26 Apr 2021
History and philosophy of the life sciences;
This article examines the relation between counting, counts and accountability. It does so by comparing the responses of the British government to deaths associated with Covid-19 in 2020 to its responses to deaths associated with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Similarities and dissimilarities between the cases regarding what counted as data, what data were taken to count, what data counted for, and how data were counted provide the basis for considering how the bounds of democratic accountability are constituted. Based on these two cases, the article sets out the metaphors of leaks and cascades as ways of characterising the data practices whereby counts, counting and accountability get configured. By situating deaths associated with Covid-19 against previous experience with deaths from war, the article also proposes how claims to truth and ignorance might figure in any future official inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.