Corona Divides


How hygiene standards and systemic indispensability are experienced by physically exposed occupational groups

Running time: 01.06.2021 - 31.12.2022


Volkswagen Foundation


Prof. Dr. Bernhard Gill, Institute of Sociology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU) (Project coordinator)

PD Dr. Michael Schneider, Institute of Sociology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU)

Project Description

Corona, like most other epidemics, creates very different realities depending on profession, milieu and class context. While the current debate in the political public sphere about “health” versus “freedom” is almost entirely oriented towards the working and living conditions of the middle classes, the corona crisis at the same time leads to a particular accentuation of the line of social division between “above” and “below”.

The arrangement of hygiene standards by the German government as well as the definition of systemic indispensability (“Systemrelevanz”) create disadvantages for selected occupational groups which are seldom articulated in the public debate about “Corona”. How do these groups experience the crisis and the management strategies to handle it? Do corresponding issues of justice cause new social cleavages? A better understanding of these issues could help to maintain social cohesion during and after the crisis although “the virus” engenders specific social contradictions.

Typically, the line of division between above and below can be marked by the difference between so-called “white” and “blue collar” workers: The former sit protected as editors of streams of symbols in the digitally networked home office, while the latter have to “get their hands dirty” in their physically exposed activities and are therefore necessarily confronted with the stream of viral exhalations. Considering the dominance and media presence of the middle-class epidemic regime on the one hand side and the specific experiences and living and working conditions of those “down there” on the other, presumably new social divides will emerge. These are promoted by the corona virus and the societal ways of solving the crisis. To understand form and logic of such divides, these social worlds of groups physically exposed to the Corona virus will be systematically addressed in this research project

Responsible Person

PhD. Wilhelm Viehöver