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The pharmaceuticalisation of security: molecular biomedicine, antiviral stockpiles, and global health security

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 19:34 authored by Stefan ElbeStefan Elbe
Pharmaceuticals are now critical to the security of populations. Antivirals, antibiotics, next-generation vaccines, and antitoxins are just some of the new ‘medical countermeasures’ that governments are stockpiling in order to defend their populations against the threat of pandemics and bioterrorism. How has security policy come to be so deeply imbricated with pharmaceutical logics and solutions? This article captures, maps, and analyses the ‘pharmaceuticalisation’ of security. Through an in-depth analysis of the prominent antiviral medication Tamiflu, it shows that this pharmaceutical turn in security policy is intimately bound up with the rise of a molecular vision of life promulgated by the biomedical sciences. Caught in the crosshairs of powerful commercial, political, and regulatory pressures, governments are embracing a molecular biomedicine promising to secure populations pharmaceutically in the twenty-first century. If that is true, then the established disciplinary view of health as a predominantly secondary matter of ‘low’ international politics is mistaken. On the contrary, the social forces of health and biomedicine are powerful enough to influence the core practices of international politics – even those of security. For a discipline long accustomed to studying macro-level processes and systemic structures, it is in the end also our knowledge of the minute morass of molecules that shapes international relations.

History

Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Published version

Journal

Review of International Studies

ISSN

0260-2105

Publisher

Cambridge University Press

Issue

5

Volume

40

Page range

919-938

Department affiliated with

  • International Relations Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date

2015-01-14

First Open Access (FOA) Date

2015-01-14

First Compliant Deposit (FCD) Date

2015-01-14

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    University of Sussex (Publications)

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