Events and Emergencies
In a recent text, Alain Badiou defines philosophy as “a meditation regarding the existence of truths that result from the event in a given situation of being.”[i] If every genuine event introduces a new truth into the situation, then philosophy must construct an apparatus for seizing truths and deciphering their novelty. The philosophical apparatus is singular, one of a kind, because the novelty of truth is indiscernible for the apparatuses of knowledge. The latter reproduce, organize, and disseminate the established facts of the situation, generating endless repetition.
Since every encounter with a new truth confronts philosophers with the real point of ineffability, which interrupts the repetition of knowledge, philosophers cannot help but be captivated by a truth. Philosophers seize truths and, in so doing, become subject to possession (in the sense of being taken over by the other) or seizure (in the sense of a sudden shock that causes altered states of consciousness) by truths. Philosophical practice presupposes an astonishing encounter with the unknowable, but it also calls for a laborious process of rendering the novelty of truth available to thought. For Badiou, philosophy must strive to say what cannot be said. Hence, philosophy depends on the existence of events, which introduce a rupture in the symbolic ordering of parts of the situation and summon the appearing of the unsayable.
Perhaps, the best way to elucidate the relation of philosophy to events is to consider Badiou’s account of his own subjective transformation precipitated by the event of May ’68. The event’s incalculability manifested itself through unforeseen and hitherto impossible encounters between individuals who previously observed their proper places in the institutions (e.g., intellectuals confined to the universities, workers placed in the labor unions). Badiou writes: “At that point, we realized, without really understanding it, that if a new emancipatory politics was possible, it would turn social classifications upside down. It would not consist in organizing everyone in the places they were, but in organizing lightning displacements, both material and mental displacements.”[ii]
On the one hand, the event perturbed Badiou’s place in the material network of the ideological state apparatuses, which keep intellectuals and workers apart. On the other hand, May ’68 triggered a process of mental or subjective displacement – an upheaval of thought that manifested itself in Badiou’s inability to fully understand the novelty of a political phenomenon unfolding before his eyes. He observes: “What we failed to see at the time was that it was the language itself that had to be transformed, but this time in an affirmative sense.”[iii] May ’68 introduced a rupture in Badiou’s intellectual itinerary, inducing a break with the Althusserian discourse, which undergirded his early writings of the 1960s, and inaugurating his Maoist period, which culminated in the publication of Badiou’s first major work, Theory of the Subject.
Events are indecipherable from the statist standpoint, whereas emergencies are declared by the state and, as Michel Foucault demonstrates, call forth new technologies of state power. Foucault points to the smallpox epidemic of the eighteenth century as a privileged instance in the formation of the apparatus of security because this emergency summoned new techniques of control (vaccination) and generated new forms of knowledge, which took as its object the biological survival of human populations. As Foucault concludes, the emergence of the security apparatus marks the entry of nature into the field of techniques of power. In contrast to the apparatus of discipline, which is exercised over individual bodies, biosecurity necessitates a regulation of the human species as a whole.
There is no question that emergencies alter the existing state of affairs. Unlike events, however, emergencies must be discernible for the technicians of knowledge and accessible to the administrative techniques of control. Most importantly, emergencies modify the situation in accordance with the rationality of the state. Every emergency convokes the state as the principle of intelligibility of what is (i.e., a particular crisis that perturbs the normal state of affairs) and of what must be (i.e., an appropriate emergency response that aims to either restore the normalcy of the situation or modify the situation in accordance with the maxim “never let a good crisis go to waste”). Hence, emergencies rarely, if ever, present philosophers with the limit-experience of seizure and astonishment. This is because the reason of the state is entirely predictable even when it tirelessly invents new instruments of control.
For instance, instead of effectuating dazzling displacements of the kind witnessed by Badiou during the events of May ’68, the state’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic aimed to keep everyone in their proper place, both materially and mentally. On the one hand, the universities adopted “stay in room directives” to physically confine fully vaccinated students in their residence halls. On the other hand, the educational and other ideological state apparatuses mandated far more insidious forms of subjective confinement that adhered to the following set of imperatives: “Stay in your lane! Listen to the experts! Do not question the science!” Aside from limiting the constitutional rights to assemble and reject unwanted medical care, the pandemic emergency abrogated the fundamental right that conditions philosophical practice – namely, the right to critique, which Foucault defines as the right not to accept as true what authorities postulate as true.
