Radical Thinking in Time of Pandemic [Reading List #7]

Radical Thinking in Time of Pandemic [Reading List #7]

Radical Thinking in Time of Pandemic [Reading List #7]

1022 641 Into the Black Box

In tempi di pandemia anche il pensiero critico deve interrogarsi su come sta cambiando il mondo. Quali categorie politiche, economiche e sociali possono essere utili per analizzare l’impatto del Covid-19 sugli spazi urbani, l’organizzazione del lavoro, le catene globali del valore, il progetto neo-liberale, gli equilibri geopolitici su scala mondiale, le forme di lotta e i soggetti resistenti?
Into the Black Box curerà in questo periodo una lista settimanale di letture utili per interrogarsi attorno a tutti questi nodi.
Qua tutte le reading list.

In times of pandemic, even critical thinking has to question how the world is changing. Which political, economic and social categories can be useful to analyze the impact of Covid-19 on urban spaces, work organization, global value chains, the neo-liberal project, geopolitical balances on a global scale, forms of struggle and resistant subjects?
Into the Black Box will be producing a weekly list of readings during this period, which will be useful to ask questions about all these issues.
Here are all the reading lists.


Contact apps won’t end lockdown. But they might kill off democracy
A tech solution to the crisis of the type being pursed by the UK government will be both ineffective and a civil rights nightmare

Covid-19: the controversial role of big tech in digital surveillance
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought new big data-driven practices of infectious disease surveillance to the forefront of efforts to track cases in real-time. As infections have continued to spread across the globe, governments have increasingly sought to capitalise on the volume, variety and velocity of the big data era, and to partner with big tech corporations in order to accelerate the surveillance of infected populations.

Ahora ya sabemos para qué sirve internet. Para comunicar, como siempre fue obvio. No aísla, sino que relaciona. No aliena, sino que alienta. No elimina la emoción, sino que la alimenta. No se come, pero sin los pedidos de vituallas y las recetas online sería más difícil comer ahora. Gracias al teletrabajo se mantiene mal que bien la actividad económica y de gestión. Y así se acabará el curso en la universidad. Incluso, según la recomendación del Gobierno de Argentina durante el confinamiento, el cibersexo permite relajar la tensión acumulada. Miren por dónde hemos entrado de lleno en una sociedad digital en la que ya vivíamos pero que no habíamos asumido plenamente.

We can’t let tech companies use algorithms to police us after COVID-19
The pandemic has demonstrated the risks of relying on algorithms to remove harmful content.

Pandemia y capitalismo de vigilancia
La pandemia del COVID-19 es más que un “cisne negro” (un hecho inesperado, poco frecuente). La pandemia seguramente pasará, pero la crisis quedará -la social, la económica, la política-, significando un mundo diferente que ni los más osados científicos sociales y politólogos han podido imaginar, con un estimado de más de tres mil millones de desempleados.

Tech Giants Are Using This Crisis to Colonize the Welfare System
In recent years, firms like Google and Facebook have used the Global South as a test bed for new and unregulated forms of data collection. Faced with coronavirus, the same mechanisms are being rolled out across the world — with for-profit data collection becoming increasingly central to states’ management of their welfare systems.

Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal
In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.

Digitalisation as a Cure. Will the Pandemic Shake Up Our Analogue Habits?
If these unusual circumstances brought about permanent change in terms of remote work and digitalisation, we might see benefits for our work-life balance and the environment.

The global data divide
The coronavirus is driving digitalisation – which will likely hurt the Global South. And the EU isn’t entirely innocent


The Pandemic Shows What Cars Have Done to Cities
Along streets suddenly devoid of traffic, pedestrians get a fresh look at all the space that motor vehicles have commandeered.

Cities after coronavirus: how Covid-19 could radically alter urban life
Pandemics have always shaped cities – and from increased surveillance to ‘de-densification’ to new community activism, Covid-19 is doing it already

How Will COVID-19 Affect Urban Planning?
How we plan our cities has always been a reflection of prevailing cultural and technological trends and even major crises. The cholera epidemics in the 19th century sparked the introduction of modern urban sanitation systems. Housing regulations around light and air were introduced as a measure against respiratory diseases in overcrowded slums in Europe during industrialization. The introduction of railroads had an immense impact on national urban systems, and the mass production of the car has led to cities that bleed seamlessly into sprawling suburbs, creating vast city regions. In recent years, digitalization and data have changed the way we navigate cities and how communities mobilize and advocate for change.

