Giorgio Agamben has been influential in critical circles in the social sciences for quite some time now. He has been deeply worried of how the COVID-19 pandemic has been exploited as an opportunity to bring in authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and a new political rationality centered around biosecurity. He decries..."the new paradigm of biosecurity, to which all other exigencies will have to be sacrificed. It is legitimate to ask whether such a society can still be defined as human or whether the loss of sensible relations, of the face, of friendship, of love can be truly compensated for by an abstract and presumably completely fictitious health security".

Are there scholars from within the academic left who have picked up this line of thought to develop it? In my home discipline human geography I've been surprised by the lack of deep criticism (so far!) against the authoritarian management of the pandemic and the brutally quick undermining of hard-won freedoms in the name of a very elastic notion of "safety". This press release describing the situation in August 2020 in Melbourne sent chills down my spine:

The debate in the latest issue of Dialogues in Human Geography didn't strike me as genuinely critical despite the self-professed label of "critical geographer" many of the invited parties espouse. I checked Derek Gregory's blog, since he was instrumental in popularizing Agamben's thoughts in critical geography, but there's no entry on Agamben & COVID-19. Radio silence...

By the way, if an Anglo-American publisher reads this, please consider translating into English Patrick Zylberman's book Tempêtes microbiennes, Gallimard 2013. Agamben praises it highly in the blog entry I linked to above:

"Already in a book published seven years ago, now worth rereading carefully (Tempêtes microbiennes, Gallimard 2013), Patrick Zylberman described the process by which health security, hitherto on the margins of political calculations, was becoming an essential part of state and international political strategies. At issue is nothing less than the creation of a sort of “health terror” as an instrument for governing what are called “worst case scenarios.” It is according to this logic of the worst that already in 2005 the World Health Organization announced “2 to 150 million deaths from bird flu approaching,” suggesting a political strategy that states were not yet ready to accept at the time. Zylberman shows that the apparatus being suggested was articulated in three points: 1) the construction, on the basis of a possible risk, of a fictitious scenario in which data are presented in such a way as to promote behaviors that allow for governing an extreme situation; 2) the adoption of the logic of the worst as a regime of political rationality; 3) the total organization of the body of citizens in a way that strengthens maximum adherence to institutions of government, producing a sort of superlative good citizenship in which imposed obligations are presented as evidence of altruism and the citizen no longer has a right to health (health safety) but becomes juridically obliged to health (biosecurity). What Zylberman described in 2013 has now been duly confirmed".

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