Neoliberalism, COVID-19 and conspiracy: pandemic management strategies and the far-right social turn

View author details View Less
  • 1 Deakin University, , Australia
Restricted access
Get eTOC alerts
Rights and permissions Cite this article

Neoliberal pandemic management strategies during the 2019–2022 COVID-19 virus pandemic rendered vulnerable to the disease, people in precarious work, with underlying health issues, and experiencing other forms of social discrimination and disadvantage. Herd immunity strategies designed to address the economic growth imperatives of neoliberal societies were often contrary to scientific advice, leading to high infection rates and the mass death of, in particular, essential workers in manufacturing, healthcare, and service provision. At times, health policies and political rhetoric scapegoated marginalised communities for the spread of the disease, subjecting them to the pandemic’s more harmful social and economic effects. These ideological-political environments also provided context for accelerationist and conspiratorial narratives about COVID-19 communicated among wider political networks, within economically-driven environments of counterfactual mass news and social media. Responding to this situation, this paper examines how certain pandemic responses from government and non-government actors collectively contributed toward racialised, classist social discrimination in responses to COVID-19, such that they might be said to constitute an intra-pandemic far-right ‘social turn’.

  • Abbasi, K. (2020) COVID-19: politicisation, ‘corruption’, and suppression of science, BMJ, 371: m4425, doi: 10.1136/bmj.m4425.

  • Alemezzadri (2020) A crisis like no other: social reproduction and the regeneration of capitalist life during the COVID-19 pandemic, Developing Economics, https://developingeconomics.org/2020/04/20/a-crisis-like-no-other-social-reproduction-and-the-regeneration-of-capitalist-life-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Alexander, J. (2004) Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany: the ‘Fascist’ Style of Rule, London: Routledge.

  • Al Jazeera (2021) Amnesty raises alarm as Israel shuts palestinian health provider, 10 June, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/10/amnesty-raises-alarm-as-israel-shuts-palestinian-health-provider.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Alwan, N. et al. (2020) Scientific consensus on the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to act now, The Lancet, 396(10260): e7172, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32153-X.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Amarasingam, A. and Argentino, M. (2020) The QAnon conspiracy theory: a security threat in the making, CTC Sentinel, 13(7): 3744.

  • Appleman, L. (2021) Pandemic eugenics: discrimination, disability, and detention during COVID-19, Loyola Law Review, 67: 101, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3801194.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aschwanden, C. (2020) The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19, Nature, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02948-4. doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02700-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barker, M. (2018) Editorial introduction: Cambridge Analytica, ‘Nudge Theory’, and ‘figures of the audience’, Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 15(1): 14.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beauchamp, Z. (2019) Accelerationism: the obscure idea inspiring white supremacist killers around the world, Vox, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/11/11/20882005/accelerationism-white-supremacy-christchurch.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Beiner, R. (2018) Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the far Right, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bieber, F. (2020) Global nationalism in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nationalities Papers, doi: 10.1017/nps.2020.35

  • Busbridge, R., Moffitt, B. and Thorburn, J. (2020) Cultural Marxism: Far-right conspiracy theory in Australia’s culture wars, Social Identities, 26(6): 72238. doi: 10.1080/13504630.2020.1787822

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carr, P. (2020) If everything has changed, why such a focus on bailing out capitalism? The somber reality underpinning COVID-19, Postdigital Science and Education, 2(3): 56975. doi: 10.1007/s42438-020-00115-6

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • CDC (2021) Hospitalization and Death by Race/Ethnicity, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Charlier, P. and Varison, L. (2020) Is COVID-19 being used as a weapon against indigenous peoples in Brazil?, The Lancet, 396(10257): 106970, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32068-7.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • De Cleen, B., Glynos, J. and Mondon, A. (2018) Critical research on populism: nine rules of engagement, Organization, 25(5): 64961. doi: 10.1177/1350508418768053

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fanelli, C. and Whiteside, H. (2020) COVID-19, capitalism and contagion, Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research, 31(1), http://www.alternateroutes.ca/index.php/ar/article/view/22506.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Farkas, J., Schou, J. and Neumayer, C. (2018) Platformed antagonism: racist discourses on fake Muslim Facebook pages, Critical Discourse Studies, 15(5): 46380. doi: 10.1080/17405904.2018.1450276

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gao, G. and Sai, L. (2021) Opposing the toxic apartheid: the painted veil of the COVID‐19 pandemic, race and racism, Gender, Work and Organization, 28: 18389. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12523

