Background Through the extensive use of public media, the government of England was heavily involved in encouraging and instructing people on how to manage their life during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This model of health emergency governance replicates the practice of ‘calculative technologies’ and ‘bio-politics’ embedded in population management. Previous research on COVID-19 governance both in the United Kingdom and beyond provides varied revelations on broader ‘technologies of government’ and bio-politics by numerous governments. However, rarely have any studies explicitly and distinctively highlighted the unique ‘calculative technologies’ mobilised by governments within their bio-politically designed “technologies of government” to compel the populations to manage their lives under their COVID-19 guidance. The paper therefor examines how the UK government deployed “calculative technologies,” as part of its strategies of health governance and governmentality during the first wave of COVID-19 in England. Methods This study uses document analysis as its data collection method. Its review includes documents, press releases, social media disclosures and health guidance issued by the UK government from March to December, 2020. The data are analysed employing the Foucault’s governmentality and bio-political scholarship. Results The paper’s findings reveal the UK government’s use of integrated calculative technologies of self-governance in the form of risk calculations and metrices/statistics (eg, death tolls, infection rates), performance management (eg, two metre social distancing, and hand washing for twenty seconds) and discipline and control (eg, fourteen days selfisolation), in addition to a more conventional top-down, managerial decision-making process adopted in the past. By these newly initiated “calculative technologies,” the government has “bio-politically” governed the behaviours and lifestyles of vulnerable community members, health workers and general public at a distance, inculcating selfmanagement and individualisation of responsibility.
Conclusion The newly adopted calculative technologies used by the UK government created a multi-faceted discourse of obligations, entitlements and scale of engagement, and facilitated directions about what people should do to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus. Overall, the overtly and idiosyncratically used calculative technologies resemble a unique ‘art of government’ and produce a set of ‘bio-political’ interventions enforcing the populations to manage their own wellbeing and governing them at a distance during COVID-19.
Ahmad S, Connolly C, Demirag I. Testing times: governing a pandemic with numbers. Account Audit Account J. 2021;34(6):1362-1375. doi:1108/aaaj-08-2020-4863
Joyce P. Public governance, agility and pandemics: a case study of the UK response to COVID-19. Int Rev Adm Sci. 2021;87(3):536-555. doi:1177/0020852320983406
Ahrens T, Ferry L. Accounting and accountability practices in times of crisis: a Foucauldian perspective on the UK government's response to COVID-19 for England. Account Audit Account J. 2021;34(6):1332-1344. doi:1108/aaaj-07-2020-4659
Morgan M. Why meaning-making matters: the case of the UK Government's COVID-19 response. Am J Cult Sociol. 2020:1-54. doi:1057/s41290-020-00121-y
Makarychev A, Romashko T. Precarious sovereignty in a post-liberal Europe: the COVID-19 emergency in Estonia and Finland. Chinese Political Science Review. 2021;6(1):63-85. doi:1007/s41111-020-00165-y
Gjerde LEL. Governing humans and ‘things’: power and rule in Norway during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Political Power. 2021:1-21. doi:1080/2158379x.2020.1870264
Gjerde LEL. From liberalism to biopolitics: investigating the Norwegian government’s two responses to COVID-19. Eur Soc. 2021;23(Suppl 1):S262-S274. doi:1080/14616696.2020.1824003
Giritli Nygren K, Olofsson A. Managing the COVID-19 pandemic through individual responsibility: the consequences of a world risk society and enhanced ethopolitics. J Risk Res. 2020;23(7-8):1031-1035. doi:1080/13669877.2020.1756382
Marinković D, Major S. COVID-19 and the genealogies of biopolitics: a pandemic history of the present. Sociologija. 2020;62(4):486-502. doi:2298/soc2004486m
Horvath M, Lovasz A. Foucault in the age of COVID-19: permitting contingency in biopolitics. Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture. 2020;17(1):144-153.
Luscombe A, McClelland A. Policing the Pandemic: Tracking the Policing of COVID-19 ACROSS Canada. White Paper. April 9, 2020.
Cheibub JA, Hong JY, Przeworski A. Rights and deaths: government reactions to the pandemic. SSRN Electronic Journal. 2020. doi:2139/ssrn.3645410
Sotiris P. Thinking beyond the lockdown: on the possibility of a democratic biopolitics. Hist Mater. 2020;28(3):3-38. doi:1163/1569206x-12342803
McCarthy M, Murphy K, Sargeant E, Williamson H. Policing COVID-19 physical distancing measures: managing defiance and fostering compliance among individuals least likely to comply. Policing Soc. 2021;31(5):601-620. doi:1080/10439463.2020.1869235
Foucault M. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Vol 1. New York: The New Press; 1997.
