Purpose: Drawing on Wendt’s (1995, 1999) thin constructivist approach to international relations this paper aims to critically examine how the measures taken by the Australian Government to protect the country from coronavirus (COVID-19) have prompted politicians and opinion-makers to mobilize globalizing and de-globalizing discourses towards divergent conceptualizations of national resilience.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper examines 172 Australian political and media articles, which focus on both COVID-19 and globalization/de-globalization published between February and June 2020. The data were imported to NVivo to enable in-depth thematic analysis.
Findings: The paper develops the concept of crisis protectionism to explain how COVID-19 has been mobilized in discourses aimed at accelerating selective de-globalization in Australia. Selective de-globalization is inductively theorized as involving material structures (i.e. border closures), ideational structures (i.e. national identity) and intersubjectivities (i.e. pre-existing inter-country antagonisms).
Research limitations/implications: The paper relies upon publicly available data about Australian discourses that relate to a unique globally disrupting extreme event.
Practical implications: Crisis protectionism and selective de-globalization are important to multinational enterprises (MNE) that operate in essential industry sectors (e.g. medical supply firms), rely upon open borders (e.g. the university sector) and for MNEs entering/operating in a host country experiencing antagonistic relationships with their home country.
Originality/value: The paper extends Witt’s (2019) political theorization of de-globalization towards a socialized theory of de-globalization. By rejecting liberal and realist explanations of the relationship between COVID-19 and de-globalization, this study highlights the importance and endogeneity of non-market risks and non-economic logic to international business and MNE strategy.
- Thin constructivism