crisis and pandemic

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By André Luiz Barbosa da Silva*

Comment on the new book by Alysson Mascaro

The period of social isolation imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic has fostered major debates in relation to yet another crisis of the capitalist system. Several intellectuals have made themselves available to reflect on the possible effects that this pandemic could bring to the post-quarantine world. At least in the field of ideas, social isolation has resulted in several contributions that could form new perspectives in the face of the horrible landscape that surrounds us.

Editora Boitempo brings an “emergency” series of e-books, in order to allow the Brazilian reader to take advantage of this fertile field of ideas to imagine a qualitatively different society, given that the conditions of social emancipation in times of crisis may appear.

Written by philosopher of law Alysson Mascaro, crisis and pandemic is the inaugural essay in this series and is crucial for a radical analysis of the problem. Marx wrote, in the "Introduction" to Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right that “to be radical is to grasp the thing by the root”[I]. Alysson Mascaro understands today that grabbing the thing by the root means going beyond ideological nuances, dissecting the matter and reaching the forms of capitalism: merchandise, State and law.

In this sense, it points to something that should already be very clear to the left, it is not in capitalism that problems will be solved, because the problems are produced by capitalism itself. The resolution does not occur palliatively, in order to soften the contradictions of the system, this is impossible, in fact, the only real possibility is the total rupture with the capitalist mode of production and its ghostly social forms.

So, only overcoming the forms of capital – merchandise, State and law – will be able to resolve its impasses: against the fragility of the semi-public health system dependent on capital, not only field hospitals, but universal public health; against unemployment, not only new jobs or support grants, but the seizure of the means of production; against precarious housing, not only temporary tents, but the end of private property[ii]

This means, in other words, that mere criticism of neoliberalism and its hardships (dismantling of health and education, withdrawal of social rights, etc.) is not enough, as this is the logical result of the commodity production system. There is no capitalism with a human face. Taking advantage of the unpleasantness of the vulgarization of the term “utopia”, in reality, believing in this kind of capitalism is what is utopian, unreal, impossible.

It so happens that such a change in accumulation and regulation is not a corruption of capitalism – as if there were good and bad capitalism –, but its structural manifestation. Orientation towards accumulation, through the extraction of surplus value and profit-making, is both the basis of Fordism – of societies that lived through circuits of developmentalism and relative social well-being – and of post-Fordism. The neoliberal weakness in dealing with collective health, mass unemployment and the corresponding economic crisis is a symptom of a mode of production that is entirely based on the commodity form.[iii]

In this same vein, the problem of subjectivity arises, since the post-Fordist model of production and social reproduction generate monads, that is, narcissistic, selfish and petty individuals who are unable to establish any organizational social bond, only mobilizing in a phreatic impulse of death drive like atomized masses generating the most horrendous spectacles that we can follow in the great media and alternative media on the internet.

In the face of this, hopes are small, as the masses, in this way, push themselves to an endless precipice, with no prospect of social emancipation, on the contrary, what remains is an aggravation of the crisis until the moment when capitalism is restructured and rearrange the mode of production and capital accumulation. However, it should be noted that this is a structural and complex crisis that cannot be reduced to the coronavirus, which may even be the basis for the recovery of the goods-producing system.

In particular, crises are structural to capital, giving rise to both purges of its dysfunctionalities and contradictions (resolutive function) and new possibilities of accumulation (propositive function) (...) Thus, the present economic crisis, which had already surfaced in the first months 2020, it only finds later, in the coronavirus pandemic, the third motivation for its resolution.[iv]

At this threshold, remember that we are dealing with an essay by Alysson Leandro Mascaro, also known as a philosopher of hope, not in an “idealist” sense, but in the same sense as Ernst Bloch[v] dealt with the concept of utopia, in a concrete way, that is, hope in terms of the possibility of breaking the contradiction.

That's right, hope in the aspect that there is a possibility of breaking the contradiction, since, due to the worsening of the pandemic, the recovery of this new capital crisis tends to be slow, the crisis seems to be extended and, as in Dante's inferno, it may succumb to several stages.

The crippled masses, in the early stages, will seem content with Fordist, welfare state solutions. However, the tendency is for contradictions to intensify and the need for accumulation makes it increasingly difficult for these solutions to work. And it is at this moment that vanguards may appear that will point to a new world, a new form of sociability.

Not falling into an illusion that there is a teleology of history, in fact, the predictions are not the best, but it is pointed out that it is in these moments of crisis that contradictions can lead to conditions conducive to social transformation.

It so happens that sociability does not have, in its forms, a guarantee of perfect reproduction, neither functional nor necessary. Elements of divergence, antagonism, conflict, contradiction, in competitive societies and opposing interests, can trigger structural processes of social change. Therefore, it is necessary that at some point the crisis of social reproduction, material conditions, ideological conditions, struggles and overcoming meanings converge.

In these circumstances, it remains to be said that the proletariat no longer had much to lose, only its shackles, in view of the crisis that plagues the capitalist world today, after the quarantine, let's all leave the house and take the mills, let's share the bread produced!

It is to this end that I invite you to read crisis and pandemic, this message in a bottle, so that it reaches thousands and thousands of fellow men and women.

* André Luiz Barbosa da Silva He is a researcher at the Critical Research Group on Legal Subjectivity at USP.


[I][i] MARX, Carl. Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2013, p. 157 (

[ii] MASCARO, Alysson Leandro. crisis and pandemic [ebook]. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2020 (

[iii] Same, same.

[iv] Same, same.

[v] It is noted that Professor Alysson developed his Habilitation thesis dealing with the philosophy of Ernst Bloch, later producing the book “Utopia and Law: Ernst Bloch and the legal ontology of utopia”, by the publishing house Latin Quarter. (

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