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- Author or Editor: Henning Salling Olesen x
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.