Foucault M. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random House; 1977.
Foucault M. The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock; 1972.
Foucault M. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London: Tavistock; 1970.
Chatterjee P. The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World. Columbia: Columbia University Press; 2004.
Rose N, O’Malley P, Valverde M. Governmentality. Legal Studies Research Paper no 09/94. Sydney: Sydney Law School, the University of Sydney; 2009.
Miller P. Accounting as Social and Institutional Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1994:1-39.
Guven-Uslu P, Blaber Z, Adhikari P. Boundary spanners and calculative practices. Financ Account Manag. 2020;36(4):439-460. doi:1111/faam.12266
Rose N, Miller P. Political power beyond the state: problematics of government. Br J Sociol. 1992;43(2):173-205. doi:2307/591464
Lai A, Leoni G, Stacchezzini R. The socializing effects of accounting in flood recovery. Crit Perspect Account. 2014;25(7):579-603. doi:1016/j.cpa.2014.04.002
Taylor D, Tharapos M, Sidaway S. Downward accountability for a natural disaster recovery effort: evidence and issues from Australia's Black Saturday. Crit Perspect Account. 2014;25(7):633-651. doi:1016/j.cpa.2013.01.003
Perkiss S, Moerman L. Hurricane Katrina: exploring justice and fairness as a sociology of common good(s). Crit Perspect Account. 2020;67-68:102022. doi:1016/j.cpa.2017.11.002
Matilal S, Adhikari P. Accounting in Bhopal: making catastrophe. Crit Perspect Account. 2020;72:102123. doi:1016/j.cpa.2019.102123
Johns Hopkins University. COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. Accessed July 21, 2021. Published July 21, 2021.
The Economist. How Well Have OECD Countries Responded to the Coronavirus Crisis? London: Economist Intelligence Unit; 2020.
Global Health Security Index. 2019 Global Health Security Index. https://www.ghsindex.org/. Accessed August 5, 2020. Published 2020.
Sanders KB. British government communication during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic: learning from high reliability organizations. Church, Communication and Culture. 2020;5(3):356-377. doi:1080/23753234.2020.1824582
Hoeyer K. An anthropological analysis of European Union (EU) health governance as biopolitics: the case of the EU tissues and cells directive. Soc Sci Med. 2010;70(12):1867-1873. doi:1016/j.socscimed.2010.02.040
Crawshaw P. Governing at a distance: social marketing and the (bio) politics of responsibility. Soc Sci Med. 2012;75(1):200-207. doi:1016/j.socscimed.2012.02.040
Martin GP, Sutton E, Willars J, Dixon-Woods M. Frameworks for change in healthcare organisations: a formative evaluation of the NHS Change Model. Health Serv Manage Res. 2013;26(2-3):65-75. doi:1177/0951484813511233
Renedo A, Miles S, Chakravorty S, et al. Not being heard: barriers to high quality unplanned hospital care during young people's transition to adult services - evidence from 'this sickle cell life' research. BMC Health Serv Res. 2019;19(1):876. doi:1186/s12913-019-4726-5
Jayasinghe, K., Jayasinghe, T., Wijethilake, C., & Adhikari, P. (2022). Bio-Politics and Calculative Technologies in COVID-19 Governance: Reflections From England. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 11(10), 2189-2197. doi: 10.34172/ijhpm.2021.134
Kelum Jayasinghe; Tarosha Jayasinghe; Chaminda Wijethilake; Pawan Adhikari. "Bio-Politics and Calculative Technologies in COVID-19 Governance: Reflections From England". International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 11, 10, 2022, 2189-2197. doi: 10.34172/ijhpm.2021.134
Jayasinghe, K., Jayasinghe, T., Wijethilake, C., Adhikari, P. (2022). 'Bio-Politics and Calculative Technologies in COVID-19 Governance: Reflections From England', International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 11(10), pp. 2189-2197. doi: 10.34172/ijhpm.2021.134
Jayasinghe, K., Jayasinghe, T., Wijethilake, C., Adhikari, P. Bio-Politics and Calculative Technologies in COVID-19 Governance: Reflections From England. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 2022; 11(10): 2189-2197. doi: 10.34172/ijhpm.2021.134