Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 November 2020
The word ‘crisis’ has two different shades of meaning, both central to the topic of this chapter. A crisis can refer to an unstable situation in political or social affairs that persists and intensifies over the relatively long term. Modeled on the original Greek meaning of krisis, denoting the turning point in a disease, a crisis can also refer to a traumatic episode or condition whose resolution remains unclear and replete with danger. The crisis of democratic leadership is a crisis of the first sort – a slow burn tending toward meltdown. The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis of the second sort – a traumatic event spiraling into an uncertain and perilous future. My argument is that the crisis of the first sort – the crisis in democratic leadership – is currently feeding into and feeding off the crisis of the second sort – the “real world” crisis posed by COVID-19. Indeed, compared to many other potential real world crises, COVID-19 is especially revealing of the problems of democratic governance.