ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

The Harms of State, Free-Market Common Sense and COVID-19


State Crime Journal Special Issue on the COVID-19 Pandemic and State Crime

Vol. 10, No. 1 (2021) – open access

Roy Coleman and Beka Mullin-McCandlish

For many, the UK response to the COVID-19 pandemic is evidence of a shambolic bumbling stupidity at the centre of Boris Johnson’s government. This has a ring of truth but, for us, government responses to this disaster are indicative of more longterm and systematic shifts in state power that have generated victims of government policies through a “common-sense” narrative that both promotes and veils mass harms to populations of neoliberal capitalist societies. The Johnson administration’s appeal to “British common-sense” to get through the pandemic has developed out of, and has continuities with, the Thatcherite common-sense free-market revolution that began in the late 1970s. From this time, politicians, CEOs and “leaders” in public services have increasingly represented themselves and their practices through “common-sense” as a lexical conduit to communicate, legitimate and discursively frame state and corporate policy. Even when such policy maims and kills people, the appeal to “common-sense” attempts to make such harms appear “unfortunate”, probably inevitable and, therefore, an acceptable part of everyday life….(read more)