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Coronavirus, communitarians and individualists

  • by JW

“The crisis puts the flaws of our short-sighted, hyper-individualistic times in glaring focus.”


People can be very selfish.

Whether it’s the super-rich:

World’s Wealthy Tap Personal Ventilators, On-Demand Doctors to Fight Coronavirus |

Coronavirus: Wealthy Russians ‘hoarding ventilators as country faces shortages’ |

Or the merely middle class:

“Coronavirus has exposed New York’s two societies,” Jumaane Williams, the public advocate who acts as the official watchdog for New Yorkers, told the Guardian. “One society was able to run away to the Hamptons or work from home and have food delivered to their door; the other society was deemed ‘essential workers’ and made to go out to work with no protection.”

A tale of two New Yorks: pandemic lays bare a city’s shocking inequities |

Or the young:

Coronavirus party |

Or the not-so young:

Smoking, drinking, general poor health: Researchers say these are some of the factors that could explain why more men seem to be dying from coronavirus than women.

Here’s why the coronavirus may be killing more men than women. |

The White Male Is The Biggest Risk In Spreading The Virus |

However, even the super-rich are not immune:

Coronavirus: Lord Bath dies after contracting Covid-19 |

Nor, very sadly, are the young:

WHO says ‘more and more’ young people are dying from the coronavirus |


Today, it has been suggested that the UK will surpass even Italy:

Coronavirus: UK could be ‘worst affected’ country in Europe |

Compared with Germany:

Coronavirus: What can the UK learn from Germany on testing? |

And whilst young Germans have also been defying orders and holding ‘coronavirus parties’, there is a suggestion that it’s not only a different testing regime, but a different culture that has propelled a different response.

Compare the States:

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, spreads in the United States, it is becoming clear that America’s individualistic framework is deeply unsuited to coping with an infectious pandemic. Right now, one of the most important things Americans can do is deploy measures like social distancing and self-quarantining… This requires a radical shift in Americans’ thinking from an individual-first to a communitarian ethos—and it is not a shift that is coming easily to most, especially in the absence of clear federal guidelines.

The Shift Americans Must Make to Fight the Coronavirus |

And the European continent:

The cultural dimension recognises the huge political importance of the collective orientation (communitarians) or individual orientation (individualists) mentioned previously. Although all leaders call for solidarity at times of major crisis, there are clear differences between the political reactions of communitarians and individualists in Europe. There are governments, such as those of Spain, Italy and France, that threaten steep fines for endangering the community, whereas Britain, for example, has responded by emphasising personal responsibility.


And Hong Kong:

Karin Huster, a Seattle-based nurse and emergency field co-ordinator for Doctors Without Borders, spent a month in Hong Kong working on coronavirus training. She noticed many there had a strong “individual sense of responsibility” because they remembered the 2003 Sars outbreak that hit the territory particularly hard. That’s also seen in the prevalent use of masks in part of Asia, which Ms Huster says is seen as a sign of “respect towards others”. When it comes to social distancing, Ms Huster says: “I think in America, people are so individualistic – it’s going to be a little harder for us to sacrifice our ‘freedom’.”

Coronavirus: What could the West learn from Asia? |


In other words, this crisis will have a profound political effect:



To finish, a very political and biting critique:


Coronavirus and the crisis of capitalism

The viral pandemic is exposing the weakness and unsustainability of the global economic system.

In 1895, Cyrus Edson, the New York City health commissioner, published an article titled The Microbe as a Social Leveller. Edson, echoing the language of 17th-century English communist Gerrard Winstanley, wrote that “the microbe of disease is no respecter of persons”. He explained that while impoverished people would be most at risk from disease, the rich would never be entirely safe from infection. For Edson, the “socialism of the microbe … is the chain of disease, which binds all the people of a community together”.

Coronavirus and the crisis of capitalism |


Of which there are many more:

The Shifting Geopolitics of Coronavirus and the Demise of Neoliberalism – (Part 1) |

The Shifting Geopolitics of Coronavirus and the Demise of Neoliberalism – (Part 2) |