Social, moral and legal rules, biopolitics and the Covid-19 crisis

GLOBAL JURIST, Forthcoming

The article relies on the social and legal perspective not only to better
understand how norms are created and change through interactions among
agents, but also to shed light on how norms are internalized in social practice. The
article is organized as follows. Initially the article explores the basic assumption
that deontic operators acquire their meaning via social conventions generating
“personal rules” having a “mental content” which belongs to a wider “normative
mind”, a mind that obviously encompasses all sorts of choices. The article then
describes the different types of personal rules, distinguishing social, moral, and
legal rules across the normative mind, focusing on social rules within institutions,
conceived as sets of rules in equilibrium. The core of this study puts to the test the
taxonomy of personal (social, moral, and legal) rules within the normative mind by
exploring a situation of “dense normativity” addressed by a 2021 Lancet paper
concerning findings about “tight–loose cultures” during the Covid-19 crisis, and,
for the sake of explanation, focuses on one of the main normative constraints that
epitomizes the challenge of the Covid-19 crisis to “tight–loose” cultures: the “wearmask rule”. These observations can be extended to other normative constraints of
that crisis, but in essence they parse the interplay between the different types of
personal rules, which not only are social, but also moral and legal, drawing conclusions that complement the findings of the Lancet paper with some critical
observations. The article critically concludes with remarks about the co-existence
of different normative systems of personal rules in a context of biopolitics and
suggests that individual morality appears to be the core of normativity to address
collective threats such as those caused by the Covid-19 crisis