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Tropes and stereotypes exist in the many comparisons of the responses to COVID-19 in China and the United States. I focus here on a less mentioned reason: the differing imaginaries of the public held by policymakers and scientific and medical experts.
Sociologists of culture think a lot about morality—about where our judgments come from and how those judgments shape our actions. Two approaches commonly lead the way: Bourdieusian practice theory, which argues that acquired cultural dispositions guide our judgments quickly, automatically, and without conscious awareness, and Swidler’s (1986) toolkit theory, which suggests people consciously use cultural repertoires to construct strategies of action.