The all-too-predictable restrictions placed by the reason of the state on thought in the epistemic state of exception should not prevent philosophers from analyzing concrete political situations modified by the exercise of emergency powers. In the aftermath of September 11, for example, numerous philosophers – Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Rancière, Samuel Weber, Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Susan Buck-Morss, and other important thinkers of our time – engaged in a critique of the war on terror and formalized the becoming of the post-September 11 world. The common thread running through these disparate analyses is a shared understanding of September 11 as a major event for the security state and thus not an event at all in a strong, philosophical sense of the term. The elementary critical gesture carried out by these interventions consisted in asking what political, ideological, cultural, and informational apparatuses constituted September 11 as the “major event” and to what end.
What windows of opportunity did a construction of September 11 as “the worst attack on American soil” open up for the expansion of sovereign power? What new configurations of facts did a declaration of national emergency effectuate in the domain of knowledge? What technologies of government were activated by this “unprecedented” crisis? This line of questioning does not entail a descent into the phantasmagorical realm of conspiracy theorists and 9/11 “truthers” who claim, for instance, that the World Trade Center was destroyed by controlled demolition. Rather, as Derrida argues, a philosophical inquiry into September 11 necessitated a distinction between the thing itself and its impression (in)formed by informational, political, technical, and economic apparatuses.[iv] It was necessary to analyze a construction of this “impression” by an organized information machine to understand the emergency as an opportunity for entrenchment of the state of exception as a normal technique of government.
Critique and Parrhesia
Whereas Badiou illuminates philosophy’s affirmative gesture of giving shelter to truths and welcoming their novelty, Derrida underscores philosophy’s critical practice of contesting the truths proffered by informational apparatuses. Perhaps, the defining act of philosophy consists not in seizing the unknowable thing-in-itself (as Badiou maintains in defiance of Kant), but in traversing the distance between the “in-itself” and the “in-formed” games of truth played out in institutionalized modes of discourse. Foucault’s entire intellectual project attests to this fundamental philosophical commitment to exploring different forms of truth-telling. His early masterwork, The History of Madness, distinguishes between the tragic experience of madness, which communicates esoteric knowledge of unreason, and the scientific discourse on mental illness, which reduces madness to an object of medical observation and intervention. Crucially, Foucault does not purport to lay bare the authentic truth of madness in-itself, but to disclose subterranean domains of knowledge excluded from the epistemic space of scientific discourse.
In his late text, The Use of Pleasure, Foucault defines his philosophical practice as an exercise in thinking otherwise.[v] Far from constituting a hermetic endeavor, the practice of thinking differently places philosophy in an intimate relationship with politics. By contemplating other games of truth, which do not accommodate the practices of state power or adhere to the criteria of scientific knowledge, philosophy foregrounds the possibility of errant subjectivities that resist governmental rationality and highlights the reversibility of historically-constituted relations of domination, which the administrative state represents as natural and unavoidable.
Foucault’s penultimate lecture course at the Collège de France, The Government of Self and Others, distinguishes between two different ways of speaking the truth vis-à-vis power. The performative discourse legitimizes what is already known, foreclosing the possibility of thinking otherwise. Since a performative utterance produces regular and invariant effects under strict conditions that determine what a speaker can and cannot say in the institutional structures that delimit the right to truth, Foucault compares the former to a ritual. As is the case in every ritual, a performative act must adhere to the codified rules of the game; it can only be carried out by those individuals who possess the requisite status, which permits them to participate in this game, and it must produce effects that are known in advance.
