A sociology of the Covid-19 pandemic: A commentary and research agenda for sociologists

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During the early part of 2020, there has been an abundance of critically important research on Covid-19 from medical, epidemiological and virological disciplines. There is now an urgent need for sociologists to engage theoretically and empirically on the social impact of issues related to Covid-19. As we have moved further into 2020, governments around the world have imposed different types of restrictions on social life, in order to quell the spread of Covid-19 and ‘flatten the curve’. These have included imposing various degrees of social isolation and restrictions on things like social gatherings, travel, sport and leisure activities, and going to work/school/university. This commentary explores the ways in which different branches of social theory can shed light on the implications of Covid-19 restrictions for social life ‘as we know it’. The broad fields of social theory in the commentary cover concepts such as risk, trust, fear, uncertainty and happiness. The process of developing the social theory driven research agenda contained within this commentary took a rather unusual route – it started by re-reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s ideas on existentialism, which led to me painting a visual sociology of Covid-19 (an image of my painting is provided), and ultimately to this piece.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)726-735
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Covid-19
  • fear
  • risk
  • social theory
  • sociology
  • trust
  • uncertainty


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