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The Fault in Our SARS: COVID-19 in the Biden Era


The Trump administration’s neglect and incompetence helped put half-a-million Americans in the ground, dead from COVID-19. Joe Biden was elected president in part on the promise of setting us on a science-driven course correction, but, a little more than a year later, another half-a-million Americans were killed by the virus. What happened? In The Fault in Our SARS, evolutionary epidemiologist Rob Wallace catalogs the Biden administration’s failures in controlling the outbreak. He also shows that, beyond matters of specific political persona or party, it was a decades-long structural decline associated with putting profits ahead of people that gutted U.S. public health.

COVID-19 isn’t just an American tragedy. Each in its own way, countries around the world following the “profit-first” model failed their people. Global vaccination campaigns were bottled up by efforts to protect pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights. Economies were treated as somehow more real than the people and ecologies upon which they depend. Frustrated populations pushed back against lockdowns, abuses of governmental trust, and, fair or not, the very concept of public health. A social rot meanwhile wended its way into the heart of the sciences that, tasked with controlling disease, serve the systems that helped bring about COVID-19 in the first place.

In The Fault in Our SARS, Wallace and an array of invited contributors aim to strip down the capitalist social psychology that in effect protected the SARS virus. The team proposes instead new approaches in health and ecology that appeal both to humanity’s highest ideals and to the pragmatic changes we must make to survive COVID and the worst of the new diseases on the horizon.

What people are saying about The Fault in Our SARS

Rob Wallace’s timely collection of essays incisively outlines how power shapes the COVID response and the attempts to control pandemic narrative. Only delusional societies could look at the millions sickened or dead from COVID and view their response as a success. Systemic disruptions, such as pandemic and climate change, require systemic reimaginings. The Fault in Our SARS makes you want to turn off the misdirected recommendations of the CDC, get together with all of your friends, and compost colonial capitalism so that a healthier world can grow.

Rupa Marya, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and co-author, Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice

I highly recommend this book. The Fault in Our SARS analyzes not only the causes and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, both nationally and internationally, but also relates those causes and consequences to the political context that shapes and determines them. It contains very useful information that will help us to understand what is frequently avoided in the establishment’s discourses: Millions of deaths could have been avoided and were not avoided. It is a powerful critique of the conventional wisdom that exists not only in public health circles but in most of the media. This book is definitely a must-read reference. Superb.

Vicente Navarro, Founding Editor, International Journal of Health Services, and author, The Financial and Economic Crises and Their Impact on Health and Social Well-being

Who have illuminated the social determination of illness and early death? Friedrich Engels, Rudolf Virchow, and Salvador Allende opened this path historically. Asa Cristina Laurell, Jaime Breilh, and Vicente Navarro have enlightened the path more recently. In the era of zoonotic epidemics like COVID-19, Rob Wallace has joined that group of inspirational intellectuals, researchers, and activists. More than any other individual–although he always acknowledges colleagues and comrades–Wallace has clarified the social determination of COVID-19 and similar zoonotic epidemics. His work predicted why and how such pandemics happen: through the destructive impact of capitalist industrial agriculture on natural habitats that protect against zoonotic infections. Wallace’s new book is another enlightening achievement, focusing on the social policies that have determined the devastating outcomes of COVID-19 and suggesting where we need to go from here. The Fault in Our SARS will change your life, or at least your understanding of life. A masterpiece.

Howard Waitzkin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Health Sciences and Sociology, University of New Mexico, and author/coordinator, Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for Our Health

Rob Wallace has tackled the ongoing COVID pandemic tirelessly and presciently, firstly with Dead Epidemiologists (2020), and now with The Fault in Our SARS. This painstakingly researched collection of essays by a staunchly radical epidemiologist clarifies the enduring links between capital, ecological degradation, industrial farming, climate change and zoonotic disease. By closely analyzing the US government’s “soft eugenics”–expressed by policies that ignore, obfuscate, and strengthen those links–Wallace’s indispensable compendium will make you question the origins of the pandemic and, ultimately, the very scaffolding of our civilization. This eclectic and lucid body of work, written as the crisis unfolded, suggests ways to undo the infrastructure of abandonment and mass death that underpin capitalism, with its exploitation of people, animals, and land, through broadening our understanding of ‘public health’ and its potential.

Adelita Husni Bey, artist, pedagogue, and organizer of “Necessary Work”, a workshop on COVID-19

Rob Wallace is co-founder of the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corps. He is author of Big Farms Make Big Flu and co-author of Neoliberal Ebola. He is also a member of Pandemic Research for the People and has consulted for the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Agriculture Organization (United Nations).

Publication Date: 02/02/2023

Number of Pages: 512

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58367-9937

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-9944

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-9951