Centre for Policy Alternatives on 10 November, 2020

Technocratic Populism and the Pandemic State

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This paper examines the ways in which the Sri Lankan Government has been able to employ a counterintuitive and underexamined type of populist rhetoric, that of technocratic populism. It looks at the ways in which both technocratic and populist narratives are combined, creating an ideological framework which serves to sanitize increasingly authoritarian actions. It focuses in particular on the processes of executive aggrandizement and militarisation, exploring how technocratic populist framing presents each, not as unfortunate side effects, but key components of a political project which serves to solve problems of administrative ineffectiveness. The paper goes on to look at these dynamics in the context of the pandemic response, both in terms of the acceleration of the processes highlighted and the effects that the success or failure of the response may have on the continued effectiveness of technocratic populist justifications.

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