Crises Have a Way of Accelerating History

tags: New York, coronavirus

Kim Phillips-Fein teaches American history at New York University, where she is an associate professor in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her most recent book is Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics.

Everything just fell apart so quickly,” my student wrote, explaining why she was late submitting the midterm paper — as though any explanation was needed. After all, we had all gone to sleep in one world and woken up in another.

The elevator news stream in my high-rise building should have provided some warning. In late December, over the holiday break, it reported that a novel coronavirus had appeared in the Wuhan province of China. Sixteen people had it, then forty-one. Then the news stream was turned off. But still the crisis seemed far away, on the other side of the world; New York, by some illusion of exceptionalism and cushion of privilege, a space apart.

Crisis has a way of accelerating history, as things that seem impossible become real in moments. If someone told you in January that the NCAA basketball tournament would be canceled, that the New York Public Library system would be shuttered, that academic conferences years in the making would fail to be held, that Major League Baseball would have no opening day, that the bars and restaurants and stores of New York City would be closed, that universities would send their students home — all of it would seem preposterous.

Read entire article at Jacobin

comments powered by Disqus