Giorgio Agamben: Regarding the coming time

Regarding the coming time


What is happening on a planetary scale today is certainly the end of a world. But not – such as for those who seek to govern it according to their interests – in the sense of a transition to a world more suited to the new needs of the human consortium. It is the end of the era of bourgeois democracies, with its rights, its constitutions and its parliaments; but, beyond juridical appearances, certainly not insignificant, the world that began with the industrial revolution and grew up to the two – or three – world wars and totalitarianisms – tyrannical or democratic – that accompanied them, ends.

If the powers that govern the world felt they had to resort to such extreme measures and apparatuses as biosecurity and sanitary terror, which they established everywhere and without reservation, but which now threaten to get out of hand, this is because they feared according to all of the evidence of having no other choice to survive. And if people have accepted the despotic measures and unprecedented constraints they have been subjected to without any guarantee, it is not only because of the fear of the pandemic, but presumably because, more or less unconsciously, they knew that the world in which they had lived until then could not continue, for it was too unfair and inhuman. It goes without saying that governments are preparing an even more inhuman, even more unjust world; but in any case, on both sides, it was somehow presaged that the former world – as it is now beginning to be called – could not continue. There is certainly in this, as in every dark presentiment, a religious element. Health has replaced salvation, biological life has taken the place of eternal life and the Church, which has long been accustomed to compromising itself with worldly needs, has more or less explicitly consented to this replacement.

We have no regrets for this world that now ends; we have no nostalgia for the idea of the human and the divine that the relentless waves of time are erasing like a face of sand on the shore of history. But with equal determination we reject the mute and faceless naked life and the religion of health that governments propose for us. We neither expect a new god nor a new man – rather we seek here and now, among the ruins that surround us, for a humble, simpler form of life, which is not a mirage, because we have a memory and experience of it, even if, within us and outside us, adverse powers cast it away each time into oblivion.

November 23

Giorgio Agamben

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