COVID-19 and the Work Society

James ChamberlainCovid-19

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund declared the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic to be the greatest downturn since the Great Depression. The shockwaves have reverberated across all domains of life, especially in the labor market, where arguably every worker has experienced disruption of one kind or another. Millions throughout the world now find themselves unemployed or furloughed, others are adjusting to the demands of working from home, while still others continue to go to work but under conditions of heightened risk to their health. Obviously the pandemic affects more than just people’s working lives—social distancing has made in-person socializing and most leisure activities impossible. But in the employment-centered neoliberal society, work is not only most people’s main source of income; it is also one of the main avenues for social interaction and cooperation, as well as a major constituent of individual sense of self and self-worth. The effects of the pandemic on employment therefore extend far beyond the matter of personal finances—as important as that is—and are tugging at the threads of the entire social fabric.

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In the Shadows of Coronavirus

Antonio Y. Vázquez-ArroyoCovid-19

The planetary pandemic caused by the swift spread of “coronavirus” resonates in obvious ways with prior narratives of outbreak in recent memory. From the avian flu to the swine fever, the diseases caused by viral mutations have all been accompanied by a particular way of narrating crises and catastrophes. Coronavirus is no exception. As the pandemic unfolds, commonplaces about catastrophes, especially plagues, come to the fore, almost as if scripted. It is thus important to conceptualize the ongoing crisis through earthly theoretical and political categories that adequately grasp the social and political stakes involved. This is important not only for a political comprehension of, or at least coming to terms with, what is currently unfolding, but to grasp the ways in which the current pandemic is advancing through an already catastrophic situation that presents openings and occasions for political change.

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Feminism, the Pandemic, and What Comes Next

Lucía Cavallero and Verónica GagoCovid-19

Translated by Liz Mason-Deese

It is impossible to trivialize the images of pain that have been circulating for weeks. Across the planet, the virus has accelerated our comprehension of neoliberalism’s deadly mechanisms, the operation of its power over bodies. We could say that there is nothing new about this. Neoliberalism has shown that it can coexist perfectly with death machines, such as those at work in refugee camps and at borders, to name the most brutal examples. But now the virus, which does not discriminate by class or passport, has shown neoliberal life to be a spectacle that we watch online, accompanied by a necropolitical body count rising in real time. There are two arguments that do not convince us: a quick death certificate for capitalism and, as a counterpoint, the insistence that the pandemic confirms capitalism’s totalitarian control over life.

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Full Catastrophe Learning Amid COVID-19

Zimitri ErasmusCovid-19

I returned from a conference in California, in the United States, on 9 March. Two days later, I was among the overly-privileged “overseas travellers” to “high risk countries” who might have brought the COVID-19 virus home. I self-isolated for fourteen days. I got tested. I am unsure whether the health professional inserted the swab far enough to reach my pharynx. I left the testing scene with guilt because the swab in my nostril made me sneeze. The health worker wore a mask, a shield, and gloves. Bent at the waist, swab in hand, she administered the test while I sat in my car. I worried that I might have sneezed into the space behind her shield. Six days and $80 later, my class privilege delivered the negative results of my test-in-the-parking-bay. As I write, mass screening for testing starts in poor communities.

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Covidian Catastrophes

M. NourbeSe PhilipCovid-19

This morning I sat at my kitchen table reading the newspaper as I usually do and suddenly tears came to my eyes. I was crying for us—humans. Not out of fear or panic, but as I read the toll this virus was exacting on the world, the only response was to weep—for us, for the world and all the miraculous and astonishing life it contains. There is no doubt that this virus is a corrective of some sort, and I’m hoping that out of this will come some changes that will relieve the intolerable pressure we humans have been putting on this beautiful planet of ours. Nor do I doubt that this is a game changer—what the world will look like after this is anyone’s guess.

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A New Episode of Erasure in the Settler Colony

Osama TanousCovid-19

Pandemics put pressure on the societies that they strike and make visible latent structures that might otherwise remain invisible. They provide a critical perspective for social analysis and reveal what really matters to a population, whom this population truly values. In occupied Palestine, the COVID-19 pandemic intervenes in both the history and the present of dispossession, disposability, ethnic cleansing, encampment, and confinement. The pandemic reveals this history of state violence and racism against the Palestinians and their erasure while also exacerbating these processes.

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Borders in Times of Pandemic

Robin CelikatesCovid-19

A pandemic is never just a pandemic. Over the past few weeks, it has become evident how the spread and impact of the novel Coronavirus is profoundly shaped by social and political practices – such as tourism and travel – institutions – such as governments and their advisors – and structures – such as inequalities along the lines of class, race and gender. All of these are part of systems that are historically variable and subject to human agency. The international border regime is one such system. While it is an obvious truth that the virus’s spread does not respect any borders, governments across the world have resorted to closing their borders, more or less explicitly likening the threat of the virus to the “threat” of “uncontrolled” migration.

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