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The COVID pandemic has highlighted anew the diverse ways in which neoliberal policies and practices are implicated in threats to global health. To come to terms with these threats and their diverse causal pathways, this presentation argues that the viral metaphors that have been used by Jamie Peck and others to describe the global spread, evolution and mutation of ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ can be adapted into a more-than-metaphorical materialist account of the somatization of the vulnerabilities and responsibilities that are actively co-produced by neoliberal policies and practices. The policies that Peck has described as ‘roll-back’ neoliberalism – policies including structural adjustment, austerity, deregulation, privatization and welfare reform – have long been critiqued for the ways in which they have led to the undermining of health systems while increasing ill-health among the poor.
More recently, the ‘roll-out’ neoliberal policies and practices associated with user fees, personalized health investment norms, and return-on-investment disease-targeting by public-private-philanthropic partnerships have also been critiqued for the ways in which they curtail inclusive health systems support and commitments to global health as a universal human right. But now in the context of COVID and the ‘roll-over neoliberalism’ that Peck and colleagues associate with the global mutations of authoritarian anti-liberalism we see the evolution of these neoliberal disease dangers into a still more destructive pandemic. Reflecting on the associated death spirals in countries where defending economic liberty has trumped concerns with increasing mortality, this presentation asks whether the resulting damage and suffering will finally lead to a point when actually existing neoliberalism stops actually existing.