The Calculation of Life


Theories of Global Politics


By Sohail Ahmed    25 September 2023

The countries’ post-egalitarian societies and market-driven governmentality define the calculation of life along with the value of human existence in the so-called modern societies. This article paves theoretical insight into understanding the invisible and visible exercise of power in Pakistani society. To understand ways and dynamics of subjugation and calculation of life that have not been problematized and realized among the Pakistani population. This article has focused on evaluating how power has been exercised by global governance and how it impacts over Pakistani population along with processes that define the measurement of life and death as well as human suffering.

Achilles Mbembe’s conceptualization of Necropolitics refers to the use of social and political power to impose how some people may live and how some must die in modern societies. Mbembe’s concept of Necropolitics delves into how meanings are attached to life and death specifically in the post-colonial states. The geographical binaries of the global north and south are not merely territorial lines however they define the calculation of life-expectancy as well as human suffering in many ways. Does anyone ever wonder why the rate of life expectancy and human development in the Global North is higher than Global South? Why the Western societies been enjoying the age of high mass consumption. On other side, Eastern countries still cannot afford basic needs. This huge difference in life standards, life expectancy, and human suffering between western and eastern regions is the aftermath of colonization. The World Bank Report 2021 suggested that the life expectancy at birth in Pakistan is 66 years.  Colonizers used to visibly and physically exercise their power over colonized societies, and now they invisibly have been controlling post-colonial states under the influence of multinational institutions and their policies. At the end of the formal colonial era, they systematically left their shadows and retained their dependency on the former colonial states. This colonial legacy refrains from political and economic dependency still now over the rest of the global south region, with the collaboration of inter-governmental institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, other than non-state actors.

These institutions compel underdeveloped countries to increase prices and eliminate subsidies under the structural adjustment policies and macroeconomic conditionalities. As a result, countries confront hyperinflation and socio-economic destruction. A few days ago, the Pakistan Drug Regularly Authority increased the price of twenty-five life-saving drugs due to unbearable prices of energy and proliferation in the raw material due to the devaluation of the Pakistani currency. Along with it, they hiked the price of the inhaler as Rs 1,390, which has been used for asthma patients. This public health policy has not merely increased the prices of drugs but decreased the chances of life.  People who were earlier able to easily purchase medicine for diabetes, leukemia, joint disease, malaria, Vascular dilators and blood pressure, hepatitis B, and deworming, after this new price structure, they might be not afford it. This new pricing structure of important healthcare substances such as antibiotic solutions, inhalers, pain relievers, and injections would be unreasonable for the lower-income class of society. This new (new pricing structure) institutional discourse would impact over population’s biological processes as well as causes of death and human suffering.

Furthermore, these Neo-colonial tendencies compel countries to invest a minimal amount in the well-being of the population as much as possible. As a consequence, the mortality and morbidity rate has proliferated besides hunger and malnutrition. Like, The alarming results of Pakistan’s Human Capital Index (0.41) by the World Bank have indicated that Pakistan is the lowest among the South Asian countries and is similar to the Sub-Saharan African region which suggests how global institutional discursive practices influence Human Capital and well-being. The other indicator of the 2023-24 fiscal budget explicitly stated that Pakistan’s health sector is the most neglected area in which merely 40 Dollars annually per Capita are invested. In addition, the mortality rate for pregnant women is 186 per 100,000 births, while the infant mortality rate is 56.9 with 1,000 live births. There are just 0.6 hospital beds for every 1,000 people. Whereas, the United Nations (UN) firmly compelled their member states to ensure social capital along with overall well-being in Article 25, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. The aforementioned statistical analysis suggested how both internal and global institutions exercise their power over the population in the form of policies, allocation of resources, and hikes cost of medical substances.

The socioeconomic conditions should not be understood with the victim blaming approach instead of ignoring the historical expansion of colonization and global dependency. Like W. W. Rostow provided a theoretical model for development in the 1960s, without problematic historical context and global impacts as well. The massive deaths due to hunger and malnutrition are justified as natural deaths when these are causes of unavailability of food and lack of nutrient food among low-income- countries. The Global Hunger Index of 2022 suggested alarming results indicating Pakistan to be ranked 99th out of 121 countries.

Another French theorist of the postmodern school of thought, Foucault, operationalized power as it is neither merely omnipresent in the position nor solely in the institution or agency but it exists everywhere and has a fluid shape. Similarly, he examines how power systematically operates within social relationships and in the structures that constrain how people behave, think, and interact, influencing both individuals and entire societies through mechanisms of control, influence, and regulation. He coined the concept of biopolitics which provides a critical approach to understanding the management and governance of biological processes and regulation of the body through discursive practices in modern societies.

Moreover, socioeconomic conditions foster humanitarian vulnerability and malnutrition crisis in society that shapes mortality, morbidity, and human suffering. Like, UNICEF highlighted that 10 million stunted growth of children in Pakistan are due to malnutrition. The studies show how malnutrition causes diet-related no-communicable illnesses including cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke, often linked with high blood pressure), certain cancers, and diabetes. Unhealthy diets and poor nutrition are among the top risk factors for these diseases globally. They reported that the mortality rate yearly is approximately 177,000 due to micro-nutrient deficiencies, child underweight, wasting maternal nutrition, and breastfeeding behavior.

Johan Galtung, a sociologist, defines structural violence as institutional and organizational invisible violence that keeps the population away from basic needs and causes deaths. The politically created disastrous socioeconomic conditions induce poor living conditions that cause massive mortality, and morbidity, along with human vulnerability. These global inequalities and government institutions’ irresponsible decisions cause suffering and deaths which is a deliberate structural violence.

In the consequence to the policies of recent hike of inflation of Pakistan, the sufferings of population of Pakistan have been exacerbated and their chances of survival have been jeopardized. It has reduced the affordability of common man which has shrunk their budget. They are unable to afford life-saving drugs and essential healthcare facilities or substances. As a result, the mortality and suicide rate in the country has increased. This calls for an urgent reevaluation of policies to eliminate human suffering, dismantle power structures and structural violence, and promote equity and justice in Pakistan.