Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Discourse and Social Cohesion in and After the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Abstract:  This conceptual article argues that class is a major factor in the social division and polarisation after the Covid-19 pandemic. Current discourse and communication analyses of phenomena such as compliance with measures and vaccine hesitancy seek explanations mainly in opposing ideological stances, ignoring existing structural inequalities and class relations and their effects on people’s decisions. I approach social cohesion in the Covid-19 pandemic through the theories of epidemic psychology, which sees language as fundamental in social conflicts during pandemics, and progressive neoliberalism, which critiques a post-industrial social class whose assumed moral superiority and talking down to working-class people is argued to be an explanation of many current social conflicts. I argue that these theories construct a valuable theoretical framework for explaining and analysing the social division and polarisation that has resulted from the pandemic. Reducing non-compliance with mitigating measures and vaccine hesitancy to an ideological issue implies that it can be countered by combatting misinformation and anti-vaccination thinking and shutting down particular discourses, which grossly simplifies the problem. The impact that class relations and inequality have on political and health issues, coupled with the characteristics of progressive neoliberalism, may partially explain the rise of populist and nativist movements. I conclude that if social cohesion is to be maintained through the ongoing climate emergency, understanding the impacts of progressive neoliberalism and the role of contempt in exclusionary discursive practices is of utmost importance.

Keywords:  Covid-19; discourse studies; Foucault; ideology; legitimisation; polarisation; political communication; power; progressive neoliberalism; social media



© Mario Bisiada. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.