Faculty Publications

Raging Against The “Neoliberal Hellscape”: Anger, Pride, And Ambivalence In Civil Society Responses To The Covid-19 Pandemic In The USA

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civil society, COVID-19, disasters, neoliberalism, pandemic

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Do volunteers and civil society groups entrench or subvert neoliberalisation? We contribute to this debate by utilising data from 662 self-administered questionnaires and 78 semi-structured interviews with adults who made and distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to a failed federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA. The state’s failure to protect Americans angered PPE makers, even as they worked to address PPE shortages. Many purposefully assisted populations marginalised by neoliberal policies, taking pride in their ability to help. Although makers generally did not seek to reform the institutions that had failed them, our results indicate that civil society groups may challenge neoliberalisation by rallying communities to mitigate its worst impacts. Instead of being a passive conduit for neoliberalisation, PPE makers’ efforts in the USA were more accurately characterised by ambivalent engagements with neoliberalisation that sometimes bolstered collective efforts to challenge neoliberal governance and its associated inequities.


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

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DOI of published version