The performative discourse of truth takes the form of a rhetorical exercise that functions to reinforce power-relations even when it purports to speak truth to power. “From the point of view of philosophy, rhetoric (…) is no more than the instrument by which the person who wants to exercise power can only repeat exactly what the crowd, leaders, or Prince wants,” argues Foucault.[vi] Under the current reign of progressive neoliberalism that dresses up the expansion of markets, concentration of capital, and reinforcement of the existing structures of class power in the virtuous garb of liberal values, we are witnessing a massive proliferation of performative rituals that function to rhetorically reinforce the institutional position of participants in the codified games of truth.[vii]
The currently fashionable practice of making land acknowledgements to mark the beginning of an academic conference or workshop offers a vivid example of such a rhetorical instrument. On the face of it, this ritual epitomizes a courageous act of speaking truth to power insofar as it addresses the colonial past of the United States and Canada, and recognizes (however obliquely) the violent practices of primitive accumulation, which made the wealth of nations possible. This particular truth-activity, however, is performative rather than parrhesiastic since it neither exposes the speaker to risk nor introduces incalculable effects into the situation. The practice of land acknowledgement is not meant as a challenge to the capitalist state or an attack on private property. Whenever the neoliberal university compels academics to pay respects to the ancestral land, it manifests no intention of surrendering its property to the indigenous “stewards of the land.” Far from inciting a radical change, this game of truth merely functions to verify that the participants in the ritual are governable individuals – good subjects, as Louis Althusser would have put it – who affirm correct values and refrain from engaging in “far-right” (or “far-left”) political practices deemed extremist by the state.
In contrast to performative acts that verify the compliant subject’s position in the consensus community, the fearless speech of parrhesia exposes the subject to incalculable risks. Since a parrhesiastic utterance deviates from the codified script of a performative ritual, it introduces a disorder into the order of the true, which defines the limits of legitimate speech in a particular institutional context. As a consequence, parrhesiastic acts of truth deprive or relieve the speaker of institutional support. Thus, when a professor at the University of Washington challenged the institution’s “Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement,” the administrators launched an investigation into his “inappropriate” viewpoint and punished him by creating a shadow section of his class. This disciplinary action attests to the Kafkaesque character of the epistemic state of exception wherein the bureaucratic apparatuses of power punish individuals for not engaging in the rhetorical exercises of “speaking truth to power.”
The recent controversy surrounding Giorgio Agamben’s pandemic writings illuminates the function of parrhesia on the terrain of philosophy. Prior to the publication of his interventions on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian thinker was widely recognized as one of the most influential contemporary philosophers whose theses on biopolitics and the state of exception shaped intellectual debates in the past quarter of a century. Following the coronavirus outbreak, however, Agamben committed a heretical act, which is verboten in the neoliberal academic discourse: he reiterated the same theses that brought him acclaim not in the context of a peer-reviewed article on Walter Benjamin or a graduate seminar on Hannah Arendt, but in the context of the present emergency. In his own words, Agamben dared to ask “not, as fake philosophers have been urging for centuries, ‘where are we from?,’ or ‘where are we going?’ but, simply: ‘where are we now?’”[viii]
Even more damningly, he chose to speak truth to power not by mimicking the rhetorical exercises and performative rituals, but by engaging in disruptive acts of truth-telling that were not authorized by the administrative machinery, which conducts and supervises the quasi-radical discourse of neoliberal “progressives.” When Agamben observes that the suspension of constitutionally protected freedom of assembly “for safety reasons” terminates democratic politics, transferring political debates to the online space where experts can censor unsanctioned opinions in the name of fighting disinformation, his observation is both factually indisputable and theoretically consistent with his celebrated inquiries into sovereign power.
However, since his act of truth-telling did not accommodate the exercise of emergency powers, the moral majority quickly demoted Agamben to the ranks of bad subjects, placing the philosopher alongside far-right demagogues, domestic extremists, and QAnon conspiracy theorists. “The part of the Italian intellectual establishment that calls itself “radical” has been Mr. Agamben’s milieu for half a century. His position on the coronavirus has cost him its support,” reports The New York Times. After Agamben restated Benjamin’s eighth thesis on history (“the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule”) in the context of emergency response, the “radical” conformists who represent today’s compatible Left transformed the philosopher into a negazionista (the term traditionally reserved for Holocaust deniers).
While the campaign against Agamben was expected from the corporate media functionaries and opportunists devoted to transforming left-wing political practice into the state-sanctioned crusade against extremism, the attacks also came from within philosophy or, to be more precise, from within the institution of academic philosophy. The distinction between philosophy as a way of life and philosophy as an academic discipline is crucial insofar as it pertains to the question addressed in Foucault’s two final lecture courses: What is philosophy? Is it a practice of parrhesia that unfolds at the site of exception to power? Or is it a performative discourse that legitimizes the existing relations of power with institutional backing?
