Disagreements and Conflicts between Scientists and the Crisis of Legitimate Authority: The Case of French New Lockdown in November 2020

Gilles Paché


The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged the world into a deep health, economic and social crisis whose effects are expected to be felt for several years. In the spring of 2020, faced with the explosion of the number of patients in acute respiratory distress, many countries have implemented a lockdown policy in order to strongly reduce social contacts and slow down the speed of propagation of the coronavirus. This lockdown has been accepted by the populations despite its dramatic economic impact. In the autumn of 2020, after a phase of “summer slackening”, a new wave of contamination hit Europe, forcing the political authorities to proceed with a new lockdown, which was very strongly contested, including violently in Spain and Italy. The research note explains the rejection of the new lockdown with reference to Stanley Milgram’s experiment on obedience to authority, in particular by indicating that confrontations between scientific experts are at the origin of a profound crisis of legitimacy. Variation #15 of Stanley Milgram’s experiment effectively indicates that in the presence of multiple legitimate authorities, individuals refuse to obey injunctions, which corresponds explicitly to the situation encountered notably in France, with the development of a movement of radical contestation of the new lockdown.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/iss.v8i2.18012


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