Your Maps of Life Under Lockdown
Tight floor plans, “sanity” walks, and the people you miss seeing: They turned up in your homemade maps of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

How will the pandemic change urban life?
The current urban mood is a strange one. Cities have suddenly become hostile hotspots, where the risk of contagion is the greatest. The density of our cities is more palpable than everand our homes have never felt smaller. Those with gardens are rejoicing in the cathartic activity of gardening. Those with countryside homes are fleeing the city.

Social Movements

Movimientos en la pandemia: un nuevo comienzo rebosante de dignidad y autonomía
El periodista y analista Raúl Zibechi inaugura una sección en El Salto para dar seguimiento al trabajo de los movimientos sociales en tiempos de la pandemia. Desde Perú a México, pasando por Ecuador y Uruguay, colectivos sociales se organizan y luchan por defender el derecho a sus territorios frente a las multinacionales y los intereses especulativos, que no han frenado su avance a pesar del confinamiento.

The Many Protests of the Coronavirus Pandemic
From drive-through rallies to video demonstrations, the public resistance of the coronavirus era adopts new strategies, and advances very different causes.

Antonio Casilli: i nuovi conflitti del lavoro digitale nella società virale
La crisi pandemica ha fatto emergere un mercato del lavoro a tre teste – afferma Antonio Casilli, docente di sociologia presso l’università Télécom Paris – Ci sono persone che possono tele-lavorare da casa durante la quarantena. Lo “smart working” è molto celebrato, ma la possibilità di ricorrere a questo uso delle piattaforme digitali non supera in media il 30 per cento della forza lavoro dipendente. Nel lungo post-quarantena lo “smart working” potrebbe essere imposto e non scelto. In alcuni casi potrebbe essere il preludio al licenziamento, al part time involontario o al taglio del costo del lavoro».

Liberating logistics: all power to the frontline workers
May Day strikes are capping off a global wave of labor action through which logistic workers have asserted themselves against capital in the face of a pandemic.


Chinese start-ups are being starved of venture capital – with worrying omens for the west
Through the centuries, China’s entrepreneurs accessed finance from family and friends through social networks known as guanxi. Even after the communist revolution, these networks helped to propagate a thriving small business sector that invested in local services and basic manufactured goods.

El virus cambia el paradigma neoliberal: llega la era del capitalismo de Estado
Las políticas de libre mercado que desarrollaron Reagan y Thatcher, y que sobrevivieron a 2008, han dado su último aliento con el coronavirus. El mundo se prepara para más intervención pública

The Covid-19 pandemic shines a spotlight on the systemic risk to global business
Commentators have suggested that the global economy and just about everything else will be irreversibly changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. There will be a before-coronavirus and an after-coronavirus world. Ironically, with a few exceptions (for example, Goldin and Muggah, 2020), virtually no person or agency making such claims predicted the coronavirus pandemic itself. Nor is it clear if they are referring to how people think about the global economy or to changes in material circumstances, or perhaps both. One truth that has been made manifest is that businesses have been operating slightly blindly in an interconnected, integrated, complex and dynamic world for some time now, and that these tendencies are accelerating and creating radical uncertainty and systemic risk for both the global and business environments.

Ten reasons why a ‘Greater Depression’ for the 2020s is inevitable
After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.

Deliveroo was the poster child for venture capitalism. It’s not looking so good now
If any company can weather coronavirus well, it should be Deliveroo. The early days of lockdown saw demand surge for the service delivering food from restaurants and takeaways. The decision by several major restaurant and fast-food chains to shut for weeks during the early stages of lockdown might have dented demand, but as they begin to reopen for delivery – with most other activities still curtailed – prospects would seem bright for the tech company.

Irrational Expectations
However much upheaval the global COVID-19 pandemic has generated, a great deal more is coming. The economic disaster is already the object of frantic analysis, much of which tells us we can expect a bottom that matches or exceeds the Great Depression of the 1930s, at least as measured by conventional economic indicators like GDP, unemployment, and bankruptcies. This narrative provides the backbeat to the competing attempts to organize our attention during the passage through present and future trials.


The race for a COVID-19 vaccine: looming global political economy challenges surrounding our last best hope
All hopes are pinned on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. But there are going to be huge political challenges to overcome if and when an effective vaccine does become available.


Iconographies of the Pandemic
We review the visual symptoms of the pandemic, its representation by individuals, politicians, media and the entertainment sector, and the dilemma posed by combining these with the personalised tracking of the population.

Two Problems with Democratic Biopolitics (Critique in times of Coronavirus)
COVID-19 has led to renewed interest in Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics, but it has also revealed that this concept is widely misunderstood. Too many commentators have relied upon an overly broad definition of biopolitics as a ‘politics of health’ or a ‘politics of life.’ Panagiotis Sotiris’ popular recent article ‘Is Democratic Biopolitics Possible?’ exemplifies this problem. Sotiris gives definitions of both ‘biopolitics’ and ‘democratic biopolitics’ that we should reject.

