Agamben has continued to produce one-sided reflections on the COVID-19 epidemic and its poltical management without any attempt at self-criticism.
1) ONE-SIDEDNESS. Agamben, as before, brackets out the scientific side (just as well one may say, given his erroneous first piece likening CV-19 to a « normal flue »). Cutting things up this way deprives us of any chance of understanding a hybrid phenomenon composed of trans-domain feedback loops.
The reflections that follow do not deal with the epidemic itself but with what we can learn from the reactions to it.
2) BIO-IMPRESSIONISM. Having rid himself of the scientific side of things, even the very simple science of mortality + contagiosity + incubation, Agamben reduces the gravity of the epidemic to an « impression »
They are, thus, reflections on the ease with which the whole of society has united in feeling itself afflicted by a plague.
3) NEO-RELIGIONISM. Agamben proceeds to go old school and explains the massive compliance to injunctions of social distancing and isolation to a universal « need for religion ».
It is as if the need for religion, no longer finding any satisfaction in the Church, began gropingly to look for another place wherein it could consist, and found it in what has become the religion of our time: science.
4) THE SCIENTISM OF THE OTHER. I have no difficulty with the idea that science is the religion of our time, as long as we add, which Agamben does not, that science is also the science of our time. Having bracketed out the scientific side of this hybrid phenomenon, Agamben falls back on the religious impulse as explanatory hypothesis.
5) BIO-DENIALISM. Not willing to abandon his previous denial of the foundedness in the real of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis, Agamben hints at its unreality
This [i.e. science], like any religion, can give rise to superstitions and fear — or at least can be used to spread them.
We may accept the descriptive adequacy of the term « fear », although Agamben is writing at a very abstract and general level here, but why does he also describe the current crisis as one based on science-engendered « superstition »?
6) PSEUDO-POLITICS OF SCIENCE. Agamben manifests surprise at the discovery that science contains diverse and contradictory opinions, and draws a relativist conclusion from this plurality. His mistake in his first article is thus excused, as he did not know at that time (a month ago) that rival, conflicting opinions existed in science. This explains his naive, uncritical reliance on the Italian CNR as an understandable error.
7) SELF-DENIALISM. Having explained away his previous epistemological error as due to a, for him, unprecedented situation – scientific experts differ in their opinions – Agamben can now return to his previous reductionist political error: all this is a result of the over-valuing of « bare life ». He denounces
the obvious collapse of any conviction, or common faith. One could say say that men no longer believe in anything at all — except for bare biological existence which must be saved at any cost.
8) CONTRADICTIO IN AGAMBENO. In the preceding paragraph Agamben explained that science has become the « religion of our time », our « common faith ». He does not notice the contradiction in now proclaiming the collapse of any common faith, but continues on his dogmatic course.
9) GREAT NARRATIVE. Agamben posits a universal need for religion, he supposes that « the Church » (as if there were only one) does not satisfy that need any more, and claims that science constitutes a replacement-religion promulgating new superstitions.
10) BARE CLARITY. All this story is offered as an analysis of the Corona Virus crisis.