Byung-Chul Han on COVID

I haven’t been following one of my favorite philosophers Byung-Chul Han lately, and that was a mistake. He has a lot of insight into COVID that he shared in this enlightening interview:

The virus does not stop China’s advance, quite the contrary. China will now also sell its autocratic surveillance state as a successful model against the epidemic. China will demonstrate the superiority of its system to the world with even more pride. COVID-19 will ensure that the world power moves a little further to Asia. Seen in this way, the virus marks the change of an era.

The saddest part is that we will hysterically and gratefully embrace this autocratic surveillance state, gleefully destroy democracy and civil rights, and create feudal-like levels of inequality over. . . nothing. Nothing whatsoever:

The fear and panic of the virus are exaggerated. The average age of those who died of COVID-19 in Germany is 80 or 81. The average life expectancy in Germany is 80.5. Our panicked reaction to the virus shows that something is wrong with our society.

What’s wrong isn’t a disease of the body. It’s the disease of the soul that is desperate to accept the most invasive forms of control:

The pandemic shock will ensure that digital biopolitics takes hold globally that, with its control and monitoring system, seizes control of our bodies in a biopolitical disciplinary society that also constantly monitors our state of health. Faced with the shock of the pandemic, the West will be forced to give up its liberal principles. Then the West faces a biopolitical quarantine society that permanently restricts our freedom.

And you know why people are so eagerly embracing the disciplinary society? Because relinquishing the harsh and onerous sense of responsibility over one’s own life is incredibly sweet.

My great thanks go to reader ed who alerted me to this interview.

5 thoughts on “Byung-Chul Han on COVID”

  1. A Russian blogger draws attention to influence of biopolitics on refugees:

    (Translated from Russian)

    “Another nuance is that the vaccination itself will have an expiration date. At any time, this period can be extended or, on the contrary, reduced. That will automatically require re-confirmation and re-receipt of the passport (or renewal).

    In fact, before our eyes, fenced zones are literally about to begin to be created, and the previous rules, in which an illegal migrant could count on humanism, human rights and other democratic things, will now in fact be canceled. For illegal immigrants, isolated camps will be created, from where they will be expelled somewhere without any sentimentality as an implementation of the sanitation process. Individual countries of the Third World will even be able to make money by receiving such deportees, and their fate after the transfer will not interest anyone. No human rights activists, no Greta Thunberg, no one.”

    Original post:

    Reminds of Bauman’s ‘wasted lives’ analysis. He talked of surplus people as ‘trash’; now they are may be turned into something even worse – a biohazard. (Since poor whites in America were called ‘white trash’ and for other reasons, racism may not be the most important factor here, even if majority of refugees aren’t white.)


    1. Oh no, not at all. These rules won’t concern immigrants. You wait and see. Just like lockdowns, social distancing and mask mandates didn’t concern, say, construction workers. Migrants are dragged over to work the fields cheaply and they will do so, COVID or no COVID.

      Migrants have no capital, so why lock them up?


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