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gartenstein-Ross, D., Hodgson, S. and Clarke, C. (2020) The growing threat posed by accelerationism and accelerationist groups worldwide, Foreign Policy Research Institute, https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/04/the-growing-threat-posed-by-accelerationism-and-accelerationist-groups-worldwide/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Golebiewski, M. and Boyd, D. (2018) Data voids: where missing data can easily be exploited, Data & Society, https://datasociety.net/library/data-voids-where-missing-data-can-easily-be-exploited/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gramsci, A. (2011 [1947]) Prison Notebooks: Volume 1, J. Buttigieg (ed) A. Callari and A. Callari (trans), New York: Columbia University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hanebrink, P. (2018) A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Heenan, N. and Sturman, A. (2020) Labour, nature, capitalism and COVID-19, Journal of Australian Political Economy, 85: 19399.

  • Jones, C. (2021) Conspiracy theories and the Australian far right, Monash Lens, https://lens.monash.edu/@politics-society/2021/02/04/1382797/conspiracy-theories-and-the-australian-far-right.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kennes, M. (2021) The stark inequality of COVID-19 vaccination between Israel and Palestine, Médecins Sans Frontières, https://www.msf.org/stark-inequality-covid-19-vaccination-between-israel-and-palestine.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kingdon, A. (2020) The gift of the gab: the utilisation of COVID-19 for Neo-Nazi recruitment, Global Network on Extremism and Technology, https://gnet-research.org/2020/05/07/the-gift-of-the-gab-the-utilisation-of-covid-19-for-neo-nazi-recruitment/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Koblentz-Stenzler, L. and Pack, A. (2021) Infected by Hate: Far-right Attempts to Leverage Anti-vaccine Sentiment, Herzliya: International Institute for Counter-terrorism, IDC Herzliya.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kulldorff, M., Gupta, S. and Battacharya, J. (2020) The great barrington declaration, http://fregger.com/Blogs/Great%20Barrington%20Declaration.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Laster Pirtle, W. (2020) Racial capitalism: a fundamental cause of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic inequities in the United States, Health Education and Behavior, 47(4): 504508. doi: 10.1177/1090198120922942

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Londoño, E., Andreoni, M. and Casado, L. (2020) Bolsonaro, isolated and defiant, dismisses coronavirus threat to Brazil, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/world/americas/brazil-bolsonaro-coronavirus.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lukács, G. (1952) The destruction of reason, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/destruction-reason/ch03.htm.

  • Maly, I. (2020) The coronavirus, the attention economy and far-right junk news, Diggit Magazine.

  • Mandl, C. and Benassatto, L. (2020) Brazil’s Bolsonaro says coronavirus restrictions kill economy, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-brazil-idUSKCN24J0V8.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Matthewman, S. and Huppatz, K. (2020) A sociology of COVID-19, Journal of Sociology, 56(4): 67583. doi: 10.1177/1440783320939416

  • McClure, E., Vasudevan, P., Bailey, Z., Patel, S. and Robinson, W. (2020) Racial capitalism within public health: how occupational settings drive COVID-19 disparities, American Journal of Epidemiology, 189(11): 124453. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwaa126

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McNally, A. (2020) Backers of ‘herd immunity’ shouldn’t have been allowed near Boris Johnson, 14 December, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/14/herd-immunity-boris-johnson-coronavirus.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Michel, C. (2020) Fox news star Tucker Carlson’s ‘great replacement’ segment used a new frame for an old fear, NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/tucker-carlson-s-great-replacement-fox-news-segment-uses-newer-ncna1263880.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mitropoulos, A. (2020) Pandemonium: Proliferating Borders of Capital and the Pandemic Swerve, London: Pluto Press.

  • Moses, A. (2019) ‘White genocide’ and the ethics of public analysis, Journal of Genocide Research, 21(2): 2012013. doi: 10.1080/14623528.2019.1599493

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ølgaard, D. (2020) Reflections on Naomi Klein’s pandemic shock doctrine, E-International Relations, https://www.e-ir.info/2020/09/15/reflections-on-naomi-kleins-pandemic-shock-doctrine/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ong, K. and Azman, N. (2020) Distinguishing between the extreme far right and Islamic State’s (IS) Calls to Exploit COVID-19, Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses, 12(3): 1821.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Orlowski, E. and Goldsmith, D. (2020) Four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden’s prized herd immunity is nowhere in sight, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 113(8): 29298. doi: 10.1177/0141076820945282

