Coronavirus and philosophers

M. Foucault, G. Agamben, J.L. Nancy, R. Esposito, S. Benvenuto, D. Dwivedi, S. Mohan, R. Ronchi, M. de Carolis

Giorgio Agamben

The Invention of an Epidemic

Faced with the frenetic, irrational and entirely unfounded emergency measures adopted against an alleged epidemic of coronavirus, we should begin from the declaration issued by the National Research Council (CNR), which states not only that “there is no SARS-CoV2 epidemic in Italy”, but also that “the infection, according to the epidemiologic data available as of today and based on tens of thousands of cases, causes mild/moderate symptoms (a sort of influenza) in 80-90% of cases. In 10-15% of cases a pneumonia may develop, but one with a benign outcome in the large majority of cases. It has been estimated that only 4% of patients require intensive therapy”. If this is the real situation, why do the media and the authorities do their utmost to spread a state of panic, thus provoking an authentic state of exception with serious limitations on movement and a suspension of daily life in entire regions?


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Guattari, Deleuze, and Cultural Studies

This essay maps the changing ways that the concepts and writings of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have been mobilized in the journal Cultural Studies over the past three decades, reflects on roads not taken, and invites readers into a new conversation about the implications of the work of Deleuze and Guattari for cultural studies.


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Applying Theory to Practice: Putting Deleuze to Work

The work of Deleuze and his associates has been widely discussed, and there is a burgeoning literature on the political implications for the education system specifically. Examples in Sweden, the UK and the USA are discussed. Deleuzian writing offers a powerful critique of educational bureaucracies, but the work also highlights problems in connecting work with a definite philosophical agenda to critical and political analyses of empirical processes and situations. Deleuze’s philosophical agenda leads to radical but also to highly unconventional thinking and writing and this makes the argument notoriously inaccessible. Some general paradoxes in linking theory to practice emerge through Rancière’s discussion of philosophical autonomy and heteronomy. The work of Bourdieu in particular can also help to explain the difficulties of Deleuzian writing in terms of possible residual effects of a particular social context – the elite French university system of the 1960s and 1970s which fostered a particularly allusive style.


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Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy of Freedom

This volume addresses the issue of freedom in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. This is all the more challenging in that Deleuze-Guattari almost never use the term freedom, preferring instead, the concept of the refrain. The essays collected in the volume show that freedom has been understood in a remarkably narrow sense and that in fact freedom operates as the refrain in every realm of thought and creation. The motivating approach in these essays is Deleuze-Guattari’s emphasis on the irreality of media and capitalistic sign regimes, which they perceive to have taken over even the practices of philosophy, the arts, and science. By offering a clear and engaging treatment of the underexplored issue of freedom, this volume moves the discussion of Deleuze-Guattari’s philosophy forward in ways that will appeal to researchers in Continental philosophy and a wide range of other disciplines.


Read also   Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy of ‘Becoming-Revolutionary’

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The plague and the Panopticon: Camus, with and against the total critiques of modernity

Albert Camus’s 1947 novel La Peste and 1948 drama L’E´tat de Sie`ge, allegories of totalitarian power using the figure of the plague (Part I), remarkably anticipate Foucault’s celebrated genealogical analyses of modern power (Part II). Indeed, reading Foucault after Camus highlights a fact little-remarked in Discipline and Punish: namely, that the famous chapter on the ‘Panopticon’ begins by analysing the measures taken in early modern Vincennes following the advent of plague. Part III argues that, although Camus was cited as an inspiration by the nouveaux philosophes, he does not accept the reactionary motif of the total bankruptcy of the modern cultural and political worlds as hopelessly implicated in the totalitarian crimes. Indeed, Part IV highlights how Camus defends modern, descriptive scientific rationality against its totalitarian appropriations, alongside ‘the power of passion, doubt, happiness, and imaginative invention’ – positions which Part V suggests as Camus’s continuing poignancy and relevance in the period after post-structuralism (Camus, 1952: 301).


