Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Foucault And The Politics Of Coronavirus Pandemic – OpEd, Eurasia Review, News and Analysis, March 12, 2020
As the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, relentlessly continues it mayhem around the world, on the intellectual side it has also provoked fresh conversations on the (geo) politics and the related ramifications in terms of redrawing the private/public sphere lines, the empowerment of (local) governments on individuals, the new pattern of “social distancing,” the possibilities of a new round of “de-globalization,” and the like.
From China to Iran, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, etc., millions of people are placed under either mandatory or “voluntary” self-isolation and entire towns and cities are experiencing the harsh reality of life under quarantine — to the point that some particularly in Europe have invoked comparison with the great plague of the 1300s that wiped out thirty to sixty percent of the continent’s population.
Meanwhile, it is instructive to put the insights of French philosopher Michel Foucault into practice by examining the global politics of COVID-19 from a Foucauldian perspective. As is well-known, Foucault studied the great plague’s effects in terms of population control, centralization of power, de-individualization of citizens and their new ‘scientific’ compartmentalization, resulting in certain side-effects with respect to “panopticist” prison control and, with it, a new mode of surveillance reflecting a new modality of operationalization of power.