Budapest, Hungary

Liberalism Infected: Revisiting Political and Socio-Legal Thought in the Aftermath of COVID-19

online course
when 10 December 2020 - 10 December 2020
language English
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 350

The course will return to foundational questions of liberal democracy through the perspective of the new global pandemic, an event which may be understood as both a metaphor for and as a crystallization of the malaise of liberal democracies. The fundamental questions accentuated by our experience with and management of the pandemic include, individual freedom vs. collective attachments; expert knowledge vs. populist sentiments; rule vs. exception; economic concerns understood in terms of growth vs. general welfare; and, indeed, questions arising from the very notion of the social contract and the role of the state.

The course will comprise three parts: (a) An exposition in which students will reflect in a structured way on their experience in facing the pandemic on a personal, professional, and national level (e.g., anxiety, economic insecurity, care, pause from daily routines, solidarity, different forms of isolation, intimacy and social interaction; (mis)trust); (b) The main part, which will be comprised of a sustained discussion of the major building blocks of the "social contract" and include relating the broad theory to their personal experiences. The discussion is designed to explore both historical/imaginative narratives of plagues and the extent to which some of the existing political, social and legal theories – particularly of human rights discourse and its critics - capture or fail to exhaust the experience of the pandemic in its multiplicity; (c) And a final exercise, in which students working in small groups and, playing with these building blocks will develop their own thought and voice to generate a policy for addressing not only the emergence of a future critical situation but the on-going crisis of liberal democracy.

Course leader

Orna Ben-Naftali
College of Management Academic Studies (Colman), Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel
Shai  Lavi,The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute/Tel Aviv University, Israel
Daniel MonterescuDepartment of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Central European Univers

Target group

The course is designed for graduate students from relevant disciplines. We also invite applications from advanced undergraduate students who have adequate prior study or experience on the subject and make a compelling case in their application/statement of interest.

We are aiming for a highly diversified group of 20-30 students from different regions, social and cultural backgrounds, and academic disciplines. This diversity is integral to the course's concept. The student body includes a group of 11 Israeli students in an LL.M program, titled "Law and other Languages" which focuses on the crisis of liberal democracies. They reflect the deep diversity of Israeli society. Focusing on this crisis in the context of the experience with the pandemic shared with students from other states, cultures, and disciplines, provides a fertile ground for reflecting on and hopefully facilitating the emergence of new democratic politics.
The course is designed primarily for intellectually adventurous graduate students in the social sciences and law, open for an interdisciplinary experience in a diversified learning community. Excellent, advanced undergraduates are welcomed to apply as well.

Fee info

EUR 350: Payable until May 28


Students from the Open Society University Network (OSUN) and CIVICA member institutions are eligible for a fee waiver.