1st Edition

Viral Critique Postfoundational Perspectives on COVID-19

Edited By Hannah Richter Copyright 2024

    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.

    Introduction: COVID-19, viral social theory and immunitarian perceptions – a case for postfoundational critique
    Hannah Richter

    1. Critque, clinic, and care in times of COVID
    Emma Ingala

    2. An evental pandemic: thinking the COVID-19 ‘event’ with Deleuze and Foucault
    Jemima Repo and Hannah Richter

    3. Derrida, autoimmunity, and critique
    Gavin Rae

    4. Giorgio Agamben's political formalism
    Arne de Boever

    5. The biopolitical economy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibilities for an affirmative biopolitics
    Ali Rıza Taşkale

    6. Redefining ‘safe bodies’: queering the shifting body politics during the COVID-19 pandemic
    Dhriti Shankar

    7. Vaccine apartheid and settler colonial sovereign violence: from Palestine to the colonial global economy
    Mark Muhannad Ayyash

    8. What is COVID capitalism?
    Thomas Nail

    9. Low-skill no more! essential workers, social reproduction and the legitimacy-crisis of the division of labour
    Sara R. Farris and Mark Bergfeld

    10. Sublimating the commodity
    Todd McGowan

    11.Post-COVID ecology: mutation, immunology, and inequivalence in Jacques Derrida’s aneconomy
    Sam La Védrine

    12. Democratic politics in virulent times: three vital lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic
    Mads Ejsing and Derek Denman

    13. Beyond fairness: the COVID-19 pandemic as an expression of environmental injustice
    George Sotiropoulos


    Hannah Richter is Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sussex, UK. Her research develops innovative pathways for contemporary political theory, particularly through links to systems and complexity theory as well as indigenous thought and anti-colonial resistance. Her monograph The Politics of Orientation: Deleuze meets Luhmann (2023) explores the rise of post-truth populism via the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Niklas Luhmann. Anther monography, Challenging Anthropocene Ontology: Modernity Ecology and Indigenous Complexities, is forthcoming. Amongst others, her work has been published in International Political Sociology, the European Journal of Social Theory and European Journal of Political Theory.

    ‘Examining the politics of knowledge production, Viral Critique reaches beyond being yet another volume on the impact of the pandemic. The editor’s take offers a much-needed, broader approach to ask how thinking has changed and how we might change our thinking. The contributions are sharp, compelling, and collectively they rethink fundamental relations between social lifeworlds and theory.’

    -Jasbir K Puar, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability