A Sociology of Covid-19


The Covid-19 pandemic presents the profoundest public health and economic crisis of our times. The seemingly impossible has happened: borders have closed, nations have locked down, and individuals have socially isolated for the collective good. We find ourselves involved in an unprecedented social experiment. This living laboratory is ripe for sociological analysis. In this introductory article, we provide a broad sociology of Covid-19, paying attention to the production of pandemics and the creation of vulnerabilities. We acknowledge the dystopian elements of the pandemic: it will provide opportunities for ‘disaster capitalists’ to profit, it will enhance certain forms of surveillance, and it will impact some constituencies far more negatively than others (here we pay particular attention to the pandemic’s gendered consequences). Yet there are also resources for hope. We are witnessing altruistic acts the world over, as mutual aid groups form to render assistance where needed. Notions of welfare reform, progressive taxation, nationalisation and universal basic income now seem more politically palatable. Some even predict the imminent demise of neoliberalism. While this may be too hopeful, reactions to the pandemic thus far do at least demonstrate that other ways of living are within our grasp. As Arundhati Roy has said: the virus is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

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