Yet, the Corona pandemic will be a milestone, not for the scale of the deaths it caused (it is, at the time of this writing, much smaller than many other plagues and diseases), but because of the ways in which we organized it socially, economically, politically and symbolically.

More than four billion people throughout the world have stopped their mobility, work, and ordinary socializing, willingly, without much protest. People were confined to their homes, assuming they had one, without the possibility of using streets, shops, or public transportations. That people would renounce their freedom willingly to defend their health is not, in itself, terribly surprising. After all, as Thomas Hobbes (and others) put it, we will always be willing to sacrifice a great deal of our freedom for our security. Fear of death is so powerful that people willingly accept the authority of a state which can save them, including surveillance measures which suspend their basic civil rights and confinement which verges on house arrest. Netanyahu’s or Orban’s delegitimization of the parliament or the supreme court are the normal fodder of anti-democratic authoritarian leaders.

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Lessons learned? – Learning lessons!

by Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus, Department of Chemistry, Bielefeld University, Germany

Questioned how the Covid-19 pandemic will impact the future, especially regarding science and academic culture, I find myself constantly re-aligning my thoughts along with progressing developments. The question itself appears somewhat premature, since the nature of a new equilibrium – should there be such a state at all – and pathways towards it remain quite unpredictable. To watch conditions change, globally, in just a few weeks has been interesting and
worrisome. Correspondingly, I assume for the state transition from before to after Covid-19 that surprises might be encountered along the way.

The crisis has been described widely as the most disruptive global experience since decades, with severe medical, ethical, economic, political, juridical, psychological, further social and other consequences. The situation also depends sensitively on the local circumstances. A rather personal view may thus be the only valid perspective. You may have guessed from the above terminology that I am a natural scientist (indeed, a senior professor of physical chemistry); this certainly influences my view. I will present my current thoughts in five brief paragraphs.

• Scientific contributions

In the past weeks, it appeared that science, all of a sudden, was publicly recognized – not as nice-to-have cultural accessory, but as systemically relevant. Science was and remains omnipresent in reports about infections and their spread, scenarios and probabilities, health conditions, test functionalities, potential medication, and vaccine developments. With unusual depth, politics and media request scientific reports and updates, and facts and figures as well as background explanations are sometimes reported by the hour. Equally impressive is the international level of activity and collaboration regarding the disease and measures against it. I cannot remember a period in which scientific activity seemed so important. Science is needed to fight the pandemic, obviously, and to explain processes and precautions. Biomedical contributions have been more prominently in the spotlight, but other disciplines are also concerned with various aspects of the massive impact of the pandemic.

It is a situation for multidisciplinary, creative thinking, not only for inspecting immediate problems and possible reactions. How do we wish to live in the future? How to establish precautions that the present situation might not become repetitive? The crisis has illustrated many influences that might not have been regarded in context. Now accepted views and business-as-usual routines could be reflected. New concepts and bold ideas could constructively challenge established thoughts about global interactions, production and logistics, work, healthcare, social systems, mobility and other factors. Scientists could be the group that might develop perspectives and become a driving force.

• Sustainable transport and production

Transportation and production have been challenged with disruptive changes. With traffic between countries stopped, airplanes on the ground, and people working from home, air quality has improved and energy use decreased. Economy, prosperity, timely production, and delivery of goods have dominated public debates, rather than measures to plan more sustainable action for the future. A consequence of the current crisis regarding transport specifically might be a different split between air, land, and sea transportation, a different mix between transport of passengers and goods. Foremost, however, a different balance of economic versus ecologic aspects would be desirable.

Climate and pollution crises have not gone away. Health concerns and shutdown of regular operations in many countries are causing gigantic economic burdens. Warning signs regarding climate change and environmental threats have currently sunken in priority, with media attending mainly to the Covid-19 crisis topic. Gigantic support plans for the economy could present welcome chances for innovative pathways towards more sustainable industries and transport options. Natural sciences and technical disciplines are well positioned to address such pathways, together with their colleagues in other fields.

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Mothers in Distress. And what does that have to do with the economy?

by Mariam Irene Tazi-Preve, Politics, Security, and International Affairs, University of Central Florida

Women who have children and earn their money through paid work have reached the limits of what they are able to bear. All the children, including teenagers, are now at home. The older ones aren’t allowed to get together, the younger are left staring at barricaded playgrounds. According to recent news reports it will be the middle of May, before schools start to reopen – even at a limited capacity. That means for months mothers are the sole entertainers of small children and are also responsible for homeschooling the older children. There seems to be total chaos at the kindergartens. Are they open or not?

The offers of help are ambivalent. The government emphasizes that there is capacity. So why aren’t women using them? You guessed right: out of fear of accusations of being bad mothers, who “give their children away.” That was always a cliche to end any discussion about preschool care and now it is being revived when women are accused of placing their children in danger of a deadly virus in order to egotistically relax at her home office and work.

In extreme cases single mothers are pent-up 24/7 with their children, usually in cramped quarters where they have to work from home for the office or as a one woman business (often a precariat). These tiny businesses were mostly founded because women have to plan their lives around their children. Such a situation is a recipe for disaster. Mothers were previously supported by their network of women, starting with their own mothers, who are no longer allowed to help, because a quasi-house arrest for senior citizens, even if a grandmother is young, she is supposed to keep her distance from her daughter and grandchildren. If the mother does not follow the rules she will be the one accused of any infection! When mothers so exasperated that they turn on the television or tablet, they are considered bad mothers; also if they don’t want to cook. Remember: mothers are always to blame. She is either accused of doing “too much” or “too little” or not the right thing.

