State measures to cope with the corona crisis are not yet in sight, as voices are warning that, like sociologist Armin Nassehi, warn of “the authoritarian character”. Philosophers were also quickly on hand to donate the higher orders to liberal criticism. In the NZZ On March 20, the Italian Giorgio Agamben could hardly suppress his satisfaction at seeing his long-held theory of the state of emergency confirmed in his opinion. In other articles, too, Agamben asserts himself in all kinds of daring theses, such as the one that the emergency measures are “completely unfounded”. Regardless of all the solidarity we see in the crisis, Agamben claims that our society believes in nothing more than “naked life,” and prophesies that the state of emergency will continue after the epidemic.
The inevitable Slavoj Zizek received a partially gratifying response, pointing out that the virus is not a construction conceived by politicians for the purpose of extending power. Commentators like Agamben “completely hide the reality of the danger,” says the Slovenian philosopher. In view of the popular trivialization, also represented by Agamben, that the Covid 19 pandemic would be comparable to a normal flu epidemic, this is an absolutely necessary indication. Zizek’s criticism against the constructivism of an Agamben or Foucault remains undifferentiated despite the correct indication that measures such as curfews are not in the interests of capital and are therefore abolished again. As is his way, the Slovenian wants to devote an entire book to the topic. It can be doubted that he will be more precise.
In view of this unsatisfactory discussion, the question arises as to what are the essential aspects of the speech about authoritarian state action. First, it has to be clarified whether and for whom the increased control is new at all. Anyone who has been stuck in the mill of the employment agency, lives as a migrant in Germany, or is simply dependent on a job knows that our bourgeois democracy with its much-touted individual freedom is built on state authority. It is no coincidence that it is mainly voices from the bourgeoisie who now complain about the restrictions they are unfamiliar with, especially since the freelance petty bourgeoisie is initially the economically hardest hit by the restrictions.
On the other hand, anyone who is familiar with the requirements of the production process will not be unfamiliar with the second aspect: certain facts impose an authority on man that is independent of him. A look at Friedrich Engels’ essay “On Authority” (1873) is extremely illuminating. Against the anti-authoritarians he writes: “If man has subjected himself to the forces of nature with the help of science, these take revenge on him by subjecting him to a true despotism to the extent that he puts it into service is independent of all social organizations. «When dealing with nature, the production process must follow strict rules to succeed. This applies all the more to pure natural phenomena such as pandemics. Reactions to the real danger of the virus cannot be arbitrary.
Third, however, the warning against authoritarian government action must be given rightly because it is obvious that right-wing politicians like Viktor Orban are using the crisis to dismantle democratic rights and to take further steps towards fascism. The danger of abuse of emergency laws lies in the lack of moral purpose of bourgeois states. In contrast, states such as Cuba or China, with their state healthcare, which is also used to serve people in normal times, need less authoritarian and, above all, shorter-term measures in the crisis. If, on the other hand, the liberal state wants to do something equivalent, it must intervene in society the harder it has been previously dominated by the failing logic of the free market. And since the moral purpose, here the protection of life, only becomes state action in exceptional circumstances, the emergency rules after the pandemic can be used for other purposes such as capital interests and maintaining power – just as nationalization makes sense in the event of economic crises that ensue Reverse processing, however, shows that ultimately only the corporate debts were socialized.
The most constant emergency is in liberal thinking, which is faced with this contradiction between laissez-faire and the tougher emergency intervention. It usually looks for a way out in mere appeals and calls for solidarity. Where the illusionary expectation that people will voluntarily behave in the same way out of reason will then be disappointed, liberals often slide into essentialisms à la “man is selfish” and finally into shallow existentialism or nihilism. We will therefore hardly experience a philosophical revolution, as Zizek announces grandly.
So be careful not to listen to philosophers in the crisis, because new insights are not expected so quickly. Typically, Zizek does not shy away from getting lost in bold virus analogies and, relying on Richard Dawkins and Hegel, one does not know how, comes up with adventurous claims such as: “The mind is a virus”.
However, if Hegel can stand for something like a godfather, it means that philosophy should not rush into urgent political day-to-day business. Against demands made by Fichte for concrete state controls, Hegel therefore emphasized in his legal philosophy: »But the infinitely varied relationships that form in this outward appearance (…), this infinite material and its regulation is not the subject of philosophy. She mingled with things that don’t concern her; It can save herself from giving good advice about it «. Minerva’s owl can also remain in quarantine.