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Bentham, Deleuze and Beyond: An Overview of Surveillance Theories from the Panopticon to Participation

This paper aims to provide an overview of surveillance theories and concepts that can help to understand and debate surveillance in its many forms. As scholars from an increasingly wide range of disciplines are discussing surveillance, this literature review can offer much-needed common ground for the debate. We structure surveillance theory in three roughly chronological/thematic phases. The first two conceptualise surveillance through comprehensive theoretical frameworks which are elaborated in the third phase. The first phase, featuring Bentham and Foucault, offers architectural theories of surveillance, where surveillance is often physical and spatial, involving centralised mechanisms of watching over subjects. Panoptic structures function as architectures of power, not only directly but also through disciplining of the watched subjects. The second phase offers infrastructural theories of surveillance, where surveillance is networked and relies primarily on digital rather than physical technologies. It involves distributed forms of watching over people, with increasing distance to the watched and often dealing with data doubles rather than physical persons. Deleuze, Haggerty and Ericson, and Zuboff develop different theoretical frameworks than panopticism to conceptualise the power play involved in networked surveillance. The third phase of scholarship refines, combines or extends the main conceptual frameworks developed earlier. Surveillance theory branches out to conceptualise surveillance through concepts such as dataveillance, access control, social sorting, peer-to-peer surveillance and resistance. With the datafication of society, surveillance combines the physical with the digital, government with corporate surveillance and top-down with self-surveillance.


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The Panopticon Factor: Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age

This paper questions the use of new technologies as tools of modern surveillance in order to: (a) advance the research done by Michel Foucault on panoptic techniques of surveillance and dominance; and (b) give new insights on the way we use these new surveillance technologies in violation of democratic principles and legal norms. Furthermore, it questions Foucault’s statements on the expansion of Bentham’s Panopticon scheme as a universal model of modern-day democratic institutions. Therefore the purpose of this paper is to (c) shed new light on the various ways the deployment of new technologies reinforces the Panopticon model, and (d) conduct an analysis of the effects produced by the emerging modes of surveillance that empower various new mechanisms of domination and control of individuals. This research paper seeks to (e) examine to what extent technology influences the course of our social, political and behavioral changes; and to propose devices for (f) evaluation and transformation of democratic institutions and practices that rely on the use of modern communication tools and technologies. Our cities have become a new kind of technologically driven Panopticon and this model has achieved perfection as increasingly fragmented, disseminated and ubiquitous device of power and dominance.


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The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism

Half a century ago Adorno and Horkheimer argued, with great prescience, that our increasingly rationalized world was witnessing the emergence of a new kind of barbarism, thanks in part to the stultifying effects of the culture industries. What they could not foresee was that, with the digital revolution and the pervasive automation associated with it, the developments they had discerned would be greatly accentuated, giving rise to the loss of reason and to the loss of the reason for living. Individuals are now overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of digital information and the speed of digital flows, resulting in a kind of technological Wild West in which they find themselves increasingly powerless, driven by their lack of agency to the point of madness.

How can we find a way out of this situation? In this major new book, Bernard Stiegler argues that we must first acknowledge our era as one of fundamental disruption and detachment. We are living in an absence of epokhē in the philosophical sense, by which Stiegler means that we have lost our path of thinking and being. Weaving in powerful accounts from his own life story, including struggles with depression and time spent in prison, Stiegler calls for a new epokhē based on public power. We must forge new circuits of meaning outside of the established algorithmic routes. For only then will forms of thinking and life be able to arise that restore meaning and aspiration to the individual.

Read epub

Read also: Societies of Disindividuated Hyper-Control

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Deleuze: The Conditions of the Question: What Is Philosophy?

Perhaps the question “What is philosophy?” can only be posed late in life, when old age has come, and with it the time to speak in concrete terms. It is a question one poses when one no longer has anything to ask for, but its consequences can be considerable. One was asking the question before, one never ceased asking it, but it was too artificial, too abstract; one expounded and dominated the question, more than being grabbed by it. There are cases in which old age bestows not an eternal youth, but on the contrary a sovereign freedom, a pure necessity where one enjoys a moment of grace between life and death, and where all the parts of the machine combine to dispatch into the future a trait that traverses the ages: Turner, Monet, Matisse. The elderly Turner acquired or conquered the right to lead painting down a deserted path from which there was no return, and that was no longer distinguishable from a final question. In the same way, in philosophy, Kant’s Critique of Judgment is a work of old age, a wild work from which descendants will never cease to flow. We cannot lay claim to such a status. The time has simply come for us to ask what philosophy is. And we have never ceased to do this in the past, and we already had the response, which has not varied: philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts. But it was not only necessary for the response to take note of the question; it also had to determine a time, an occasion, the circumstances, the landscapes and per- sonae, the conditions and unknowns of the question.


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Re-reading Camus’s “The Plague” in pandemic times

Sometime in the 1940s in the sleepy colonial city of Oran, in French occupied Algeria, there was an outbreak of plague. First rats died, then people. Within days, the entire city was quarantined: it was impossible to get out, and no one could get in.

This is the fictional setting for Albert Camus’s second most famous novel, The Plague (1947). And yes, there are some similarities to our current situation with the coronavirus.


Read also, ePub

The Plague

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