Engagement without accountability: The role of governments, field experts, and public intellectuals in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

B. Radeljić, C. González-Villa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic represented a major shock. In their effort to adapt their responses to the crisis to their own conditions of survival, governments have tended to resort to arguments that limit accountability to the population. Despite the privileged place they are presumed to have within contemporary societies, experts have been displaced from the decision-making processes of governments and delegitimized by the anti-intellectual drift favored by the way in which arguments are presented and debated in social media. At the same time, despite being perceived as capable of offering inside-out evaluations of specific phenomena and therefore capable of distinguishing between truths and big lies (and anything in-between), the role of public intellectuals seems to have been limited. The article analyses the responses of great power governments and regional powers in terms of the discursive practices deployed in the context of the covid-19 crisis, and the capacity of the aforementioned non-institutional actors to confront these discourses. As ‘editors-in-chief’, policymakers have felt passionate about war metaphors that have allowed them to deconstruct and make complex subjects accessible, and as such, to ensure a sufficient level of attention and public approval so that the fight against the enemy could begin. In addition, they have prompted the implementation of emergency measures that, in a context of geopolitical confrontation, have allowed them to evade individual responsibilities. Rather than using their knowledge to provide constructive examination of complex issues and make them accessible, so the ones who listen to them can hopefully understand the impact of specific policy preferences and minimize their own losses in the increasingly competitive environment, experts and intellectuals have seen their room for maneuver to influence policy formulations severely limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-804
Number of pages22
JournalRUDN Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Covid-19
  • Executive power
  • Field experts
  • Public intellectuals
  • Securitization
  • War metaphor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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