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Social Distancing, Safe Spaces and the Demand for Quarantine

Furedi, Frank (2020) Social Distancing, Safe Spaces and the Demand for Quarantine. Society, 57 (4). pp. 392-397. ISSN 0147-2011. (doi:10.1007/s12115-020-00500-8) (KAR id:83120)

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Social distance has been a topic of interest in sociology for more than a century before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas in the past it referred to the distance between groups in more recent times it signifies the space between individuals. The aspiration for safe space and personal boundaries in recent years indicated that social distancing has acquired an increasingly individuated and privatised form. This article suggests that the demand for safe space can be interpreted as a demand for a quarantine from psychic threats. This pre-existing demand for a quarantine from criticism and pressure has seamlessly meshed with the imperative of social distancing in the COVID-19 era.

As a sociologist I was astonished to discover that so many people have become comfortable with their life in lockdown. When in the course of a zoom conference in May 2020, I tell a colleague in New York that I am going stir crazy and want my life back, she admonishes me for thinking irresponsible thoughts. Another attempts to reassure me that there is much that I can do “to make life more comfortable” during the lock down.

One major survey published on the UK in May 2020 indicated that 49% of the respondents agreed with the statement that “there are some aspects of the “lockdown” measures that I’ve enjoyed.”Footnote1 Surveys also suggest that millions of people are worried that the lockdown is being eased too rapidly.Footnote2 Numerous commentators claim that social distancing is here to stay. These responses to a public health crisis did not emerge out of nowhere. They have a prehistory and what this essay will attempt to show is that what the COVID-19 pandemic has done is to amplify and reinforce a pre-existing cultural orientation towards the spatial dimension of safety.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s12115-020-00500-8
Uncontrolled keywords: Social distance, Safe space, Personal boundary, Fear
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Frank Furedi
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2020 09:27 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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