Sovereigns, Viruses, and the Law: The Normative Challenges of Pandemic in Today’s Information Societies

The Normative Challenges of Pandemic in Today’s Information Societies

Ugo Pagallo   | Bio
University of Turin


The paper examines the legal and political impact of the Covid-19 crisis, drawing the attention to fundamental questions on authority and political legitimacy, coercion and obligation, power and cooperation. National states and sovereign governments have had and still will have a crucial role in re-establishing the public health sector and addressing the colossal challenges of economic re-construction. Scholars have accordingly discussed the set of legal means displayed during this crisis: emergency decrees, lockdowns, travel bans, and generally speaking, powers of the state of exception. The aim of this paper is to stress the limits of such perspectives on powers of national governments and sovereigns, in order to illustrate what goes beyond such powers. Focus should be on the ontological, epistemic and normative constraints that affect today’s rights and duties of national states. Such constraints correspond to a class of problems that is complex, often transnational, and increasingly data-driven. In addition, we should not overlook the lessons learnt from such fields, as environmental law and internet governance, anti-terrorism and transnational business law, up to the regulation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Such fields show that legal co-regulation and mechanisms of coordination and cooperation complement the traditional powers of national governments even in the times of the mother of all pandemics. The Covid-19 crisis has been often interpreted as if this were the last chapter of an on-going history about the Leviathan and its bio-powers. It is not. The crisis regards the end of the first chapter on the history of today’s information societies.


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How to Cite
Pagallo U. Sovereigns, Viruses, and the Law. LiC [Internet]. 2020Sep.30 [cited 2021Sep.26];37(1):11-3. Available from:

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