Many liberal and Leftist commentators have noted how the coronavirus epidemic serves to justify and legitimize measures of control and regulation of the people that had been till now unthinkable in a Western democratic society. Is the total lockdown of Italy not a totalitarian’s wet dream come true? No wonder that (at least the way it looks now) China, which had already widely practiced modes of digitalized social control, proved to be best equipped for coping with catastrophic epidemics. Does this mean that, at least in some aspects, China is our future? Are we approaching a global state of exception? Have Giorgio Agamben’s analyses gained new actuality?
It is not surprising that Agamben himself drew this conclusion: he reacted to the coronavirus epidemic in a radically different way from the majority of commentators. He deplored the “frantic, irrational, and absolutely unwarranted emergency measures adopted for a supposed epidemic of coronavirus” which is just another version of flu, and asked: “Why do the media and the authorities do their utmost to create a climate of panic, thus provoking a true state of exception, with severe limitations on movement and the suspension of daily life and work activities for entire regions?”