ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Altruistic and Monadic Liberalism 

Explaining Response Variations to COVID-19 Restrictions in Democratic Europe and Asia 

The overwhelming question that still disturbs political theory is why some democracies accept COVID-19-appropriate behaviour more readily than others. On consideration, it would appear that there are two kinds of liberal democracies today. “Monadic democracy” prevails in those polities that came into being after overthrowing monarchy and subsequently instituting republicanism. “Altruistic democracy” is the other kind of liberal democracy that emerged after overthrowing a foreign power.

This is an enlarged and revised version of some of the ideas that were earlier presented in an essay that appeared in OPEN magazine on 30 October 2020. There are many who helped me accomplish this task but among them I must specifically express my gratitude to Mark Kesselman, Dipayan Gupta, Vikram Lal, Indira Rajaraman, Gavin Smith, Sumit Guha, Vikram Singh Mehta, Gurpreet Mahajan, Partha Chatterjee, Deepak Nayyar and Stig Toft Madsen. If I could have abided by all their suggestions, this article would have been much better. Nevertheless, I succeeded in making several changes along the lines they proposed but it was outside my competence to follow them all. This is why I alone am responsible for the shortcomings of this essay.

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously taught medical sciences several lessons, but it has also had a profound unsettling impact on a range of social sciences. For example, the spread of this disease and the way different societies have dealt with it have left political theory deeply puzzled. More pertinently, why did some democracies, mostly in the East, such as South Korea or Taiwan, comply better with COVID-19 restrictions than did democracies such as in France or the United States (US)? The following enquiry is not concerned with non-democracies, such as China, North Korea, Belarus or, even, Russia. It is only liberal democracies, and variations within them, that are the principal subjects of this article. 

It is not as if the majority in Western democracies resisted mask-wearing and social distancing, later vaccinations too, but a significant minority did. Though a minority, they garnered a lot of political attention and puzzlement as they had the grudging moral approval of many who abided by COVID-19 restrictions and advisories. It is this shadowy alliance that made governments in these countries nervous whenever anger against COVID-19 restrictions spilled over into the streets. On the other hand, such demonstrations of anger at and resistance to COVID-19 norms never quite featured in several other democracies where, ordinarily, pro­tests are quite frequent. Here, one is not thinking of just India, with its proneness to public demonstrations, but also of Japan and South Korea where several large-scale strikes have happe­ned in the recent past. 

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Updated On : 10th Apr, 2023
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