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Necropolitical Governance and State-Corporate Harms: COVID-19 and the U.S. Pork Packing Industry

Authors: Ivy Ken and Kenneth Sebastian León

First Published April 23, 2021


The coronavirus pandemic has magnified the interdependence of the state and corporations in the pork packing industry. In 2020, when over 67,000 meatpacking and processing workers were infected with the virus, the state allowed and encouraged this industry to coerce a racialized workforce to risk their health and lives to slaughter pigs. While it would seem reasonable to call for more regulation to protect labor in this industry, we find by analyzing the state’s actions in 2020 that its interests are too far aligned with corporations’ interests to expect one to police the other. Our analysis underlines the state as a symbiotic partner of corporations, and places workers’ illnesses and deaths in a necropolitical framework that demands attention to the state’s tacit approval of inhumane working conditions, use of law to keep packing plants open, and attempts to limit the liability of corporations for any deaths or illnesses they have caused.

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