Epidemia tra norma ed eccezione
La tematica del caso d’eccezione è stata elaborata da pensatori anti-liberali, di destra di sinistra, da Schmitt a Benjamin, da Donoso ad Agamben, da Sorel a Tronti. Il “caso d’eccezione” è stato faticosamente raggiunto come la vetta di un monte, dopo un’angosciante scalata. È un concetto estremo, destrutturante, in quanto dimostra che l’essenza di ogni ordine sta nel potere di creare disordine. In altri termini, che la sovranità è regolatrice, in uno spazio determinato, perché ha inizio dal “non-ordine”, perché ha davanti a sé una materia, i cittadini, omogenea e indifferenziata, infinitamente plastica, che può essere ordinata e disordinata in mille mutevoli differenze, con molteplici classificazioni, in infiniti sbarramenti e infinite aperture. Questo legare e slegare, questo “far ordine nel fare disordine”, e viceversa, è l’opera della decisione sovrana.

Of Leviathan and lockdowns
The coronavirus has propelled Thomas Hobbes, one of philosophy’s leading bogeymen, back into the spotlight. It’s unsurprising that two conservative publications in the U.S., the National Review and the American Conservative, have already cast the epidemic as the resurgence of Leviathan, Hobbes’s 17th century vision of a mighty state whose restrictions we accept in a grand bargain to save our lives.


Coronavirus from the perspective of 17th century plague
Between 1563 and 1665, London experienced four plagues that each killed one fifth of the city’s inhabitants. This column uses 790,000 burial records to track the plagues that recurred across London (epidemics typically endured for six months). Possibly carried and spread by body lice, plague always originated in the poorest parishes; self-segregation by the affluent gradually halved their death rate compared with poorer Londoners. The population rebounded within two years, as new migrants arrived in the city “to fill dead men’s shoes”.

How humans have reacted to pandemics through history – a visual guide
Infectious diseases have wreaked havoc on human communities since ancient times. From smashed crockery in ancient Syria to attacks on doctors in 1830s Britain, there are many documented examples of the despair and chaos experienced by those who lived through pandemics. Our journey through the ages looks at the spread of disease in three case studies, and then explores a historical view on how we think about pandemics today.


The stability of the global food system relies on immigrants
The monolithic global food system is a feat of humanity. The world has built for itself an interconnected system that can supply dragonfruit from South America to cities as rural and far-flung as Lander, Wyoming and Chamonix, France. But the spread of Covid-19 is revealing a vulnerable link in the food supply chain: the immigrant populations that make up a large part of the agricultural workforce. The global food system as it operates today relies on immigrant labor to run smoothly, and the pandemic is emphasizing the risk of undervaluing that work.

In-work poverty in times of pandemic
The coronavirus crisis is exacerbating in-work poverty in the EU—and a powerful raft of labour-market and welfare measures is needed for an adequate response.

Rethinking Social Reproduction in the Time of Covid-19
As Covid-19 related lockdown enforcements across the globe mean that numerous people are being made to stay home, how is capitalism spatially fixing (Harvey 2001) itself further onto the space of the home? For many women, the household has always been a site of work – of social reproduction – but how does this intensify during a global pandemic?

Pandemic and Precarity: rethinking what it means to be precarious under COVID 19
According to recent estimates, nearly 4 million UK workers have been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Unemployment has increased to 2.5 million, 7.5 percent of the workforce, and economists are predicting the worst global recession for a century. The economic and social ramifications of the crisis are, to put it mildly, far-reaching. At the same time, the impacts of COVID-19 are unfolding in highly differentiated ways across the globe, at regional, international, and intra-national levels. Far from the “great equaliser”, the pandemic is tracing along existing socio-economic faultlines – of race, class, gender, geography – and is being shaped by the histories and contemporalities of uneven development. Against this background, this blog series examines the implications of COVID-19 for labour and (in)decent work, focusing in particular on precarious workers and the concept  of ‘precarity’. The series asks: how does the pandemic reshape understandings of precarity?  Who is (and who is not) rendered precarious? And what are the ‘new’ geographies and hierarchies of precarity arising from the pandemic?

Keeping the Italian agri-food system alive: Migrant farmworkers wanted!
In the Italian agri-food sector there is not a labour shortage, but a shortage of rights for workers.

Migrant domestic and care workers: high risk but low protection
Despite the challenges, domestic and care workers are seizing the moment to build power and create a more caring society.