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The spectacle of competence: global pandemic and the redesign of leadership in a post neo-liberal world
journal contributionposted on 01.09.2021, 03:59 by Leon GurevitchLeon Gurevitch
This discussion piece examines the role that New Zealand played in the global media narrative about Covid-19 responses. The New Zealand Government’s response in general, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in particular, came to stand as an example of functional governance to a world experiencing the accelerating fragmentation of Western neo-liberal geo-political economy. The ‘spectacle of competence’ that has characterized Ardern’s leadership is bound up in a pre-existing set of political fault lines that the pandemic has served to amplify. New Zealand’s geo-political cultural position, and the competence (both spectacular and actual) that its leadership has come to represent reveal something of the fracture of political economy of the global North and West, not least because the construction of New Zealand as representing a successful ‘Western’ response is geographically, economically and culturally inaccurate. Contrasting the New Zealand government’s pandemic response to the failed responses of Western models of governance, this piece argues that Jacinda Ardern’s leadership is important, not because it represents an example of Western success but rather because it represents a departure from the deadly consequences of neo-liberal norms.