Epidemic and Insurance: Two Forms of Solidarity, Theory Culture and Society, May 2022, by Laurence Barry

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Despite their common core in statistics, insurance and epidemiology propel two different forms of solidarity. In insurance, the collective is a source of protection, thanks to the pooling of risks; in epidemics by contrast, the group remains the source of danger for the individual. The aim of this paper is to highlight the conceptions of community and solidarity at play in epidemics in contradistinction to insurance, with a focus on the shift introduced by big data and algorithms. Paradoxically, while the new technologies and epidemiology share a common view on the relation between the individual and the collective, tracing apps were not widely adopted in the Covid-19 crisis. This reluctance to use current technologies for the sake of epidemic containments highlights, beyond legitimate interrogations, a confusion between two imaginaries of the social: insurance solidarity where the interdependence is a source of rights, and epidemic solidarity that imposes duties.

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