Volume 38, 2021

Thirty Years of ProtoSociology

Jan Nederveen Pieterse
Pages 211-228

Learning from Covid: Three Key Variables

Covid data show that wealth is not health. What then are the major variables that affect public health in the Covid–19 pandemic? Based on onsite research in 26 countries across the world this paper singles out three variables – knowledge, state capability and social cooperation. If one of these is dysfunctional or absent Covid–19 performance suffers. The variables work best in combination. Under consideration are three phases of Covid–19 – virus control, vaccines, and the race with variants. Which types of society best combine these variables? Comparing varieties of market economies – liberal, coordinated and state-led market economies (with four variants), Covid–19 data indicate that coordinated and developmental state-led market economies tend to generate the best combination of variables and public health outcomes, and liberal market economies and rightwing populist countries produce the worst combination. Comparative Covid–19 research points to the limitations of macro theories and methodological nationalism, the importance of the unit of analysis and the database, and how variables interact. At a time when multiple crises interact it leads to reflection on glaring limitations of global governance.