Viral Critique: Postfoundational Perspectives on Covid-19

Hannah Richter

Research output: Book/ReportAnthology


This book brings together papers that employ postfoundational theory to critically investigate the social, political, economic and ecological dynamics and power structures that shaped Western democracies, non-Western societies and international politics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted not only social relations and personal lives across the globe, but also the landscape of postfoundational theory. Giorgio Agamben, one of its most prominent figures, attracted harsh criticism for his suggestion that the pandemic was nothing but an invented tool of state power. In the face of a collectively experienced emergency, it seemed tempting to forgo critical questioning in favour of taking action on a manifestly real, viral threat. Resisting this temptation, this volume makes the case that COVID-19 has rendered postfoundational critique urgently necessary. The chapters collected here use postfoundational theory to unpack the pandemic’s global social event beyond dominant narratives of unprecedentedness, exception and necessity. The authors explore where the pandemic has actually altered political, social and economic dynamics. But they also highlight where divisions, inequalities and expropriation continued unchanged, or even reinforced, throughout and after the COVID-19 event. The chapters apply, scrutinise and re-work the writings of postfoundational thinkers from Jacques Derrida, Roberto Esposito and Gilles Deleuze to Jasbir Puar to both offer a better understanding of the pandemic’s social reality and to draw from it visions for a different post-pandemic future.
Viral Critique will be a key resource for academics, researchers, and advanced students of Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Economics and Cultural Studies.
The chapters included in this book were originally published as a special issue of Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Apr 2023


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