At first glance, the attacks on Agamben fit Foucault’s paradigmatic example of fearless speech, such as when a truth-teller recognizes a duty to correct a colleague’s behavior, knowing full well that the truth will upset the colleague and potentially ruin a cordial professional relationship. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that something else is at stake: the intended audience of this discourse is not Agamben himself – the supposedly misguided colleague who must be set on the right path by the act of truth – but the moral community of good subjects that vigilantly supervises the virtuous way of life and demands submission to consensus.
Nearly all of these moral denunciations feign outrage at the title of Agamben’s first article on the COVID-19 outbreak: “The Invention of an Epidemic.” The indignation had to be feigned because, as Agamben plainly explains, his inquiry does not concern the fact of the epidemic itself, but the reactivation of the state of exception, which manifests itself in three closely intertwined operations: the termination of politics, the abolition of public space, and the conversion of democracies into totalitarian states. The “invention” in question refers not to the material reality of the coronavirus outbreak, but to the in-formed impression of an emergency that, as Derrida observes apropos of the war on terror, is always declared, constructed, and circulated by means of the formidable techno-socio-political apparatus. The apparatus’s appropriation of an exceptional emergency by means of narrativization is what allows for an exceptional response, which is none other than the state of exception.
Undoubtedly, philosophers of the state know this but, like the Italian psychoanalyst Sergio Benvenuto, they deny knowledge to accuse Agamben of dismissing the coronavirus outbreak as a “fake epidemic.” Benvenuto takes issue with a comparison between COVID-19 and flu yet he neglects to mention that Agamben does not invent this comparison out of thin air but quotes Italy’s largest public research institution, the National Research Council (CNR), stating that COVID-19 “causes mild/moderate symptoms (a sort of influenza) in 80-90% of cases.”[ix] It would be entirely legitimate to point out that the CNR’s public health experts lacked credible data regarding the novel coronavirus in February 2020 when “The Invention of an Epidemic” was published. At the time, even good liberal citizens beyond suspicion (including high-ranking government officials) engaged in either unwitting misinformation or deliberate deception.
In the same week that Agamben published his scandalous piece, Nancy Pelosi was touring San Francisco’s Chinatown and imploring residents to ignore coronavirus concerns. “We feel safe and sound, so many of us coming here,” she declared, adding: “Come because precautions have been taken.” In March 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci advised people not to wear masks, later admitting that he knowingly misled the public to avoid the shortage of protective equipment for healthcare workers. Unlike Agamben, however, Pelosi and Fauci were instantly absolved and forgiven for their noble lies given their distinguished track record as reliable functionaries of emergency capitalism. To the delight of the moral community, both Pelosi and Fauci endorsed lockdowns and censorship measures in the name of the security principle.
Agamben’s offense cannot be reduced to his reliance on the CNR data. The real transgression consists in invoking the authority of public health experts without adopting the reason of the state as a principle of intelligibility. It is his refusal to see sociopolitical reality through the eyes of the state that leads Agamben to issue the intolerable verdict: a pandemic triggers a state of exception as the standard paradigm of governance. The parrhesiastic dimension of Agamben’s conclusion is not reducible to the ontological horizon of the analytics of truth, which concerns the conditions of possibility of true knowledge. Rather, the discourse of parrhesia touches on the ethics of truth, which is a matter of decision. In the end, the difference between performative and parrhesiastic modes of truth-telling comes down to a simple choice – either the truth is found on the side of consensus or it belongs on the side of exception that eludes authority.
Rather than foreground the incommensurable relation between the discourse of authority and philosophical critique, the critics of Agamben summon a moral tribunal to investigate the philosopher’s ties to extremists and delinquents. A motley crew of anti-vaxxers, far-right misinformers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and white nationalists all make an appearance as Agamben’s accomplices in this show trial. Benjamin Bratton likens Agamben’s pandemic writings to Alex Jones rants, while Anastasia Berg compares the philosopher to Fox News anchors.