The policy of outsourcing care for the elderly by temporarily importing Romanian and Hungarian nurses has proven to be horrendous. Now when all the support of the healthcare workers is gone, guess who will take over this care? A hint: it will probably not be the son-in-law.

At times when it would be feasible for mothers and fathers to equally divide up work at their home offices and childcare – a new study shows that again, that is not happening. Even when the chairman of the board and the general director cannot claim to be indispensable and must run off to a business trip or a meeting. It also turns out that male scholars increase their publication load while female researchers do not.

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The Robust Social Market Economy – Some Thoughts on the Corona Pandemics

by Frank Riedel, Mathematics and Economics, Bielefeld University, Germany

The current pandemic that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has hit the whole world hard, and the whole world has been spectacularly unprepared for the crisis. The financial markets, whose job it is to anticipate future developments and to adapt prices according to their expectations, were caught by surprise. The Dow Jones plummeted by more than 20 %, experiencing the worst week in history in terms of percentage losses. Self-employed people and small and medium-sized businesses in the world fear insolvency. Governments and central banks are trying to bolster the economy with unprecedented spending and credits, surpassing the measures of ten years ago by a significant degree, thereby risking inflation, a currency crisis, or another debt crisis.

When this crisis is over, questions will be asked: how could we have been so stupid as to let this happen? Why did we leave the borders open? Why did we close them when it was too late? Why did we let Italy down (again)? Why did they tell us that masks are useless even though their usefulness is clear? Why did they tell us that closing schools does not make sense only to close schools a week later? These are good questions, and some politicians may have to pay for their negligence, maybe. However, it is always good to ask oneself: how would I have dealt with the possibility of a virus outbreak if I were a politician? Would I have been prepared? As it is impossible to be prepared for everything, we might ask what we can do for our markets and societies to help them through future storms.

For the second time in the twenty-first century, the world has been hit hard by a “small event”. In 2008, financial markets had been speculating for quite some time on credit risks, ignoring the possibility that many small-credit borrowers become insolvent at the same time; traders were believing in a law of large numbers that holds true for many small, independent, and statistically identical cases, yet not in situations when the many small events may be highly correlated via some common factor. Improper regulation induced even higher and higher speculation and the game went on until the unthinkable happened and the now famous “black swan” appeared on stage.

In these days, the world has been taken by surprise by another small event, a world-wide pandemic created by a virus. The possibility of such a pandemic was well known, of course. In fact, the German Government must have been aware of the possibility for quite some time, as it asked the Robert Koch Institute to carry out a study of potential consequences of a corona (!) virus pandemic in 2012. When you read the study, you cannot help but ask: why did the authorities not react on this study?

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When Two Crises Meet –The COVID-19 Pandemic and Science Denialism

by Ernesto Perini-Santos, Philosophy Department, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil

1. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was facing another challenge of a different kind, also very harmful, science denialism. In this essay, I sketch a broad framework explaining the conflict leading to science denialism. I then argue that the pandemic alters both components of this conflict. This diagnosis has consequences to our dealings with science denial in a post-pandemic world.

2. Epistemic normativity enjoins us to adjust our beliefs to the available evidence. However, for any subject about which one is not an expert, the evidential basis cannot be assessed directly, and one has to defer to experts. Expert knowledge is also built cooperatively–in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, an epidemiologist might not have the competence of an immunologist, who might lack clinical expertise, and so on. And the general public counts on others to have information about the pandemic –its spread, its mortality rate, and its very existence. It is not only a matter of interpersonal trust, but also of trust in institutions, from the WHO and universities to governments and the media. All this goes a long way to show how much our knowledge is built on trust. It also shows a kind of vulnerability of science–many think that science denialism has its origin in a lack of trust in experts. This vulnerability has deep roots in human evolution. The asymmetric division of knowledge is part of the very fabric of human culture. We have evolved to learn from others, quite often things that we do not understand, and to track who is trustworthy on what matters (Csibra and Gergely 2011; Sperber et al. 2010). Evolution follows the benefits of the division of cognitive labour: a group as whole knows much more if epistemic competence is distributed, even if much of the resulting knowledge remains opaque to most of its members. Science takes to an extremely high level the asymmetric epistemic dependence and the benefits of knowledge, but both have always been features of our species. Epistemic asymmetric dependence has a long evolutionary history, and so does what enters in conflict with it. Large scale coordination requires the identification of groups, for which cues are required. Displaying beliefs is a way to show that one belongs to a group, and beliefs themselves are sensitive to coordination functions, being selected with the behavioural patterns they produce (Funkhouser 2017). The refusal of evolution theory is a case in point. Some think that for most people there are no practical consequences of accepting the theory of evolution or refusing it, and espousing creationism “can have significant social benefits, depending on whom one wishes to conform with.” (O’Connor and Wheaterall 2018: 90) However, as Dobzhansky famously said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” There is no epistemic reason whatsoever to accept creationism, nor its pseudo-scientific counterpart, intelligent design theory. Such views are accepted as a way to signal the alignment with a group. Coordination pressures are so strong that some think that they always trump epistemic values. Harari, for instance, says that “we have always lived in the age of post-truth,” because we create fictions that “served to unite human collectives” in large-scale cooperation (Harari 2018: 195).

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