The COVID-19 pandemic has consequences that we will continue to face as a society for years to come. The seemingly intractable nature of the pandemic yields many tensions at multiple and interconnected levels—planetary, societal, organizational and individual. Few organization theories are as versatile as paradox to capture such complex phenomena. The nine short essays in this paper focus at the societal level and the various tensions brought forth by the current pandemic such as the tension related to health and economy (Schad & Etter; Sheep; Li & Keller); risk and the associated question of trust in science (Fairhurst & Endres) and the rigor of the scientific process (Lê & Pradies). These essays further show us that COVID-19 is not an isolated phenomenon rather there are multiple and interrelated crises facing us. One cannot understand the implications of COVID-19 without also considering its interrelationship with other crises such as the vicious cycle of distrust in pubic authority (Rocheville & Bartunek), women leadership and the tension of agency-communion (Putnam and Buzzanell), raising collective voice against injustice while staying safe in physical gatherings (Pamphile) and addressing issues such as climate change which are intertwined with the current crisis yet not as evident (Hahn). Together, these essays help us make better sense of the many interconnected layers of the COVID-19 pandemic across societies. They also offer several conceptual nuggets, with the potential to foster novel research on paradox, as we expand the scope of inquiry beyond the organization in addressing society’s grand challenges.
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