On 2 April 2020, Paul Krugman has published an article in “The New York Times” reflecting on the consequences of Covid-19 for U.S. workers. In his article “The Covid-19 Slump Has Arrived”, he speaks of “the economic equivalent of a medically induced coma” with dramatic repercussions for the population. While the U.S. Congress passes a $2 trillion CARES Act and decides to enhance the unemployment benefits, Covid-19 reveals the precarious situation of “millions of distressed Americans” who “were already living on the edge” and simply don’t have the time to wait for the new help programs to get started (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/opinion/coronavirus-economy-stimulus.html).
Similar observations can be made for many other countries of the world in these days. What seems most striking here is that Covid-19 points to two social evils long time hushed up and addressing the responsibility of (decision-makers in) the Global North: First, overburdened healthcare systems disclose the truth about neoliberal cost-cutting policies applied to central sectors of the welfare state. Second, the economic consequences of the crisis are undermining people’s ability to provide for their families in all parts of the world and reveal the social inequalities and precarious living conditions of countless workers – not only in the Global South but also in Europe and North America.
The desperate struggle for survival will be fought on two scenes: in the hospitals and on the streets. It might be a “good” moment for social and working class movements and historians and anthropologists of work to think of possibilities to intervene in this crisis.
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