The fact that Agamben has explicitly repudiated affiliations with right-wing groups does not deter the moral tribunal from announcing its verdict: Agamben must be held responsible for the fact that deplorable individuals read his books, retweet his articles, and share offensive memes about biosecurity on social media. Such is the case made by Agamben’s translator, Adam Kotsko, who laments: “An author who is better known for teasing out the subtle nuances of Plato and Aristotle in the original Greek has come to sound disturbingly like a right-wing crank—to the point where an actual right-wing crank has praised his writings in the New York Times, very far-right politicians in his own country have invoked his considerable intellectual authority to argue for their cause, and online anti-vaxxers have made memes calling for him to become the president of Italy.”[x]
While one can understand Kotsko’s eagerness to disassociate himself from the excommunicated philosopher whose work is being reassessed by the upstanding arbiters of progressive values, his attempt to establish guilt by association does not count as a philosophical argument. From the philosophical standpoint, a discourse of truth does not derive its legitimacy from either professional reputation of the speaker or social status of the audience. “Philosophy is a discourse whose legitimacy stems only from itself,” argues Badiou: “What the philosopher says is validated (or not) not by the speaker’s position, but solely by the spoken content.”[xi]
Even if Kotsko managed to prove Agamben’s collusion with the far-right populists, this blow to the Italian philosopher’s reputation would not invalidate the discourse of truth operative in Agamben’s pandemic writings. It would not, for instance, undermine Agamben’s assertion that the pandemic response had the effect of abolishing the separation of powers principle, allowing the executive branch to lay down the law via emergency decrees with disregard for either the legislative process or the judicial checks. Agamben himself illustrates this feature of philosophical discourse with an extreme example: “A truth remains such, whether it is expressed by the Left or enunciated by the Right. If a fascist says that ‘2+2=4,’ this is not an objection against mathematics.”[xii] In philosophy as in mathematics, truth makes itself available to anyone regardless of their social rank or professional reputation.
If the truth is valid from all, then it must also be valid for all. It would be absurd to argue, for example, that the search for truth invoked in Descartes’s Discourse on Method becomes invalidated as soon as the Cartesian text is read and embraced by the “right-wing cranks.” Truths do not become untrue once they are received and disseminated by immoral individuals with problematic values. Once the arbiters of academic reputation succeed in disqualifying philosophical discourse on the grounds that it gives aid and comfort to the ideological enemy, then philosophy cannot perform its function of giving shelter to truths.
Under these conditions, a truth can no longer be apprehended in the critical and revolutionary sense as an exception that makes a hole in knowledge. This hole is patched up as soon as the servitors of hegemony succeed in intimidating philosophers into complying with the official narratives of emergency capitalism. Furthermore, truths can no longer be apprehended even in the weak sense of being in conformity with the facts of the situation. Rather, a truth is designated as such in accordance with its usefulness in the sense expounded by Nietzsche: “The state is never interested in truth, but rather always only in that truth that is useful to it or, more precisely, in everything that is useful to it, be it truth, half-truth, or error.”[xiii] From this standpoint, a falsehood qualifies as a truth as long as it proves to be useful to the state and its good citizens; inversely, a truth that benefits bad, immoral, extremist subjects is reclassified as a falsehood.
The Courage of Truth
In light of ceaseless readjustment of facts, it should come as no surprise that Agamben would offer his most cogent conception of the epistemic state of exception in his pandemic writings: “No less important, however, is the limitation placed on a human right that is not enshrined in any constitution: the right to truth, the need for a true word. What we are now living through is more than just a staggering imposition on everybody’s freedoms; it is also a massive campaign to falsify the truth.”[xiv] Departing from the Schmittian juridical outlook that informed his 2003 book on the state of exception, Agamben now understands the operations of sovereign power not only in terms of a suspension of legal rights, but also in terms of an extra-juridical abrogation of the right to speak the truth.
Agamben’s thesis concerning the confiscation of language as a space for the manifestation of truth is verified by the moral majority’s response to his discourse. The Stanford Review reports that, after the Stanford University’s Renaissances Reading Group announced a public discussion of Agamben’s pandemic writings, the faculty pressured students to first postpone and then cancel the meeting in the name of fighting “COVID-19 misinformation.” The incident illustrates the institution’s characteristically anti-pedagogical response to the philosophical discourse of parrhesia. Bypassing discourse altogether, the institution substitutes the force of repression for the formulation of truths in language. Faced with the courage of truth, the prestigious university (that incidentally describes itself as “a wellspring of new ideas” where “scholars are driven by curiosity to explore the boundaries of knowledge”) can only respond by prohibiting discussion to protect consensus from any hints of disagreement.
