Covid-19 and Disaster Capitalism
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
The next task in this series of blogs is to link a theory to the original contemporary community issue of the poverty gap widening during the Covid-19 pandemic. For this, my main focus is going to be around the theory of “disaster capitalism” (Klein, 2007). Klein argues that governments take advantage of major disasters by using their power to profit and take advantage of the shock experienced within the communities. Mainly discussing previous crises’ such as the Iraq War, Klein argues that neoliberal free market policies have risen to prominence because of a deliberate strategy of shock therapy. Disaster capitalism is closely linked with the views of Milton Friedman, an American Economist, who had a strong belief in free-market capitalism. He stated that “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change”.
This has been witnessed during the pandemic already within the United Kingdom, with the Conservative Party voting against extending free school meals over the holiday periods to stop children going hungry after a well-publicised campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to highlight this concern. The same political party have decided to award multi-million-pound coronavirus contracts without competition, refraining from competitive tendering for items such as testing kits and PPE. Critics of this scheme believe that such deals are awarded “to those with political connections”. Lord Bethel, House of Lords, advised that The Department of Health and Social Care has awarded 289 contracts worth a total of £6.1 billion to private companies for test and trace supplies alone, yet they failed to vote through an action that would prevent children living within poverty and deprivation from eating during school holidays.
The Trussell Trust, a UK-based third sector organisation produced a report - “how coronavirus has affected food bank use”, stating that food banks are forecast to give out 6 emergency food parcels a minute this winter, forecasting a 61% increase in food parcels across the UK. The research went on to state that families with children have been hardest hit, advising that this can be “turned around if this evidence is prioritised and acted upon by government during the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and Budget”. It remains to be seen if the upcoming spending review prioritises those living within poverty and using the opportunity to ensure no child in the UK goes a day without food.
As a community worker on the front-line encouraging participation, inclusion and helping to deliver essential items during the first lockdown phase to families, this is a subject that is personal to me and an area that I am passionate about having experienced poverty as a child growing up in Inverclyde.
The theory of disaster capitalism intrigues me and is an area that I will closely follow as we navigate through this pandemic. For any child to go hungry in a country where billions of pounds are awarded without competition to private companies is deeply unacceptable. Working within the community setting, I have a role to play to ensure that those living within deprivation are given opportunities to engage, participate and have a real say in the widening poverty gap that we continue to witness across our communities.
KLEIN, N. (2007). Naomi Klein: Disaster Capitalism, YouTube, viewed 9th November 2020 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG9CM_J00bw>
KLEIN, N. (2007). The shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism. Toronto, Alfred A. Knopf Canada.
The Independent 2020, Coronavirus Testing, Andrew Woodcock [accessed 9th November 2020] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-testing-randox-owen-paterson-b1613424.html
The Trussell Trust 2020, Coronavirus Effecting Food Bank Use, [accessed 9th November 2020] https://www.trusselltrust.org/2020/09/14/new-report-reveals-how-coronavirus-has-affected-food-bank-use/