- You put a question mark in the title. What makes you doubt that world society is in a state of emergency?
In short, we prefer to ask rather than decree. The book is a conversation about what “Corona” means for and in world society. The expression “state of emergency” comes up often. But how valid is it? To speak of world society is to speak of a social context that includes all variations of its own form. Meaning: There is no society outside of society, or in other words: world society makes no exceptions to itself. So what we are experiencing right now is not an exception, but such a form variant of world society. By the way, it is not a state at all; rather, it is a far more dynamic situation than is usually the case in everyday life. But just because habits are out of step does not mean that it is a state of emergency. It is rather the case that our daily routines, the security of our affluent niche of the world, are suddenly out of step. The poorer regions of the world are accustomed to insecurity – which is why, sadly, we in our niche are already discussing again whether we should be entitled to progress in the form of vaccinations and medicines, because we can pay for our security.
When we conceived the volume, we had the impression of watching a society in the process of learning, of observing a society that is questioning, searching, and perhaps in a way that has been missing for a long time, inquisitive – hence the question mark.
- Does a printed book still make sense in such turbulent times as we live in today? Already after having read the last few lines, the world can be a completely different place with virus mutations or new lockdown rules.
Yes, of course the world can be a different one at any moment, and yes, of course the temptation is great to take this assessment as a sedative so as to be able to go back to sleep. Every weariness can be theorised into meaninglessness in this way. But neither of us had such an overwhelming need for rest, and neither did the many contributors. We couldn’t meet each other, but nothing stood in the way of writing.
And if you are alluding to the anachronism of the book: one cannot be surprised about the limited chances of reception of one’s own writing. But if you want to be read and discussed, the book is still the most attractive form of publication, because journal articles are only assessed but not read, and online publications have no distinction whatsoever and simply get lost in the associative media networks.
- Either way, what approach are you taking with the book, which approaches the pandemic from five different angles?
Either way, our aim was to link perspectives, but neither to parallelise nor to hierarchise them. We had to accept that a book forces us to create a sequential order. The point was simply to describe what was happening – in order to understand. Why is it that some people seem to strategically hope that the use of the term “state of emergency” will give rise to certain rights of intervention that are not connected with this term at all? Could this simply be understood as a delight in authoritarian speculation, which has in any case been drawing ever wider circles in recent times? And in connection with this: How could the disdain for China be countered? When the pandemic began, Europe and America reassured themselves in their usual arrogance that they were so completely different from Asia that its problems were not or could never become our problems. And when the pandemic continued, they thought they did not even have to pay attention to Chinese or Korean forms of crisis management because they were not acceptable in this country. All this seemed pitiless, contemptuous and strategically unwise at the very least, and yet there was a simple remedy for this: talk.
- You write that the world society “no longer separates any outside and no longer isolates any inside”. Is this definition still tenable – at a time when we are closing borders again, banning flights, restricting fundamental rights and debating vaccination nationalism? For sure. Why else are the border closures such a scandal or even an issue? What we apparently find hard to bear, however, are limits on prosperity: We are prepared to scandalise border closures or flight bans when they limit our tourism, but not when they endanger the lives of refugees. These are challenges to fundamental rights for the refugees, not for the tourists. And the fact that national governments are at the mercy of pharmaceutical and hospital companies in view of the shortage of intensive care beds and vaccines has finally come to light as a problem once again, but it is not new. The fact that it could be a mistake to privatise hospitals and then have hardly any direct control options in the event of a crisis has in any case been known for some time. Ultimately, all these older structural problems have created complex problems of negotiation, which are time-consuming and result in compromises that will disappoint some, but which do not restrict any fundamental right. Compromise is the only sustainable crisis resolution we know.
Questions: Sebastian Paul. Translated by M.H. For the full interview, see ZU Daily (to be published on 21st of February 21): https://www.zu-daily.de/daily/index.php
Image: OVID-19 Outbreak World Map Total Deaths per Capita.svg, by Dan Polansky and authors of File:BlankMap-World.svg.