The Invention of An Epidemic
“Where Are We Now?” Agamben’s Intervention
This small 100 page book was written by Giorgio Agamben and it could turn out to be the “Communist Manifesto” of the 21st century. It addresses the most deeply hidden hypocrisies concerning the current pandemic and the lockdown measures. The title of the first chapter speaks for itself: “The Invention of the Epidemic”, and it only gets worse from there. Agamben makes several radical pronouncements in his work. The discourse revolves around the central claim that the Pandemic is a political order of things in and of itself. An order imposed for reasons that are completely alien to whatever virus, real or not, is threatening the human population.
In its simplest form, Agamben is arguing that the current Lockdown is not just a disruption of the regular routine, it is a suspension of liberal democracy as we know it. A bracketing of our constitutional freedoms.
“What, in the tradition of bourgeois democracy, used to be the right to health became, seemingly without anyone noticing, a juridical-religious obligation that must be filled at any cost.”
Through biosecurity, power has now legitimated itself on an international level through a state of exception. Crisis management is the last word of modern government. The threat to health has become the main apparatus for imposing limitations on human freedoms that would never have been tolerated otherwise. We are looking forward to a state of permanent crisis as we witness the gradual erasure of our so called “rights”.
No one finds it particularly odd how the current lockdown measures have paired so nicely with the life-style of an isolated consumer or the productive employee. The media continues to portray the Coronavirus as a dangerous natural disaster, a spook and the false author of what is in effect a highly artificial act of international policing. Most importantly, a global deployment of internal-policing and a constant, paranoid, obsessive-compulsive delusion. The right to health has become an obligation to health. And the religious worship of health is implicitly derived from the religious worship of science.
The artificial demand for self-isolation has been produced by the very forces that shaped it; attempting to satisfy a non-existent need for security at the expense of real human interactions. What is in truth a highly political decision riddled with serious ethical questions has been transformed into a matter of technical calculation and taken entirely outside of public discourse into the hands of an army of experts. The current lockdown is nothing more than a technocratic annexation of basic human freedoms. This is what lies at the heart of the command: “This is the new norm!”