Emerging viral threats and the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous: zooming out in times of Corona

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (4):589-602 (2020)
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This paper addresses global bioethical challenges entailed in emerging viral diseases, focussing on their socio-cultural dimension and seeing them as symptomatic of the current era of globalisation. Emerging viral threats exemplify the extent to which humans evolved into a global species, with a pervasive and irreversible impact on the planetary ecosystem. To effectively address these disruptive threats, an attitude of preparedness seems called for, not only on the viroscientific, but also on bioethical, regulatory and governance levels. This paper analyses the global bioethical challenges of emerging viral threats from a dialectical materialist (Marxist) perspective, focussing on three collisions: (1) the collision of expanding networks of globalisation with local husbandry practices; (2) the collision of global networks of mobility with disrupted ecosystems; and (3) the collision of viroscience as a globalised research field with existing regulatory frameworks. These collisions emerge in a force field defined by the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous. Evidence-based health policies invoke discontent as they reflect the normative logic of a globalised knowledge regime. The development of a global bioethics or macro-ethics requires us to envision these collisions not primarily as issues of benefits and risks, but first and foremost as normative tensions closely entangled with broader socio-economic and socio-cultural developments.

Author's Profile

Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam


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