New Pandemics, Old Politics

Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives

We know how a pandemic is supposed to end: we make sacrifices in our daily lives to support a ‘war’ on the pathogen, until medical science deploys a magic bullet to vanquish the invisible enemy. This is comforting, but it hasn’t happened yet.

New Pandemics, old politics book cover, image of death\skeleton on horseback

New Pandemics, Old Politics:

Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives

ALEX DE WAAL

Publisher: Polity Press
ISBN: 9781509547791

At Wiley.com

New Pandemics, Old Politics explores how the modern world adopted a martial script to deal with epidemic disease threats, and how this has failed—repeatedly.  Europe first declared ‘war’ on cholera in the 19th century. It didn’t defeat the disease but it served purposes of state and empire. In 1918, influenza emerged from a real war and swept the world unchecked by either policy or medicine. The biggest pandemic of the century defied the script and was scrubbed from history. Forty years ago, AIDS challenged the confidence of medical science. AIDS is still with us, but we have learned to live with it—chiefly because of community activism and emancipatory politics.

Today, public health experts and political leaders who failed to listen to them agree on one thing: that we must ‘fight’ Covid-19. There’s a consensus that we must target individual pathogens and suppress them—and not address the reasons why our societies are so vulnerable. Arguing that this consensus is mistaken, Alex de Waal makes the case for a new democratic public health for the Anthropocene.


Media

THE ATLANTIC

We’re Already Barreling Toward the Next Pandemic

This one is far from over, but the window to prepare for future threats is closing fast.

September 29, 2021


Photo by Justin Tang, the Canadian Press.
THE TYEE

All Plagues Are Political

Alex de Waal’s myth-shattering new book deconstructs COVID-19 and two centuries of epidemics. Five deadly misconceptions.

JULY 9, 2021


Battling the flue pandemic 1918
THE BAFFLER

The Unwinnable War on Disease

Pandemics and the ecology of armed conflict

June 21, 2021


FOREIGN POLICY

‘War on Disease’ Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The mindset that helped fight the current pandemic is what gets us into situations like this in the first place.

June 13, 2021


Vintage illustration of skeleton (death) with a spear
LSE Review of Books

Book Review: New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives by Alex de Waal, LSE Review of Books

This one is far from over, but the window to prepare for future threats is closing fast.

June 12, 2021


Video

The World According to Jessie

Author Alex De Waal talks about his latest book, “New pandemics, Old politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives.”

October 17, 2021

Leave a Reply