In Time of Plague (Paperback)

The History and Social Consequences of Lethal Epidemic Disease

By Arien Mack

New York University Press, 9780814754856, 218pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 1992



Plague. The word itself is like a blow, connoting misery, miasma and death. Plague takes many forms: influenza, typhus, cholera, the Black Death, and, recently, AIDS. AIDS has reminded us that epidemic infectious disease is not simply a historical phenomenon--or one limited like famine to remote continents --and is a vivid and painful illustration of how epidemics take place at a number of levels --biological event, social perception, collective response, and, finally, the individual, the existential and the moral.

In Time of Plagueexamines the many ways in which catastrophic infectious and contagious diseases are both biologically and socially defined. In the politically charged age of AIDS, In Time of Plague analyzes what past epidemics tell us about this new, deadly virus: How has the definition of disease differed throughout history? How have new technologies and advances in epidemiology changed our perception and response to disease? When has quarantine been appropriate or effective? What norms should govern our thinking about responsibility, culpability, legality, and confidentiality? What does society owe the victims? What, in turn, are the responsibilities of the carrier population?

Featuring essays by such distinguished scholars as Lewis Thomas, Joshua Lederberg, Dorothy Nelkin, Sander Gilman, Barbara Guttmann Rosenkrantz, Baruch S. Blumberg, George Kateb, and David A. J. Richards, among others, from a wide range of disciplines, this work seeks to answer some of these pressing questions.