Introduction: Already Sick

Introduction: Already Sick

A series of short essays on the coronavirus pandemic.

Mask-wearing pedestrians reflected in a window advertisement in San Francisco, CA (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

COVID-19 has produced some of the greatest social convulsions in living memory. In the early stages of the pandemic, our preceding political concerns, not to mention our daily lives, were thrown into disarray. We tried to keep up with the dizzying pace of events—both the spread of the virus (especially in our home city of New York) and the haphazard response. It often proved overwhelming.

In this section, we have enlisted some contributors to help us think through what’s been going on. What has this pandemic changed? What has it revealed, or clarified? What assumptions do we need to revisit, and where could all of this be heading?

In the meantime, history keeps happening. As we head to press, we are living through new days of rage over the police killing of George Floyd and so many other black Americans. Thousands upon thousands, wearing face masks, have taken to otherwise empty streets. Who imagined these scenes when they daydreamed about the end of social distancing?

The short essays that follow offer some ways to orient our political thinking in disorienting times.


Deep Problems by Jedediah Britton-Purdy

Turn Mutual Aid into Meaningful Work by Zoë Schlanger

Apocalypse Again by Siddhartha Deb

Conservative Incoherence by Sam Adler-Bell

Bring Back Health Planning by Adam Gaffney

Democracy on Hold by Madeleine Schwartz

Why Hong Kongers Fight by Wilfred Chan

Europe: Will This Crisis Be Different? by Sheri Berman

The Dignity of Labor by William P. Jones

The Disease Map of Rural America by Max Fraser

Coronavirus and the Surveillance State by James B. Rule and Han Cheng

Solidarity Across Species by Astra Taylor and Sunaura Taylor

How the Relief Effort Ran Aground by Mike Konczal

Dismantle Racial Capitalism by K. Sabeel Rahman

Will COVID-19 Spur a Wave of Unionization? by Steven Greenhouse

Grief Circling by Sophie Lewis

Natasha Lewis and Nick Serpe are Dissent’s senior editors.

Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

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