John McMurtry




The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism

When we think of a society’s “defense system,” we think of its armed forces. We have long been conditioned to do this. The military-industrial establishment and the armaments business are the world’s most powerful institutions of organized violence and international trade. For them to preserve their vast systems of power, it is essential that they be sold as society’s primary form of “self-defense” (e.g., at least $700 million a day of demand on the U.S. public purse alone). Society’s real system of self-defense, its public health process, is in this way deprived of its proper social resources and functions. At the same time, ever more invasive assaults on the protection and circulation of means of life within societies by environmental despoliation, redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle-income classes to the rich, and radical dismantling of public forms of life-provision now attack society’s health and life-defenses from another side. In these ways, we now confront a situation where the cumulative breakdown of society’s structures of life-security and health protection poses a more systemically far-reaching threat to social and planetary well-being than we are yet prepared for.

public health; individual and society; social theory; social problems; marxism; capitalism; free trade; quality of life

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 22, No. 4 (1995): 1-25


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