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Dossier Society International

Faces of the Pandemic

by The editorial team , 17 April 2020

We seem to struggle to take the measure of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its onset was sudden, its effects are uncertain and its long term consequences are still unpredictable. Books & Ideas gathers a selection of texts exploring the various facets of epidemics.

The pandemic that affects us overturns our habits, our way of life, our certainties. It upsets our daily activities and forces us to defer our projects. It also makes us face our own vulnerability —though to various degrees. Every dimension of our existence is impacted: the economic activity is at threat, social relations are reconfigured, cultural life is put on hold, and even our leisure activities are affected.

The paradox is that we still don’t know what to fear; we don’t even know if we should be afraid. The differences in the political responses to the virus leave room for doubt, and while the virus knows no frontiers, it is clear that international cooperation stalls and that national governments struggle to agree on a joint action plan. The overall uncertainty fuels fantasies and even sparks wild rumors. The imagination of contagion is present; disaster has its representations—they often relate to our helplessness and to the dilemmas we have to face.

There are numerous questions on Covid-19; it is still approached in a piecemeal fashion; interpretations might still be hypothetical. The texts we gather here echo this complexity—a mostly unprecedented complexity, given how it seems to put some of our certainties into question. We have to understand the pandemic, to take measure of the impact of the lockdown on our lives, to evaluate the consequences of an unprecedented global crisis, to question the relevance of our intellectual categories when it comes to understanding what we have been incapable to foresee.

To this selection of texts, we add articles on epidemics published over the past few years. The questions they raise are varied and complementary: the definition of a health policy in the face of global threats, the moral problems that can be raised by the treatment of the victims, the past failures of vaccination, the difficulty to implement an international policy when the appropriate level of solidarity is lacking. These articles haven’t lost their relevance and are highly timely.

Dossier's Articles

by The editorial team, 17 April 2020

To quote this article :

The editorial team, « Faces of the Pandemic », Books and Ideas , 17 April 2020. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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