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Preventing pandemics or preparing for them

This essay from Richard Seymour intersected in a thought provoking way with my recent concerns about the securitisation of pandemic response. He explains how this paradigm involves preparation rather than prevention, in the senes of preparing for the inevitability of a range of disastrous outcomes rather than trying to bring about change which might foreclose those outcomes. This matters because with the accelerating emergence of infectious diseases, as a result of relatively well understood and preventable outcomes of human activity, there will be more pandemics with the prospect of multi-layered securitarian responses over time generating a near permanent state of bio-emergency in the interests of keeping capitalism functioning in its current form:

Preparedness language, originating in the Cold War and US civil defence responses to nuclear threats, is securitarian rather than preventive. It treats the plague as an inevitability, which can only be anticipated and modified. It applies the techniques of war-gaming, of epidemic simulation, to implement measures to mitigate, rather than avert, pandemics. This securitarian apparatus, fusing with emergency/disaster management and international public health in the 1990s, produced a minimalistic, technocratic framework for responding to emerging diseases known as ‘global health security’. The legal foundation of preparedness is the International Health Regulations, first developed in the 19th century after a series of European plagues. The point of the regulations was not just to contain disease threats, but – crucially – to protect free trade and travel from undue restriction. These regulations were devised when the relationship between humans and the natural environment, the speed of global transit and transactions, population density, and food systems, were radically different to those that we live with today. Nonetheless, these regulations were not updated until 2005, and even then only marginally. 

Categories: Covid-19

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