Esporte Next ArticleCOVID-19 in Brazil: far beyond biopolitics
Esporte Richard Horton
Horton R Offline: COVID-19—a crisis of power.
proposed the importance of Foucault’s biopolitics as a concept for understanding COVID-19. While praising his commentary, we would add that in countries like Brazil, COVID-19 is not only about the politics of the body, but about the politics of death.
In the midst of a crisis that is not only economic, but also political and ethical, Brazil has stood out for its disastrous governmental actions in the battle against COVID-19: a frustrated attempt to privatise primary health care during the pandemic, the absence of a thorough national response plan, serious logistical failures in the vaccination campaign, and the strong scientific negationism in senior government administration.
Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics explains what is happening in Brazil.
The idea of necropolitics, which describes how risk, illness, and death conditions selectively operate in favour of neoliberal economic policies, reflects the nurtured narratives that have predominantly affected poor, Black, and Indigenous populations.
Raça e Covid no município de São Paulo.
In the world’s periphery, COVID-19 has especially amplified the deleterious consequences of austerity policies.
Doniec K Dall’Alba R King L Austerity threatens universal health coverage in Brazil.
While the USA, the UK, and other countries increased social spending in response to the syndemic,
Horton R Offline: COVID-19 is not a pandemic.
the Brazilian Government opted to strengthen economic policies that made it impossible for a large part of the population to adequately isolate from physical contact—40% of Brazil’s workforce is employed in the informal sector. In Brazil, monetary policies directed at the financial sector amounted to about US$230 billion,
Governo do Brasil
Banco Central anuncia conjunto de medidas que liberam R$ 1,2 trilhão para a economia.
whereas fiscal initiatives aimed at the social impacts of the pandemic received less than half of this sum.
Agência Senado Executivo gastou 77,7% do orçamento previsto para combate a pandemia.
Selectively deciding who should pay for the impacts of the pandemic, by forcing poor people to choose between hunger or contamination in a state of living dead, has been naturalised under the argument of sustaining the economy. President Jair Bolsonaro’s “So what?” in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases
Garcia G Henrique Gomes P Viana H ‘E daí? Lamento. Quer que eu faça o quê?’, diz Bolsonaro sobre mortes por coronavírus; ‘Sou Messias, mas não faço milagre’.
hints at the systematic policies implemented during his presidency to weaken institutions, creating a different and much more dramatic scenario than biopolitical control. In Brazil, the fragile public administration has been unable to combat both the socioeconomic and health crises, leaving a harmful trail of hunger, violence, and illness, “subjugating life to the power of death”.
Thus, Brazil’s pandemic response cannot be assessed only through the biopolitical lens.
The international health-care community, besides having the role of questioning economic protectionism in view of life preservation, ought to expand its analysis of the COVID-19 syndemic to understand what is happening in underdeveloped regions, in particular, to decolonise knowledge and fully apprehend geopolitical and territorial particularities. With more than 227 500 lives lost from COVID-19, as of Feb 4, 2021, we can say that necropolitics is, ironically, alive in Brazil.
We declare no competing interests.
References1.Horton R Offline: COVID-19—a crisis of power.
Lancet. 2020; 39613832.Mbembe A Necropolitics.
Duke University Press Books,
Durham, NC20193.Instituto PólisRaça e Covid no município de São Paulo.
4.Doniec K Dall’Alba R King L Austerity threatens universal health coverage in Brazil.
Lancet. 2016; 388: 867-8685.Horton R Offline: COVID-19 is not a pandemic.
Lancet. 2020; 396: 8746.Governo do BrasilBanco Central anuncia conjunto de medidas que liberam R$ 1,2 trilhão para a economia.
7.Senado FederalAgência Senado Executivo gastou 77,7% do orçamento previsto para combate a pandemia.
8.Garcia G Henrique Gomes P Viana H ‘E daí? Lamento. Quer que eu faça o quê?’, diz Bolsonaro sobre mortes por coronavírus; ‘Sou Messias, mas não faço milagre’.
Article InfoPublication HistoryPublished: 13 February 2021
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Linked ArticlesOffline: COVID-19—a crisis of powerCOVID-19 is about the politics of the body. In a series of lectures and essays in the 1970s and early 1980s, Michel Foucault (who died in 1984) argued that the discipline of public health emerged with the birth of capitalism in the 18th century. The body came to be understood as an instrument of economic production, of labour power, and so became a subject of significant political interest. Medicine and public health were endorsed as tools to enhance these productive forces, to ensure that people were fit for work.