Ecosocialist bookshelf: Pandemic edition

July 7, 2020
This selection focuses on viruses and health care, capitalism’s failure to protect human health, and radical alternatives.

Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus recommends six books for understanding the deadliest global health crisis of our time.

This selection focuses on viruses and health care, capitalism’s failure to protect human health, and radical alternatives.


COVID-19, Avian Flu and the plagues of capitalism

By Mike Davis
OR Books, 2020

In an expanded edition of his earlier book, The Monster at Our Door, Davis sets the current crisis in the context of previous viral catastrophes, and surveys the scientific and political roots of today’s viral apocalypse.

He shows how agribusiness and the fast-food industries, abetted by corrupt governments and a capitalist global system careening out of control, created the ecological pre-conditions for the new plague.

What’s gone wrong and how to stop it happening again

By Richard Horton
Polity Press, 2020

Warnings about the threat of a new pandemic have been made repeatedly since the 1980s, but the governments of Britain and the United States were totally unprepared.

The editor of the medical journal The Lancet scrutinises the actions that governments around the world took – and failed to take – as the virus spread from its origins in Wuhan to the global pandemic that it is today.

The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it changed the world
By Laura Spinney
Penguin Random House, 2017

The Spanish flu of 1918–1920 was the greatest human disaster of twentieth century, killing 50 to 100 million people in all parts of the world.

Pale Rider is a highly readable account of the origins, spread and effects of a pandemic that swept the world a century before COVID-19.

Dispatches on infectious disease, agribusiness, and the nature of science

By Rob Wallace
Monthly Review Press, 2016

Socialist epidemiologist Rob Wallace integrates the political economies of disease and science into a new understanding of infections. He tracks the ways influenza and other pathogens emerge from an agriculture controlled by multinational corporations and proposes sensible alternatives to lethal agribusiness.

Moving beyond capitalism for our health

By Howard Waitzkin
Monthly Review Press, 2018

Health-care professionals, scholars, and activists examine the “medical industrial complex,” and detail case studies and successful efforts for creating more humane communities.

A powerful critique of capitalist policies, this book ultimately gives us hope that our healthcare system can be rescued and made an integral part of a new and radically different society.

The ongoing revolution

By Don Fitz
Monthly Review Press, 2020

Cuba hasn’t escaped the virus, but its response has been among the fastest and most effective in the world.

Don Fitz’s account of the transformation of Cuban medicine provides a clear and inspiring picture of how a beleaguered country has created a superior medical system, with health indicators and results that surpass those of the US, at a fraction of the cost.

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