My Top Coronavirus Pieces for Quarantine
Firtsly, if you’re part of that small group of 7.8 billion people who didn’t read my last post, go there for Tom Pueyo’s excellent back-of-the-envelope analysis of the COVID-19 figures.
A long read (but fuck it, what else have you got going on):
A brilliant analysis situating COVID-19 where capitalism and nature collide – brought together by the vanity of techno-politics and the inescapable contradiction in their supposed dichotomy. Fear not though, unlike my own ramblings, this is a detailed and very accessible explanation; as the authors put it:
“Now is not the time for a simple “Scooby-Doo Marxist” exercise of pulling the mask off the villain to reveal that, yes, indeed, it was capitalism that caused coronavirus all along! That would be no more subtle than foreign commentators sniffing about for regime change. Of course capitalism is culpable—but how, exactly, does the social-economic sphere interface with the biological, and what kind of deeper lessons might be drawn from the entire experience?”
For those who enjoy, can I recommend Rule of Experts by Timothy Mitchell!
The Economic Consequences of the Chaos
An ill-forgotten word of warning and call to arms from the wise one:
A Brave New World
Yuval Noah Harari warns that the pandemic might unleash Surveillance Capitalism in a way not yet seen outside of China, as people, choosing essential security over essential liberty, walk willingly (and with 2 meter distancing) into the Panopticon. As Harari puts it simply, “The same technology that identifies coughs could also identify laughs.”
Laurie Penny’s reverie on how epidemics exploit the weaknesses in our societies:
There’s been a fair bit of commentary recently on the environmental benefits to the shut-downs we’re seeing around the world and, for sure, the satellite images of GHG emissions dissipating have been great fun to watch. Eric Holthaus, however, provides a nice corrective to some of the more short term and lazy discussions. The threat COVID-19 poses to emissions is transitory and minimal; the threat is poses to economic inclusion (essential for environmental sustainability) and green transitions is real and deadly.
Very short feel good story:
Not for the first time in Revolutionary Cuba’s short history have so many owed so much to so small a nation…
Martin Wolf raises important concerns for the threat the virus poses to the developing world.
Tomas Pueyo update
Bill McKibben of 350.org urges the House to attach conditions to the coming bail-outs and too fucking right, there’s no shortage of historical precedent!
Below is the best and most informative piece I have read regarding the pandemic – indeed, read and reread.
Britain’s response seems woefully poor so far. While context is very important and Britain, like everywhere else, faces particular challenges requiring particular solutions, the current action (or lack thereof) answers none of these.
Given the precarious work and poverty of many citizens, rent referrals, mortgage holidays, raised statutory sick pay and other measures would appear necessary steps to sustainably shut down. However, they fly in the face of a political system in a firm state of regulatory capture.
I heard today that Johnson is seeking to increase the production of air filters in preparation for hospital overload. Our GCSE Geography students learn the hazard cycle model – mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery – Boris has decided to skip the first step entirely and is keeling into the third. But don’t worry, it’s also been announced the NHS can purchase extra capacity of the private sector if necessary – Wohooo!
On a personal note, I also have to say a great “För Helvete!” to my adopted home, Sweden. Despite having seemingly everything in their favour, their complete lack of early action has doomed them to be a severe case.
Sixteen years since Globalization and Its Discontents and neoliberals are still struggling to see the wood for the trees…
If you don’t know Prof Rodrik’s work, you’re welcome.
There’s no shortage of criticism of the 21st century’s globalised form of feudalism we know as neo-liberalism, but to take it down so cogently, authoritatively and with such a ceaseless grasp of the economic facts is music to the ears.
As I grapple with my ingrained support for free trade; Rodrik’s words are never too many.