Marxist ecofeminist analysis of the link between planetary health and neoliberal economics

Posted on December 5, 2020

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This analysis has just been published in Lancet Planetary Health. Planetary health understands human health from the perspective of several intersecting systems. Our neoliberal capitalism is seen as a key factor of the many socioecological crises which we are facting at the moment including COVID-19. The author Simon Mair proposes several institutional changes such as universal basic services and basic income to create a resilient society . He links our global failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic humanely to an economic system which values exchange value and the generation of more money above other collective value forms.

The author applies his concept to the COVID-19 pandemic which has disrupted our neoliberal economic system and shown its weaknesses such as neglect of human security and easily disrupted long supply chains. It would be interesting to apply the same theoretical framework to the climate crisis. In this case the growth of exchange value (Gross Domestic Product) is based on the massive burning of fossil fuels as the main driver of the crisis. This may be the main reason why little action has been taken despite overwhelming knowledge about our deteriorating planetary situation.

The key messages of the article are

The economy is the system by which a society takes in resources and uses them to produce and distribute goods and services.
• Neoliberal capitalism is a particular structuring of the economy that prioritises exchange value above other types of value.
• Prioritising exchange value has led neoliberal capitalism to develop unprecedented productive capacity.
• Neoliberal capitalism primarily uses its productive capacity to produce more exchange value. This process undermines other value forms, including health.
• Effective responses to COVID-19 prioritise health and life and undermine exchange value.
• To be better prepared for future pandemics and other crises, global society should build economies that can recognise multiple forms of value.

You can read and download the full analysis here. The image taken from the article shows four important modes of economic production and distribution: commons, household, market and state. Our neoliberal society prefers the market to respond to our needs and demands. As a consequence even basic human needs without money are ignored and you find beggars and homeless people in the streets.