Workshop | Politicisations of pandemic recovery: knowledge, justifications and democratic agency

15.06.2023 - 16.06.2023

Date: June 15-16, 2023
Place: University of Helsinki, Swedish School of Social Science, lecture room Festsal
(address: Snellmaninkatu 12)
Live stream: (please note that only the keynote session will be live-streamed)

In which ways has the recovery phase of the Covid-19 pandemic been politicised across Europe?
How can societies mitigate the problems of Covid-19 sufferers in a just manner in the era of several criss-crossing emergencies?
What institutional lessons can we draw from the pandemic emergency measures in order to improve future crisis governance?

Efforts to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic have been politicised in a myriad of ways in Europe. During the early waves of the disease, these politicisations were often intense, whereas in the recovery phase they may have been subtler and more refined.

Political leaders have had to defend the continued employment of restrictive measures as well as the lifting of them. A range of definitions of ‘new normality’ and the understandings of societal justice have emerged. The modes of compensation to those who have suffered have caused deep rifts in many countries. It may also have been unclear how and on the basis of what knowledge the decisions on restrictions were initially supposed to be taken, and how the decision-making competencies ought to be redefined in the future. Finally, the Covid-19-related politicisations have become intertwined with those pertaining to other crises, climate change and the war in Ukraine in particular.

This workshop, organised by the research consortium Just Recovery from Covid-19, addresses the forms of politicisation of the pandemic recovery and their consequences in the European context. By focusing on knowledge resources, problems of justice, and democratic agency, it seeks to provide viewpoints for improving future crisis preparedness and enhancing trust in society.


Keynote session

The keynote session (on June 15 at 09.30–10.45 EEST) is an open event both onsite and online. Professor Jonathan White will deliver a keynote lecture.

Live stream:

Keynote lecture | Jonathan White (London School of Economics): Recovery as emergency

Abstract: From economics to geopolitics to climate change, we live in an age of emergency politics, one that antedates the Covid-19 pandemic and continues into the present.  Not only do governments make policy in the name of managing urgent threats, but opponents criticise them for missing the real threats and fighting the wrong emergency.  Pandemic recovery is thereby complicated by competing emergency claims that question the very notion of recovery.  This presentation will consider some of the distinctive problems arising for representative democracy, as an enduring sense of emergency encourages some to embrace democracy at the expense of representation, and others to embrace representation at the expense of democracy.

Jonathan White is Professor of Politics at the London School of Economics. His research interests lie in the fields of political sociology and political theory. He has held visiting positions at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Harvard, Stanford, the Humboldt University, Hertie School of Governance, Sciences Po in Paris, and the Australian National University. His latest book, Politics of Last Resort: Governing by Emergency in the European Union, was published with Oxford University Press in December 2019.  His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Political Studies, Modern Law Review, Political Theory, Journal of Common Market Studies, British Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Sociology, European Journal of International Relations, and Journal of Political Philosophy.

Coffee will be served after the lecture.

If you are interested in attending the full workshop, please contact Project Coordinator Mari Taskinen, mari.taskinen(at)


Workshop programme

All times are Finnish time (EEST, UTC +3).

Thursday, June 15

09.30–10.45 Keynote session

Opening words
Henri Vogt, University of Turku

Keynote lecture: Recovery as emergency
Jonathan White, London School of Economics

10.45–11.15 Coffee

11.15–12.45 Paper session I: Nordic trust and legitimacy
Chair: Timo Pankakoski, University of Turku

Managing an exceptional situation: Finland’s model in perspective
Johanna Rainio-Niemi, University of Helsinki

Authority in the pandemic era: Covid-19 governance and societal articulations of trust and mistrust in Finland

Johanna Vuorelma & Pinja Lehtonen, University of Helsinki

Bureaucratic power and legitimacy in Swedish postpandemic recovery

Jörgen Sparf & Evangelia Petridou, Mid Sweden University

12.45–14.00 Lunch

14.00–15.00 Paper session II: European Covid-19-cleavages
Chair: Anu Mutanen, Tampere University

Territories of coronapolitics. The Covid-19 crisis and the urban-rural cleavage

Daniel Kübler, University of Zurich

Cultural conflict and attitudes towards governments’ Covid-19 responses in Europe

Dag Wollebaek, Institute for Social Research, Oslo (with Audun Fladmoe, Institute for Social Research, Oslo, Norway)

15.00–15.15 Coffee

15.15–16.15 Paper session III: Economies of recovery
Chair: Johanna-Rainio-Niemi, University of Helsinki

Politicization via discourse: A review of books on the economic consequences of the pandemic

Andreas Nölke, Goethe University

Yes but No: Media Frames for Denying Nurses’ Strikes During Covid19
Sami Torssonen, University of Turku

19.00 Dinner

Friday, June 16

09.00–10.30 Paper session IV: Politicisation of European governance mechanisms
Chair: Sami Torssonen, University of Turku

Reconceptualising the EU-member states relationship in the age of permanent emergency

Stella Ladi, Queen Mary University of London (with Laura Polverari, University of Padova)

Back to normal? Politicization of governance in Europe in a post-pandemic (new) normal 

Theofanis Exadaktylos, University of Surrey (with Kennet Lynggaard, Roskilde University, Mads Dagnis Jensen, Copenhagen Business School & Michael Friederich Kluth, Roskilde University)

Nordic openness and ombudsmen in crisis: challenges and adaptation in throughput legitimacy during Covid-19

Tero Erkkilä & Juho Mölsä, University of Helsinki (with Ella Vähäniitty, University of Helsinki)

10.30–11.00 Coffee

11.00–12.30 Paper session V: Politicisations in the public spheres
Chair: Johanna Ketola, University of Turku

From transformative hopes to political realities: an analysis of postpandemic government programmes in Europe

Henri Vogt & Mikko Värttö, University of Turku

The State of Alarm, ‘socialist authoritarianism’ and the ‘totalitarian plan’: Analysing the criticism against the Spanish government’s COVID-19 pandemic response in the context of EU politicisation

Taru Haapala, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

The politicisation of pandemic recovery on Twitter: the use of landscape hashtag to compare Finland and Brazil  

Kleber Carrilho, University of Helsinki (with Yannick Lahti & Emilia Palonen, University of Helsinki)

12.30–13.45 Lunch

13.45–15.15  Paper session VI: Back to concepts: politics, politicisation and emergency
Chair: Henri Vogt, University of Turku

Crisis and politicisation: the example of the Covid-19 pandemic
Amelie Kutter, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder

Concepts we recover by: metaphorical concepts in post-Covid-19 transition to normalcy in Finland

Timo Pankakoski, University of Turku

Politicization of emergency measures and democratic legitimacy

Tuukka Brunila, University of Turku

15.15–15.30 Coffee

15.30–16.15 Final discussion 


Photo: iStock / imagedepotpro