In your recently published book “The Revenge of the Real” you describe the pandemic as a lens through which one can better see the fundamental problems of our societies. Which are the most important for you that have become visible?
We now have to ask what happened and why? What has the pandemic revealed about the way we organize societies and what do we need to change? Where should you start? The world’s people have involuntarily participated in the largest experiment in comparative governance ever made. The virus was the control variable, now the different reactions of the different governments and political cultures can be evaluated. We saw that some countries were more effective than others regardless of factors such as per capita income. One of the things that has been exposed is a governance crisis in Western societies, perhaps particularly in the United States, where even access to health care is privatized, but also in Europe. There weren’t enough masks, there weren’t enough test capacities, the measures were haphazard, the coordination was politicized, and many people preferred to believe false information.
The pandemic was a crisis, but our own reactions, not just those of the governments, were just as great a disaster. The virus has mapped us just as much as we have mapped its spread. One lesson we can learn from this is what I call the “epidemiological view of society”: The pandemic made it clear to us that society is not a dynamic of “individuals versus the state” or “individuals versus the collective “Can be thought. But that, despite the culturalist rumble of populist leaders, there is something very fundamental and non-negotiable: a biological, biochemical and biopolitical interdependence that has always had a planetary dimension. The pandemic has destroyed the illusion that this reality can simply be ignored with the kind of populist politics that we have seen rise in the US, Europe, UK, Russia, Brazil, India and elsewhere over the past decade. The world is not just a text. This is the vengeance of the real.
So the fact that some Asian countries have got the virus under better control has less to do with experience with previous pandemics and more to do with a different political culture? With a greater willingness to be governed, so to speak?