In this paper, we analyse the conditions under which the COVID-19 pandemic will lead either to social order (adherence to measures put in place by authorities to control the pandemic) or to social disorder (resistance to such measures and the emergence of open conflict). Using examples from different countries (principally the United Kingdom, the United States, and France), we first isolate three factors which determine whether people accept or reject control measures. These are the historical context of state-public relations, the nature of leadership during the pandemic and procedural justice in the development and operation of these measures. Second, we analyse the way the crisis is policed and how forms of policing determine whether dissent will escalate into open conflict. We conclude by considering the prospects for order/disorder as the pandemic unfolds.


Copyright © 2020 The Authors. British Journal of Social Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Reicher, S. & Stott, C. 2020, 'On order and disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic', British Journal of Social Psychology, 59(3), pp. 694-702. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12398

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Last updated: 15 November 2022
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