Exempting the state and responsibilizing individuals during pandemic governance: Analyzing the health minister's responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey

Akguloglu G. E., Con Wright G.

HEALTH, vol.27, no.5, pp.867-885, 2023 (SSCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 27 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/13634593211060766
  • Journal Name: HEALTH
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, CINAHL, Communication & Mass Media Index, EMBASE, Index Islamicus, MEDLINE, Psycinfo, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.867-885
  • Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, neoliberalism, new public health, pandemic governance, Turkey, NEOLIBERALISM, POLICIES
  • TED University Affiliated: Yes


The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the governments of the world to implement different regulative and protective measures. Although these measures required serious re-considerations of public health strategies, they were still grounded on pre-existing contexts of countries' health systems, namely the "new public health" paradigm. Turkey's neoliberal health reforms since 2003 coincide with the principles of this paradigm's trends toward marketizing services and responsibilizing individuals; yet the Turkish context of the pandemic also stands out due to its mixed and unique form of governance. Utilizing the tweets of the Turkish Health Minister between March 13th and October 1st, 2020, we conducted a thematic qualitative analysis investigating the Turkish state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our analysis revealed that state responsibility was framed around building new pandemic hospitals, informing the public, and building trust. Conversely, his tweets assigned Turkish individuals an active role in shaping pandemic outcomes through their "informed" and "empowered" agency. Finally, he coined "togetherness," referring to the sum of individual actions, as an indispensable goal in assuring public compliance with precautions. The Minister's tweets reflect the unique nature of pandemic governance in Turkey with a relatively imposing and swift response of centralized power but a primary focus on "responsibilized" individuals' collective actions.