Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Daher-Nashif, S. (2021). In sickness and in health: The politics of public health and their implications during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sociology Compass,

Politics is a major player in health, sickness, and death affairs. This article reviews the role of politics in public health and its impact on health outcomes, mortality ratios, and death scenarios amongst the most vulnerable populations. Furthermore, the article explains the reasons behind the absence of politics from health and public health discourses; and examines the role of politics during the mis/management of COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on Foucault’s biopower, Mebmbe’s necropolitics, and Butler’s precarity, the article illuminates how public health policies are highly political insofar as they offer some individuals access to life but create possibilities of death for others. During COVID-19, politics enabled governors to put at risk the most vulnerable groups, the precariat, namely refugees, asylum seekers, stateless, and immigrants, the majority of whom were impoverished. The article presents COVID-19 as an example of a crisis that unmasks these politics, claiming that these politics are not new but rather a continuum of previous invisible policies that COVID-19 unmasked and intensified. The article describes how the politics of health entail privileging individuals with capital value who can benefit the state’s interests and maintains its power.

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