Citizenship under Covid-19: An analysis of UK political rhetoric during the first wave of the 2020 pandemic

Andreouli, Eleni and Brice, Emma (2021). Citizenship under Covid-19: An analysis of UK political rhetoric during the first wave of the 2020 pandemic. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2526

Abstract

The paper presents an analysis of the UK government discourse on citizenship during the first nine months of the Covid-19 pandemic (March-November 2020). We adopted a socio-cultural approach to citizenship drawing on the scholarly tradition of ideological dilemmas and rhetorical psychology as well as interdisciplinary work on neoliberalism. In our analysis of over one hundred briefings and other material by the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, we identified five interrelated constructions of the ‘good citizen’: the confined, the heroic, the sacrificial, the unfree, and the responsible citizen. The paper maps these constructions onto the ideological dilemmas of freedom/control, passive/active citizenship and individualism/collectivism. We show that, through the rhetorical use of notions of gratefulness for citizens’ sacrifice and shared responsibility, the UK government’s discourse appears to challenge the dominant model of the neoliberal citizen. However, it solidifies this very same model by responsibilizing individual citizens whilst abdicating itself from responsibility.

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