Apr 9


After COVID: Can we do things differently?

8:00 pm - 9:15 pm

On Thursday 9th April 2020 we held our first online salon discussion with three fantastic speakers, about what we can learn from the extraordinary times in which we are suddenly living.  COVID-19 has led each of us to slow down or totally halt some areas of our lives while other aspects seem to continue at the same relentless pace. Our speakers reflected on whether this enforced slowing down can lead us to reflect critically on the world we have inadvertently built, with all its contradictions, vulnerabilities and environmental challenges; and whether it might be a time to think and act differently.

We welcomed back leading social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Political theorist Albena Azmanova and Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication at the University of Leeds in the UK.


Albena Azmanova, Political theorist at the University of Kent’s Brussels campus.  She teaches courses in democratic theory and political economy. Her writing is dedicated to bringing the critique of political economy (back) into critical social theory. Her research ranges from democratic transition and consolidation to the dynamics of contemporary capitalism and its effect on ideological orientation and electoral mobilisation. Her most recent publication is Capitalism on Edge. How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Crisis or Utopia (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication, University of Leeds and Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. He specialises in novel methods of political engagement and online deliberation and he talks about Slow Democracy – ways of engaging and deciding that allow time for reflection and revision.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen, is among the most distinguished anthropologists of our times. He is currently Professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, and leads the Overheating project funded by the European Research Council. A prolific writer, he has authored many books and has contributed considerably to popularising social anthropology through his work. He writes and talks in many genres about the contemporary world, what it means to be human and how the world can be made a better place.

Checkout out the great Graphic recording of the session from Alejandro Gil  www.alelistens.com


Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Remedying overheatingThomas reflectedon the pandemic in the context of overheating and enforced cooling down. This is the time to think about alternatives …we have the chance to really think about and decide what we want to come afterwards” Some pointers:
Maybe we should…

  • think more in terms of a human economy than a neo-liberal capitalist economy
  • rethink the self-destructive aspects of neo-liberalism, which are undermining our own existence – over exploitation of resources that it took the planet 60 million years to produce
  • talk less about human rights and more about human duties

Thomas’ question to you:
What would be the most efficient post-pandemic policy that would create the jobs that will be needed and contribute to environmental sustainability?

Watch Thomas Hylland Eriksen


Albena Azmanova
Moving on from ‘Precarity capitalism’

The pandemic has revealed the underlying precarity of societies across the world.

Precarity, more than inequality, is the problem to be addressed. In so-doing, we do not need to be wedded to capitalism, it is not the engine of prosperity.

Instead, we should now seek to replace the ‘precarity capitalism’ with a political economy of trust, through investment in public services and infrastructure securing the basic human needs (of healthcare, education, culture)

Albena’s actions for you:

  • Don’t get nostalgic for life before the pandemic. Write down at least one thing you hated about life before, and act on it.
  • Something positive about the lockdown is that we are slowing down. Write down one positive thing about the lock-down that you want to retain afterwards
  • If you can, give a young person their first job

Further reading:

Other articles:

Stephen Coleman
Slow democracy

Reflects on what the pandemic tells us about citizenship. The imminent global economic crisis may well be worse than the pandemic.

To avoid closing down imaginative responses to this situation, “we need a period of slower thinking politics, which enable us to deliberate about the options before us – in this totally new economic territory we are about to enter”.

We have seen the emergence of, and need to encourage, considered, pro-social, civic practices – by providing people with semiotic resources.

We may not have the answers, but we have the imaginative capacities – which need to be protected – during this period of fear and after its over.

Stephen’s questions to you:

How can forms of democratic self-determination (that we are seeing now) be built upon and sustained in the post-pandemic world?

Establish an inventory of social practices that have emerged during this crisis and point to the scope for social cooperation?

Watch Stephen Coleman