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Paz, C. (2020) All the president’s lies about the coronavirus, Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/11/trumps-lies-about-coronavirus/608647/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Platt, L. and Warwick, R. (2020) COVID‐19 and ethnic inequalities in England and Wales, Fiscal Studies, 41(2): 25989. doi: 10.1111/1475-5890.12228

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Randolph, H. and Barreiro, L. (2020) Herd immunity: understanding COVID-19, Immunity, 52(5): 73741. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2020.04.012

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rossen, L., Branum, A., Ahmad, F., Sutton, P. and Anderson, R. (2020) Excess deaths associated with COVID-19, by age and race and ethnicity: United States, January 26 – October 3, 2020, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(42): 522.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roy, A. (2020) Arundhati Roy: ‘the pandemic is a portal’, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Saad-Filho, A. (2020) From COVID-19 to the end of neoliberalism, Critical Sociology, 46(4–5): 47785. doi: 10.1177/0896920520929966

  • Sim, B. (2021) London hospitals in ‘serious’ situation with 800 new COVID-19 patients admitted daily, Financial News, https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/london-hospitals-in-serious-situation-with-800-new-covid-19-patients-admitted-daily-20210108.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Slobodian, Q. (2021) Hayek’s bastards: the populist right’s neoliberal roots, TribuneMag, https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/06/hayeks-bastards-the-populist-rights-neoliberal-roots?fbclid=IwAR2ozt9p8CtT9oW16AHJKw1_y2ESVMgfOCTN15RMzllA9DB11gOHL3k0VI.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sobande, F. (2020) We’re all in this together: commodified notions of connection, care and community in brand responses to COVID-19, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 23(6): 103337. doi: 10.1177/1367549420932294

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stavrakakis, Y. and Katsampekis, G. (2020) Populism and the pandemic: a collaborative report, POPULISMUS Interventions, 7, Loughborough: Loughborough University,https://repository.lboro.ac.uk/articles/report/Populism_and_the_pandemic_A_collaborative_report/12546284.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stevano, S., Franz, T., Dafermos, Y. and Van Waeyenberge, E. (2021) COVID-19 and crises of capitalism: intensifying inequalities and global responses, Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement, 42(1–2): 117.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stewart, T. (2020) Capitalism and the (il)logics of higher education’s COVID-19 response: a black feminist critique, Leisure Sciences, 42(1–2): 26066, doi: 10.1080/01490400.2020.1774011.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Taylor, J. and Davies, A. (2021) Craig Kelly and George Christensen top performers on Facebook – and they want to keep it that way, 12 January, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jan/12/kelly-christensen-top-performers-on-facebook-and-they-want-to-keep-it-that-way.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tomassoni, T. (2019) ‘We are in great danger’: in Amazon, indigenous Waiapi chief is killed by illegal miners, NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/we-are-great-danger-amazon-indigenous-waiapi-chief-killed-illegal-n1035806.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vieten, U. (2020) The ‘new normal’ and ‘pandemic populism’: the COVID-19 crisis and anti-hygienic mobilisation of the far-right, Social Sciences, 9(9): 165. doi: 10.3390/socsci9090165

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wallis, V. and Zhuo, M. (2020) Socialism, capitalism, and the COVID-19 epidemic: interview with Victor Wallis, International Critical Thought, 10(2): 15360. doi: 10.1080/ 21598282.2020.1783920

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Walters, J. (2020) Who is Lauren Boebert, the QAnon sympathizer who won a Republican primary? 1 July, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/01/who-is-lauren-boebert-republican-primary-qanon-trump.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wheeler, D. (2020) Vox in the age of COVID-19, Journal of International Affairs, 73(2): 17384.

  • Wondreys, J. and Mudde, C. (2020) Victims of the pandemic? European far-right parties and COVID-19, Nationalities Papers, doi: 10.1017/nps.2020.93.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wong, J. (2020) Revealed: QAnon Facebook groups are growing at a rapid pace around the world, 11 August, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/11/qanon-facebook-groups-growing-conspiracy-theory.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Yong, E. (2020) The UK’s coronavirus ‘herd immunity’ debacle, Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-pandemic-herd-immunity-uk-boris-johnson/608065/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, London: Profile Books.

  • 1 Deakin University, , Australia

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 11 11 11
Full Text Views 1015 1015 847
PDF Downloads 810 810 685

Altmetrics

Dimensions