‘Live with the Virus’ Narrative and Pandemic Amnesia in the Governance of COVID-19

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Political leaders have commonly used the phrase ‘learn to live with the virus’ to explain to citizens how they should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I consider how the ‘live with the virus’ narrative perpetrates pandemic amnesia by refusing what is known about pandemic-related inequities and the strategies that can be used to overcome these effects. Advice to ‘live with the virus’ helps to further austerity public policy and therefore individualises the social and health burdens of post pandemic life. ‘Live with the virus’ asks citizens to look only to their own futures, which are political strategies that might work for privileged individuals who have the capacity to protect their health, but less well for those with limited personal resources. I draw on Esposito’s framing of affirmative biopolitics and scholarship on how excluded communities have built for themselves health-sustaining commons in responses to pandemic threats to health. I argue that creating opportunities for a ‘COVID-19 commons’ that can enlarge capacity for citizenly deliberation on how they have been governed and other pandemic related matters is vital for the development of more ethical and equitable post-pandemic politics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number340
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • commons
  • COVID-19
  • media
  • narrative
  • pandemics

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