To avoid the worst outcomes here on out, disalienation offers the next great human transition : abandoning settler ideologies, reintroducing humanity back into Earth’s cycles of regeneration, and rediscovering our sense of individuation in multitudes beyond capital and the state. However, economism, the belief that all causes are economic alone, will not be liberation enough. Global capitalism is a many-headed hydra, appropriating, internalizing, and ordering multiple layers of social relation. Capitalism operates across complex and interlinked terrains of race, class, and gender in the course of actualizing regional value regimes place to place.
At the risk of accepting the precepts of what historian Donna Haraway dismissed as salvation history—“Can we defuse the bomb in time?”—disalienation must dismantle these multifold hierarchies of oppression and the locale-specific ways they interact with accumulation. Along the way, we must navigate out of capital’s expansive reappropriations across productive, social, and symbolic materialisms. That is, out of what sums up to a totalitarianism. Capitalism commodifies everything—Mars exploration here, sleep there, lithium lagoons, ventilator repair, even sustainability itself, and on and on—these many permutations are found well beyond the factory and farm. All the ways nearly everyone everywhere is subjected to the market, which during a time like this is increasingly anthropomorphized by politicians, could not be clearer.
In short, a successful intervention keeping any one of the many pathogens queuing up across the agroeconomic circuit from killing a billion people must walk through the door of a global clash with capital and its local representatives, however much any individual foot soldier of the bourgeoisie, Glen among them, attempts to mitigate the damage. As our research group describes in some of our latest work, agribusiness is at war with public health. And public health is losing.
Should, however, greater humanity win such a generational conflict, we can replug ourselves back into a planetary metabolism that, however differently expressed place to place, reconnects our ecologies and our economies. Such ideals are more than matters of the utopian. In doing so, we converge on immediate solutions. We protect the forest complexity that keeps deadly pathogens from lining up hosts for a straight shot onto the world’s travel network. We reintroduce the livestock and crop diversities, and reintegrate animal and crop farming at scales that keep pathogens from ramping up in virulence and geographic extent. We allow our food animals to reproduce onsite, restarting the natural selection that allows immune evolution to track pathogens in real time. Big picture, we stop treating nature and community, so full of all we need to survive, as just another competitor to be run off by the market.
The way out is nothing short of birthing a world—or perhaps more along the lines of returning back to Earth. It will also help solve—sleeves rolled up—many of our most pressing problems. None of us stuck in our living rooms from New York to Beijing, or, worse, mourning our dead, want to go through such an outbreak again. Yes, infectious diseases, for most of human history our greatest source of premature mortality, will remain a threat. But given the bestiary of pathogens now in circulation, the worst spilling over now almost annually, we are likely facing another deadly pandemic in far shorter time than the hundred-year lull since 8. Can we fundamentally adjust the modes by which we appropriate nature and arrive at more of a truce with these infections ?