The Pandemic & the Economy: A Radical View
The standard narrative about the current crisis is that the coronavirus pathogen triggered an economic collapse. But what is crucially ignored is that neoliberal capitalism was already weak and stressed out, a pre-existing condition, if you will. That systemic weakness went into freefall when the pandemic hit. In its long history, capitalism has produced many booms and busts but this period, particularly since Reagan, has produced spectacular inequalities in wealth and income. Tens of millions, if they even have a job, live paycheck-to-paycheck. We’re all in this together? Right? That’s what the signs say. But not the rich. They have their country estates, yachts and island retreats to shelter in place. The big question is: Once the crisis abates are we going to go back to business as usual, or will there be fundamental change?
David McNally is the Cullen Distinguished Professor of History and Business at the University of Houston and director of the Center for the Study of Capitalism. He is the author of Global Slump, Monsters of the Market and Blood and Money.