The Covid Consensus

The New Politics of Global Inequality

April 2021 9781787385221 304pp
Available as an eBook


Why does Western pandemic policy have support across the political spectrum, when its social impacts conflict with ideology on both right and left?

During the pandemic, the Left has agreed that ‘following the science’ with hard lockdowns is the best way to preserve life; only irresponsible right-wing populists oppose them. But social science shows that while the rich have got richer, those suffering most under lockdown are the already disadvantaged: the poor, the young, and—most overlooked of all—the Global South. The UN is predicting tens of millions of deaths from hunger and warning that decades of development are being reversed. Equally, why have conservatives backed lockdowns and other major interventions, creating the big state that they usually abhor?

These contradictions within the great consensus of Western pandemic response are part of a broader crisis in Western thought. Toby Green peels back the policy paradoxes to reveal irreconcilable beliefs in our societies. These deep divisions are now bursting into the open, with devastating consequences for the global poor.


‘Whether or not the reader is persuaded by [Toby Green’s] arguments against lockdown, it is undeniable that such restrictions have disproportionately affected the young and poor. Green’s unique take explores how these groups, often lacking the facility for remote work and with their education severely limited, are likely to experience staggering inequalities for years to come.’ — New Statesman, ‘The Best Books About the Covid-19 Pandemic’

‘Brave, measured, essential.’ — El País

‘A bracing anti-lockdown polemic.’ — London Review of Books

‘A meticulously referenced, shocking catalogue of Western hypocrisy and the destruction wrought by global lockdowns on the poorest nations…Green’s book is a depressing tale of hubris, mindless groupthink and cynical power grabs by bureaucrats and governments, taking advantage of a “health crisis”’ — The Australian

‘A refreshing and eye-opening read to the impacts of the response to the virus that have been carefully omitted from daily media coverage.’ — Keele Law Review

‘A thoughtful analysis of the forces and attitudes that unleashed lockdowns upon the global poor, with harrowing descriptions of the consequences.’ — Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology, University of Oxford, and co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration

‘An excellent book at a critical time. Pandemics breed hysteria, to which the only cure is reason. This book is a masterly dose of reason, challenging, questioning and sceptical in the best sense of the word.’ — Simon Jenkins, author and columnist

‘Nuanced and rigorous. This is not a thoughtless polemic, but a reasoned plea for progressives to put social inequality at the centre of pandemic responses.’ — Labour Hub

‘This rigorously researched book lifts the veil on the disastrous effects of lockdowns worldwide and raises more questions than it can answer given the continuing global crisis. It is a much-needed left-leaning critical intervention in the prevailing political consensus characterised by a totalitarian merging of Big Tech, Big Pharma, media corporations and government. Read it, weep (it is harrowing in parts), then read it again.’ — Left Lockdown Sceptics

‘[The Covid Consensus] is the best hope yet of an antidote to the Covid lobotomy, performing the near impossible task of detailing … the great horrors that government lockdowns have brought to bear on populations in the Global North and South, without once betraying the kind of outrage that causes those who believe in the Covid narrative to close their ears and shut their eyes, both to fact and to feeling.’ — Lockdown Sceptics

‘As Toby Green shows in this book, the strategy judged to be the best for dealing with Covid-19 in the rest of the world is badly adapted and in fact counter-productive on the African continent.’ — Le Monde

‘Even in the face of viruses and death, some humans are still “more equal” than others. This book demonstrates it abundantly while challenging conventional wisdom on the pandemic and how to confront it.’ — Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations, SOAS University of London

‘In a grave pandemic, what is the acceptable level of mortality risk relative to the damage to society, economy and poor countries from lockdowns? Toby Green’s searching scrutiny and anguished analysis of this dilemma is a much-needed corrective to simplistic slogans.’ — Ramesh Thakur, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations

‘An intellectual treat for critical thinkers who are watching the sunset of reason and feel that all that is essential is invisible to the eyes of many. This book sheds light on reason and makes the invisible visible.’ — Yossi Nehushtan, Professor of Law and Philosophy, Keele University

‘Toby Green brilliantly picks apart the underlying incongruities which allowed Covid-19 to upend democratic, scientific and international norms. From the loss of thousand-year-old traditions to the effective re-colonisation of sub-Saharan Africa, these changes should concern us all.’ — David Bell, independent consultant, and former medical officer, World Health Organization

‘An admirably measured description of 2020’s immeasurable destruction, charting the shocking fallout from governments’ virus-suppression policies in the Global North and South. The Covid Consensus should be read by everyone who still believes that lockdowns save lives.’ — Sinead Murphy, Lecturer in Philosophy, Newcastle University


Toby Green, formerly a journalist and travel writer, is Professor of Precolonial and Lusophone African History and Culture at King’s College London. His 2019 book A Fistful of Shells won the British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the American Historical Association’s Jerry Bentley Prize in World History and the Historical Writers’ Association Non-Fiction Crown.

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