The Editorial Board of Economy and Society has assembled a virtual collection of 12 free access papers to mark a very significant anniversary – Volume 50 of the journal is being published during 2021. This overview explains the rationale for the collection in the context of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and briefly details why we want to encourage the re-reading of these particular papers. Each paper has the potential to contribute to critical understandings and progressive political engagements with economy and society in COVID times. Read together, the collection also signals the kind of work which is likely to shape the immediate future of the journal. Economy and Society has long been a key venue for the publication of social science research into public health, disease and the life sciences, and this is at the core of the collection. But the global pandemic has wrought severe disruptions throughout economy and society, forcing a host of latent tendencies, tensions and divisions to the surface of public consciousness and political debate. Around half of the papers have therefore been selected because they cast a revealing light on some of the wider-ranging dynamics of economy and society that have become all too apparent in COVID times.