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Op-Ed

The place of politics

The forces pushing towards world political unity seemed to be so much stronger than those directed towards a more limited political unity, such as Europe, that it could be written that the unity of Europe could only be «a product collateral, not to say waste, of the global unity of the planet». In reality, the forces driving the achievement of unity have proved to be just as insufficient for the planet as they are for Europe. If European unity, to give life to a true constituent assembly, would have presupposed something like a “European patriotism”, which did not exist anywhere (and the first consequence was the failure of the referendums to approve the so-called European constitution, which , from a juridical point of view, is not a constitution, but only an agreement between states), the political unity of the planet presupposed a “patriotism of the species or of the human race” even more difficult to find.

As Gilson has rightly pointed out, a society of political societies cannot itself be political, but needs a metapolitical principle, such as religion was, at least in the past.
It is possible then that what governments have attempted to achieve through the pandemic is just such a “patriotism of the species”. But they could only parodically do so in the form of shared terror in the face of an invisible enemy, the result of which was not the production of a homeland and community ties, but of a mass founded on an unprecedented separation, proving that distance under no circumstances could it – as an odious, obsessively repeated slogan claimed – constitute a “social” bond. Apparently more effective was the use of a principle capable of replacing religion, which was immediately identified in science (in this case, medicine). But here too medicine as a religion has shown its inadequacy, not only because in exchange for the salvation of an entire existence it could only promise health from disease, but also and above all because, in order to assert itself as a religion, medicine had to produce a a state of incessant threat and insecurity, in which viruses and pandemics followed one another without respite and no vaccine guaranteed that serenity that the sacraments had been able to ensure to the faithful.

The project of creating a kind of patriotism failed to such an extent that in the end it was necessary once again and brazenly to resort to the creation of a particular political enemy, identified not by chance among those who had already played this role: Russia, China, Iran.
In this sense, the political culture of the West has not taken a single step in a different direction from the one in which it has always moved and only if all the principles and values ​​on which it is based are called into question will it be possible to think otherwise of the place of politics, beyond both nation-states and the global economic state.

January 9, 2023
Source: Giorgio Agamben QUODLIBET

  • Translated