AGAMBEN AND THE (UN-)INCLUDED THIRD

If you look at Agamben’s first article on the Coronavirus referenced in his « Clarifications » (which should be titled « Backpedalling », you can see that he vastly underestimates the biological dimension.

Agamben cites only one scientific instance as support, and one can imagine that he has no idea of the implications of an exponential progression coupled with a two week period of incubation (i.e. invisibility and unknown, and unknowing, transmission).

I do not contest his main idea, and I think we shall all pay the price of the profit-deficit that the rich will find unacceptable. I merely indicate that because of his one-sided (quite literally here Agamben is insightful on only one side of the Divide between the two cultures) expertise.

Agamben missed an occasion to deepen and extend his analysis while revising it, instead of just repeating it. So I think that he was indulging in an attempted thought-policing and failing. However, the consequences for us of the present crisis will probably be terrible: increased surveillance and control, the dismantling of difficultly acquired social rights, increased disparity between rich and poor.

The epidemic is far from over, and the mortality will be much more than for a simple flu.

The problem lies not so much in Agamben’s getting his facts wrong, but in his naive use of scientific authorities and in his inability to extrapolate from the already known facts (long incubation combined with exponential progression). He could not move from a flu paradigm to a corona paradigm.

Agamben’s own political paradigm is responsible for his mis-evaluating the scientific evidence.

There is no infallible paradigm, not even Agamben’s. All paradigms are pharmaka, toxins and medicines combined.

These articles by Agamben show him intoxicated, and blinded, by his own paradigm.

The specific problem with Agamben’s first intervention, in which he compared the coronavirus pandemic to a « normal flu » (he used that paradigm) is that he can’t do basic math. Two week incubation + exponential growth + higher hospitalisation + higher mortality rate may all seem like minor differences from the flu but combined with inadequate hospital capacity and an insufficient number of intensive care units spell disaster.

The more general problem is that determined by his one-sided approach. In our thinking we are suffering from the divide between the Two Cultures. Our thinking of the Corona Crisis needs to be « transversal » (Badiou’s term here), as the Real knows no such divide.

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