Pandemic, politics and people: a psychosocial analysis of the first month of COVID-19 in Denmark

View author details View Less
  • 1 Roskilde University, , Denmark
Restricted access
Get eTOC alerts
Rights and permissions Cite this article

Even though COVID-19 is transmitted internationally, there are very different ways of combating its threats nationally. This article is a psychoanalytically informed psychosocial analysis of how the risk of COVID-19 contagion was dealt with politically and received by the population in Denmark in the first month after it arrived in the country. The question is how the social democratic Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, at the initial press conference addressing the nation in March and April 2020, succeeded in making the population accept comprehensive restrictions in their daily lives. The article argues that an unheard of agreement between the population, government and opposition was furthered by the Prime Minister’s double communication of a horror scenario and a construction of an exclusive and containing group of ‘Danes’ and served as a means of instilling anxiety and relief from anxiety at one and the same time. Psychologically, the group as a good object offers a defence against regressive, anxiety-ridden phantasies of infection and potential death. Politically, it forms a comforting cohesion between government and ‘Danes’, emphasised by Mette Frederiksen’s invocation of a caring welfare state that is closely associated with social democratic leadership. It thus stresses the interplay of the psychological as well as political aspects of an anxiety-provoking situation. On the one hand, the situation gave rise to a citizenship-based community, acting as a political and psychological subject, but on the other hand, this political mobilisation of community spirit neglected conflicts of interests, which surfaced later.

  • Bion, W.R. (1961) Experiences in Groups and other Papers, London: Tavistock Publications.

  • Blackman, J.S. (2020) A psychoanalytic view of reactions to the coronavirus pandemic in China, American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80(2): 11932. doi: 10.1057/s11231-020-09248-w.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Caraker, E. (2011) Solidaritet og individualisme: fællesskabsformer blandt danske lønmodtager, Arbejderhistorie – Tidsskrift for Historie, Kultur Og Politik, 2: 2645.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dawson, G. (1994) Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities, London and New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Frederiksen, M. (2020a) Press conference 11.March 2020. DR Television.

  • Frederiksen, M. (2020b) Press Conference 6. April 2020. DR television.

  • Freud, A. (1936) The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, London: Hogarth Press.

  • Freud, S. (1921) Group psychology and the analysis of the egos, in The Standard Edition, Vol. XVIII (1920–1922), New York, NY: Norton.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Freud, S. (2008) General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology, London, New York, NY and Toronto: Simon & Schuster.

  • Getz, D. (2012) Event Studies: Theory, Research and Policy for Planned Events, Abingdon: Routledge.

  • Hoggett, P. and Thompson, S. (2012) The Affective Turn in Political Studies, London: Continuum.

  • Hollway, W. (2008) The importance of relational thinking in the practice of Psycho-social research, in S. Clarke, P. Hoggett and H. Hahn (eds) Object Relations and Social Relations: The Implications of the Relational Turn in Psychoanalysis: Exploring Psycho-social Studies, London: Karnac Books.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jørgensen, C.R. (2009) Identitet – Psykologiske Og Kulturanalytiske Perspektiver, Copenhagen: Reitzel.

  • Klein, M. (1940) Mourning and its relation to Manic-depressive states, in The Writings of Melanie Klein. Vol 1. Love, Guilt and Reparation, London: Hogarth Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Klein, M. (1946) Notes on some schizoid mechanisms, in The Writings of Klein, Vol 3. Envy and Gratitude and Other Works, London: Hogarth Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Legvold, R. and Volkan, V. (1998) Blood Lines: From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Terrorism, New York, NY: Basic Books.

  • Leithäuser, T. (1976) Formen Des Alltagsbewusstseins, Frankfurt: Campus-Verlag.

  • Lorenzer, A. (1986) Kulturanalysen, in: Lorenzer, A. (ed) Kulturanalysen. Psychoanalytische Studien zur Kultur. Frankfurt a.M: Fischer.

  • Lundkvist, A. (2004) Hoveder og Høveder: En Demokratisk Kritik af Det Private Samfund I-III, Frederiksberg: Frydenlund.

  • Lyth, I.M. (1988) Containing Anxiety in Institutions: Selected Essays, Vol. 1, Oxford: Free Association Books.

  • Mawson, A.R. (2005) Understanding mass panic and other collective responses to threat and disaster, Psychiatry, 68(2): 95113. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2005.68.2.95

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mølbak, K. (2020) Information sheet from State Serum Institute (SSI).

  • Nedergård, P. (2020) The immigration policy turn: the Danish social democratic case, https://samf.ku.dk/presse/kronikker-og-debat/the-danish-social-democratic-case.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Salling Olesen, H. (2020) Cultural identity, learning and social prejudice: the politicization of subjectivity in former Yugoslavia, in H. Salling Olesen (ed) The Societal Unconscious, Leiden: Brill/Sense, pp 20318.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sønderskov, K.M. and Dinesen, P.T. (2016) Trusting the state, trusting each other? The effect of institutional trust on social trust, Political Behavior, 38(1): 179202.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stein, M. (2004) The critical period of disasters: insights from sense-making and psychoanalytic theory, Human Relations, 57 doi: (10 doi: ): 1243– doi: 61.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Visholm, S. and Heinskou, T. (2005) Psykodynamisk Organisationspsykologi, Copenhagen: Hans Reitzel.

  • Volkan, V.D. (2001) Transgenerational transmissions and chosen traumas: an aspect of large-group identity, Group Analysis, 34(1): 7997. doi: 10.1177/05333160122077730

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Volkan, V.D. (2009) Large-group identity, international relations and psychoanalysis, International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 18(4): 20613. doi: 10.1080/08037060902727795

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Volmerg, B., Volmerg, U. and Leithäuser, T. (1983) Kriegsängste Und Sicherheitsbedürfnis. Zur Sozialpsychologi des Ost-West-Konflikts, Frankfurt: Fischer.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 23 23 23
Full Text Views 70 70 4
PDF Downloads 68 68 5

Altmetrics

Dimensions