Pandemic Security

Authored by: Stefan Elbe

The Routledge Handbook of New Security Studies

Print publication date:  January  2010
Online publication date:  January  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415484374
eBook ISBN: 9780203859483
Adobe ISBN: 9781135166205

10.4324/9780203859483.ch17

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Abstract

Treating the international spread of infectious disease as a matter of ‘high’ politics is nothing new. As early as 1851 infectious diseases already became the subject of international diplomacy when delegates of the first International Sanitary Conference gathered in Paris to consider joint responses to the cholera epidemics that overran the European continent in the first half of the nineteenth century. During the course of the twentieth century, though, this concern with controlling potentially pandemic microbes gradually receded. It was overshadowed by the more pressing imperatives of avoiding the specter of renewed wars and the ever-present potential for a nuclear confrontation. The twentieth century’s deep addiction to war, coupled with important advances in medicine and public health, reinforced the view in the West that that the world was moving in a direction in which infectious diseases would eventually be controlled – something exemplified by the bold declaration made by US Secretary of State George Marshall in 1948 that the conquest of all infectious diseases was imminent. Our concept of security began to mirror this shift, becoming ever narrower in its focus on the deployment of military force in international relations.

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