In November 2019, a new strain of coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China, and quickly spread across the world. Since then, the pandemic has exposed the brutal limits of care and health under capitalism. Pandemonium underscores the turning-points between neoliberalism and authoritarian government, crystallised by ineffective responses to the pandemic.
In so doing, it questions capitalist understandings of order and disorder, of health and disease, and the new world borders which proliferate through distinctly capitalist definitions of risk and uncertainty. From the origins of the crisis at the crossroads of fossil-fuelled pollution and the privatisation of healthcare in China, Angela Mitropoulos follows the virus’ spread as governments embraced reckless strategies of ‘containment’ and ‘herd immunity.’ Exoticist explanations of the pandemic and the recourse to quarantines and travel bans racialised the disease, while the reluctance to expand healthcare capacity displaced the risk onto private households and private wealth. Tracing iterations of borders through the histories of population theory, the political contract and epidemiology, Mitropoulos discusses the circuits of capitalist value in pharmaceuticals, protective equipment and catastrophe bonds.
These and the treatment of populations as capitalist ‘stock’ in demands to ‘reopen the economy’ reveal a world where the very definition of ‘the economy’ and infrastructure are fundamentally shifting. Much will depend on how these are understood, and debts are reckoned, in the months and years to come.
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