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Knowability and Unknowabiility of COVID-19 – Is There ‘Class’ in the Coronavirus Panic? Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

[This is the first part of a two-part series on ‘society at the time of Covid-19’]

‘An elephant was attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff in panic and dies.’ – Anonymous

‘The idea of the self-sufficient character of science (“science for science’s sake”) is naive: it confuses the subjective passions of the professional scientist, working in a system of profound division of labour, in conditions of a disjointed society, in which individual social functions are crystallised in a diversity of types, psychologies, passions …. The fetishising of science, as of other phenomena of social life, and the deification of the corresponding categories is a perverted ideological reflex of a society in which the division of labour has destroyed the visible connection between social function, separating them out in the consciousness of their agents as absolute and sovereign values.’ – Nikolai Bukharin, 1931

The specter of Covid-19 is haunting India and many other countries in the world. As the fear of the novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) grips India, and draconian state measures unleash havoc on the poor, it is imperative to trace back the clock so as to fully comprehend the underlying thrust of the current paranoia. Who have been carriers of the disease into India and what was done to identify and contain them? Whose paranoia is determining state policy? And are we possibly witnessing an ‘over-reaction’ shaped by the anxiety of upper classes? These questions imply the need, in class terms, for a closer scrutiny of the reasons behind the declaration of the pandemic.

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