Contagion and Chaos
Historians from Thucydides to William McNeill have pointed to the connections between disease and civil society. Political scientists have investigated the relationship of public health to governance, introducing the concept of health security. In Contagion and Chaos, Andrew Price-Smith offers the most comprehensive examination yet of disease through the lens of national security. Extending the analysis presented in his earlier book The Health of Nations, Price-Smith argues that epidemic disease represents a direct threat to the power of a state, eroding prosperity and destabilizing both its internal politics and its relationships with other states. He contends that the danger of an infectious pathogen to national security depends on lethality, transmissability, fear, and economic damage. Moreover, warfare and ecological change contribute to the spread of disease and act as “disease amplifiers.” Price-Smith presents a series of case studies to illustrate his argument: the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (about which he advances the controversial claim that the epidemic contributed to the defeat of Germany and Austria); HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa (he contrasts the worst-case scenario of Zimbabwe with the more stable Botswana); bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as mad cow disease); and the SARS contagion of 2002-03. Emerging infectious disease continues to present a threat to national and international security, Price-Smith argues, and globalization and ecological change only accelerate the danger.
About the Author
Andrew Price-Smith is Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Colorado College. He is the author of The Health of Nations and Contagion and Chaos, both published by the MIT Press.
“A tour de force. Price-Smith’s provocative book clarifies the centrality of health issues to national and international security. Carefully researched and well-written, this study analyzes the complex interactions between war, ecology, political economy, and disease. Essential reading for the fields of international relations and security studies in the 21st century.”
—Kent Hughes Butts, Director, National Security Issues Branch Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College
"Andrew Price Smith has contributed a fascinating perspective on epidemics (historical and modern). He brings numerous disciplines to the table to throughtfully knit the best thinking in political science, economics, sociology, and public health together. The book expands our view of how epidemics and pandemics change our lives and history."
—Ann Marie Kimball, Department of Health Services, University of Washington, and author of Risky Trade: Infectious Disease in an Era of Global Trade