Mezinárodní vztahy 4/2020

Dear readers, we are pleased to inform you about the publication of the special issue The Coronavirus and the Future of Liberalism. The special issue's five original research articles contribute to the surging global debate on the relations between COVID-19 pandemic, democracy, and liberalism. In the context of the pandemic, the papers analyze the discursive distribution of vulnerability in the Great Britain, Germany, Czech Republic, and Slovakia; the center-periphery relations in Russia, digital surveillance in India, Izrael, and Singapore; the crisis response in Georgia and Ukraine; and the Latvian-Russian memory wars.

We wish you a pleasant reading, Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2021!

The first article by Zuzana Maďarová, Pavol Hardoš, and Alexandra Ostertágová What Makes Life Grievable? Discursive Distribution of Vulnerability in the Pandemic examines the elite discourse surrounding the policy responses during the first three months of the pandemic in Czechia, Germany, Great Britain, and Slovakia. Using Judith Butler's concepts of vulnerability, precarity, and grievability, it notes how some populations became ungrievable: framing some lives as "naturally" closer to death makes them less valuable, while other peoples are framed as a security threat to a vulnerable society and its institutions.

The second article The COVID Biopolitics in Russia: Putin's Sovereignty versus Regional Governmentality by Andrey Makarychev, Maria Goes, and Anna Kuznetsova, discusses the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Russia as a biopolitical challenge that may be approached through the concepts of sovereignty and governmentality. It looks at the challenges Russia faces from the viewpoint of domestic transformations within the ruling regime, mainly focusing on center–periphery relations. It outlines several forms of regions' distancing from the federal center and concludes that the relative administrative autonomy obtained by the regions reflects the ongoing process of decentralization of the Russian political system, which will affect the structural characteristics of Russian federalism in the future.

The third article is titled Framing the Pandemic and the Rise of the Digital Surveillance State. Authors Ahmed Maati and Žilvinas Švedkauskas argue that digital surveillance has been one of the central measures that governments around the world employed to counter threats posed by the SARS-COV-2 virus. They analyse how the Israeli, Indian, and Singaporean governments frame digital surveillance during the pandemic. After locating some interesting overlaps between liberal and illiberal rhetoric, they point to ways these frames may be recycled by both democratic and authoritarian regimes to justify extending digital surveillance, even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

The next article, Hybrid Regimes' Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: "The First Wave" Evidence from Ukraine and Georgia by Ivanna Machitidze and Yuriy Temirov explores the internal dynamics of the post-Soviet hybrid regimes of Georgia and Ukraine by comparing their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic through the concepts of "single-pyramid" and "competitive pyramid" models of patronal politics and the "most similar systems" research design. It addresses the issue of competitiveness throughout the formal and informal governance processes in each case. Diverging crisis management and communication strategies explain Georgia's relative success in halting the virus spread in comparison to Ukraine throughout the first wave.

The last article by Sergii Pakhomenko and Iryna Gridina, Securitization of Memory in the Pandemic Period: The Case of Russia and Latvia, examines the processes of memory securitization in the Russian Federation and Latvia during the crisis. The key factor that allowed the authors to make such a statement about the problem was the temporary coincidence of the pandemic with the 75th anniversary of the final defeat of Nazi Germany and the so-called Victory Day. The authors identify the peculiarities of the articulating of the "security problems" by political elites in two states with different memory regimes framed by the pandemic as an external factor.