Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
26 June 2020

The New Authoritarianism: COVID-19 and the challenges facing democracy

Podacast and video of the LSE event with Shalini Randeria

On 24 June, Professor Shalini Randeria, Director of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, discussed authoritarian responses to COVID-19, as part of an online public event hosted by the London School of Economics on “The New Authoritarianism: COVID-19 and the challenges facing democracy”. The event considered a recent report that argued that COVID-19 is accelerating global trends towards authoritarian populism, supported by state-dependent capitalism. Placing the report in comparative perspective, Randeria drew on both postcolonial experiences – especially in India – and European ones to argue that COVID-19 is reshaping politics in specific ways. First, it is not simply bolstering authoritarian populism, but a specific form of it – “soft authoritarianism”, which is marked by a commitment to democratic procedures but not to liberal democratic values. Second, it is generating a resurgence in territorial nationalism, which is most concerned with the role of the state as an insurer of welfare (as opposed to, say, a prohibitor of migrants). Through this combination of effects, COVID-19 is making the question of institutionalised domestic inequality salient to contemporary politics in ways that past crises have not.

The podcast and video are available at:

Read also Shalini Randeria's interview published in Die Süddeutsche Zeitung "Die Corona-Krise wäre eine Chance, unseren Lebensstil umzugestalten":