The Black Death or bubonic plague of 1348-1350 was perhaps the worst pandemic in history, killing up to a third of Europe’s population … It was not the first pandemic, and Covid-19 will not be the last. Psychologically, this one may be the worst yet – we are better at denying our mortality than our medieval ancestors were. The omnipresence of unpredictable death forces us to remember that we’re all mortal. But can pandemics lead to social progress, even revolution? It’s happened before.
Just as rapidly as COVID-19 spread around the world, top-down responses that have allowed national governments to consolidate their power have proliferated in the opening months of 2020. At the same time, there has been an outbreak of antiauthoritarian responses to the disease and its impacts that look beyond the state and build power beyond this crisis.