Postscript to Contract and Contagion

When every home becomes a quarantine zone, and every epidemiological map is mistaken for an accurate representation of molecular spread, the convergence of neoliberalism and fascism around an oikonomic understanding of health and disease is all but complete.

Verging on completeness does not, however, mean that an apparatus is either triumphant or, for that matter, effective in what it purports to do. It persists as an apparatus, in an array of policies, approaches and assumptions premised on categorical understandings of life, biological processes and living things that shapes the world by being operationalized, irrespective of how faulty its account of life might be. Which is to say, systematic ‘errors’ are functional to a given system and, of course, a great deal depends on definitions of ‘effectiveness.’ The grotesqueries who openly applaud the prospect of “culling” have a very distinctive view of the value of their lives and others—mysteriously, they never offer themselves up as tribute to their Malthusian God.

Still, it has been particularly ineffective in dealing with the spread of a virus like SARS-CoV19—arguably the 21st century’s first overwhelming biomolecular swerve, or clinamen, whose outcome is undetermined but whose collection of stakes could not be, at once, more intensified and global. As for contracts, wildcats are a kind of swerve too.

Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia (2012).

See also: “Against Quarantine,” New Inquiry, February 13, 2020.


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