André Duarte, Pandemic and Crisis of Democracy. Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and Necropolitics in Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Routledge, 2023
In this incisive book, André Duarte examines the health crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the contemporary crisis of democracy.
Reflecting on President Jair Bolsonaro’s misgovernment of Brazil, as evidenced by his political actions, speeches and omissions from March 2020 to September 2021, and using concepts like biopolitics, neoliberalism and necropolitics, Duarte proposes three interrelated hypotheses to demonstrate Bolsonaro’s sharp distrust of democracy. First, that Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, actions and omissions during the first year and a half of the pandemic revealed a dangerous mixture of biopolitical, neoliberal and necropolitical governmentality strategies. Second, that the pandemic in Brazil intensified the damaging side-effects against democracy brought by neoliberalism and biopolitics, once the necropolitical vector assumed precedence. And third, that Bolsonaro’s political agenda is either to revoke the Brazilian democracy by violent means or to implement a façade democracy by slowly distorting it from within, blurring the differences between democracy and authoritarianism.
Conceptualizing democracy as power of the demos and not exclusively as a political regime organized around a definite set of political institutions, Duarte argues that Bolsonaro’s misgovernment of Brazil is related to his antidemocratic viewpoints. Pandemic and Crisis of Democracy is an important book for researchers, students, and anyone concerned about the dangers that surround the democratic experience in the contemporary world.
Table of Contents
1. The image of hell: understanding Brazil’s pandemic hell under Bolsonaro
2. Biopolitics, neoliberalism, necropolitics and the crisis of democracy
3. Brazil’s pathway to hell
4. Bolsonaro’s power apparatus
5. Rethinking democracy
André Duarte is a full professor in the Philosophy Department at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil. His research interests include contemporary philosophy and political theory, specializing in the works of Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, among others.
“This brilliantly written, provocative book offers an original analysis and a poignant critique of Bolsonaro’s Brazil. It is a timely, much-needed contribution to current debates in political theory on the notions of biopolitics and necropolitics, and their relationship to democracy, neoliberalism, and the government of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Daniele Lorenzini, University of Warwick
“This urgent project brands President Jair Bolsonaro’s pandemic politics as ‘façade democracy’: an authoritarian leader stirring up populist resentment toward vaccines and masks in the name of democratic responsiveness. Duarte painstakingly charts the erosion of Brazilian democracy from within and proposes techniques for democratic renewal.”
Lisa Disch, Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
“This insightful book is an original and important contribution to philosophical and political discussions of the contemporary world. The Brazilian example of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, crossed with the global event of the COVID-19 pandemic, is particularly relevant to address not only the situation in Brazil today, but also the authoritarian drifts that undermine the ‘democratic experience’.”
Philippe Sabot, Full Professor of Contemporary Philosophy, University of Lille, and President of the Michel Foucault Center.