The Global Politics of Health Security before, during, and after COVID-19

Ethics & International Affairs
Fall 2021 (35.3) | October 2021


The Global Politics of Health Security before, during, and after COVID-19
Andreas Papamichail
The COVID-19 pandemic has been shaped by preexisting political, social, and economic relations and governance structures, and will remold these structures going forward. This review essay considers three books on global health politics written by Simon Rushton, Clare Wenham, and Jeremy Youde. Here, I explore what these books collectively and individually can tell us about these preexisting dynamics, the events of the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possible future directions in the politics of global health. I argue that they provide a firm basis for understanding the inequitable burdens of the pandemic, while juxtaposing these inequities against the narratives of shared vulnerability that sit at the heart of the global health security regime. They also help us make sense of the surveillance, detection, containment, and response mechanisms we have seen during the pandemic; the failures to address the systemic dynamics that drive disease outbreaks; and the national and international politics that have shaped the pandemic response. However, COVID-19 has also vividly and brutally demonstrated how global health hierarchies, racism, border politics, and neoliberal forms of knowledge production have led to a stratified burden of the pandemic. These areas are less apparent in the three books, but ought to be situated front and center in future critical scholarship on global health security.