The new despotism goes beyond pervasive censorship, which disqualifies disagreement as “disinformation.” The images of police thugs handcuffing a pregnant woman for promoting an anti-lockdown protest online lays bare the triumph of brute violence, hitherto unimaginable in our “democratic” states, and confirms Agamben’s thesis concerning the unlimited repression of individual freedoms in the name of public health. In the face of increasingly violent domination of ungovernable individuals, the security state confronts philosophers with a familiar axiom: You are either with us or you are with the terrorists, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, domestic extremists, etc. For the philosophers of the state (who are, truth be told, not philosophers at all), such intellectual blackmail offers an opportunity to participate in rhetorical exercises intended to mimic the discourse of authority. Their self-abnegating arguments – “now is not the time to dissent because we are all in this together,” “let us do away with philosophy that failed the pandemic,” “freedom of speech must be limited to reduce harms,” “far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further them” – function as performative rituals designed to impede the practice of thinking otherwise.
Against concerted efforts to neutralize the critical and parrhesiastic dimension of philosophy, we should embrace Badiou’s definition of philosophy as counterpropaganda, which entails a repudiation of the statist perspective.[xv] While this definition resonates with a Marxist critique of ideology, Badiou traces it to the primordial Socratic act of corrupting the youth. Substituting rational revolt for obedient submission to the values of the consensus community, the act of “corruption” effectuates the parrhesiastic relation between subjects and truths in opposition to the current regime of opinions.
In his reading of the Platonic Epistles, Foucault considers Socrates’s individual resistance to the oligarchic corruption of democracy as an exemplary scene of parrhesia, which discloses the reality of philosophy in the fact that the philosopher has the courage to address the powerful. In the epistemic state of exception, Agamben’s resistance to new despotism has brought into relief the defining feature of the philosophical act, which measures a distance between the reason of the strongest and the thought of exception. “The sole task of philosophy is to show that we might choose. We must choose between these two types of thought,” maintains Badiou.[xvi] If philosophers wish to be something more than the gurus of the moral majority or public relations managers for the state, they must choose to keep their distance from power, struggle against the moralistic current of prevailing opinions, and accept the risk of speaking the truth in open defiance of consensus.
[i] Alain Badiou, Badiou by Badiou (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2022), p. 47.
[ii] Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis (London: Verso, 2010), p. 60.
[iii] Ibid., p. 57.
[iv] Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p. 89.
[v] Michel Foucault, The Use of Pleasure: History of Sexuality, Volume 2 (New York: Vintage, 1985), p. 9.
[vi] Michel Foucault, The Government of Self and Others (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), p. 229.
[vii] The concept of “progressive neoliberalism,” which I find to be far more precise and useful than that of “woke capitalism,” is developed in Nancy Fraser, The Old is Dying and the New Cannot be Born (London: Verso, 2019).
[viii] Giorgio Agamben, Where Are We Now? (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021), p. 22.
[ix] Agamben, p. 11.
[x] Given the ongoing erasure of the political Right-Left framework of reference, it would be pertinent to ask: How does Kotsko define “right-wing” and “left-wing” positions on the pandemic? Not too long ago, it was the Right that allowed for a termination of constitutional protections in the situation of crisis. By contrast, the proper “left-wing” position regarding the pandemic response was articulated by the ACLU in its 2008 report: “No one should be forced to be vaccinated against their will both because of the constitutional right to refuse treatment, and pragmatically because forced vaccination will deter at least some people from seeking medical help when they need it.” Now that neoliberalism has swallowed up political identities and rebranded itself as “progressive,” the ACLU is rejecting its own arguments to endorse the securitarian formula of renouncing freedom to protect freedom: “Far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties.” Given that every record has been destroyed or falsified to make room for the triumphant ascendance of progressive neoliberalism, those who still purport to speak for the Left should make their positions more explicit: Do they align with the 20th-century Left that used to oppose the state’s coercive tactics and contest the neoliberal management of populations? Or do they speak for the present-day compatible Left whose discourse, ventriloquized by neoliberalism, upholds submission to the security state as the new progressive ideal?
[xi] Alain Badiou, Philosophy for Militants (London: Verso, 2012), pp. 20-1.
[xii] Agamben, p. 70.
[xiii] Friedrich Nietzsche, Unfashionable Observations (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 251.
[xiv] Agamben, p. 46.
[xv] Alain Badiou, Images of the Present Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2023).
[xvi] Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek, Philosophy in the Present (Cambridge: Polity, 2009), p. 5.