But this is not what we have been led to believe. Capital by definition portrays itself as a victim of the State. Without the arbitrary intervention by the State, the Capitalist mantra goes, we would all live in prosperity. In fact, under the guise of anti-State rhetoric, Capital has captured the vital functions of sovereignty, without however revealing its face. It has manoeuvred the State from behind and seized sovereign powers without taking the moral responsibility that is constitutive of sovereignty. Capital is the actual deep state. Especially after the end of the Cold War, the invisible penetration of Capital within the State has led to astronomical accumulation of private wealth by the few, at the cost of welfare.
Whilst many today decry the fact that the use of emergency powers by governments to cope with the coronavirus can endanger democracy in the long run, we may forget that – over the last decade only – capitalist forces have mobilised a series of ‘economic emergencies’, suspending democratic politics with the primary aim of advancing legislations in their favour: tax cuts, corporate bailouts combined with austerity measures and the dismantling of labour protections. The widening inequality gap worldwide is just one visible expression of State capture by Capital.
Coronavirus has not changed this situation. Companies are working hard to turn the healthcare crisis into a business opportunity. They have sold hand sanitizers which normally cost 1,5-3 euros for up to 70 euros, and some have even argued that the coronavirus vaccine should not be accessible to all, but subject to the peremptory law of supply and demand. But it is precisely the open disregard that Capital shows for human life that forces the State to fight back.
The real question concerns which crisis we should prioritize now: the health crisis or the economic crisis. The battle is on. The state of healthcare emergency cohabits with the denial of such an emergency. As the example of Italy elucidates, the biopolitics of the State that is imposing lockdowns and preventive restrictions intermingles with the necropolitics of companies and big corporations that are forcing workers to endure the magic of business as usual, willing to sacrifice their lives on the altar of profit maximisation.