Political Containment of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Capital, Security, War

Güven E.

Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory Conference , İstanbul, Turkey, 15 - 17 April 2022

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


State responses from around the world to the Covid-19 global pandemic bear strong traces of securitization. While revealing the systemic vulnerabilities of existing neoliberal regimes in many ways, it did not take long for the pandemic to be declared an ‘existential threat’ to public order, whereby many states have managed to justify their recourse to emergency powers under intense rhetoric of warfare. This paper aims at critically examining the political and class implications of the security practices that neoliberal governments pursue by subtly utilizing the ideological circuit between war, emergency and mobilization in reshaping their social order in view of the political containment of Covid-19. To this end, limiting its focus rather on the first year of the pandemic, the paper first explores the ways in which the politics of emergency provided governments with much room for executive discretion and social control. These range from narrowing down of the political and public space, reinforcement of the security agendas already in effect, the gross expansion of police powers and rolling out of new surveillance schemes, all of which have less to do with public health than with securing the insecurity of bourgeois order. Second, the paper attempts to reveal the particularist, uneven, and conflictual nature of the pandemic covered up by the universalist language of war and emergency. Building on the secondary resources that demonstrate the variety of severe socio-political inequalities highlighted by the crisis, it will be argued that the so-called ‘invisible enemy’ widely considered ‘not to discriminate’ is indeed quite visible and discriminatory inasmuch as it assumes the form of capital. Whilst a social crisis as such is not only affected by existing relations of power but also works to deepen them, it also serves as a stark reminder to challenge the common sense view on whose security is all the security talk is about.