Biopolitics and the Coronavirus: Foucault, Agamben, Žižek

Netherands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2020, pp. 3-6

4 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2020 Last revised: 11 May 2020

See all articles by Lukas van den Berge

Lukas van den Berge

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law; Utrecht University

Date Written: April 1, 2020


In some recent blog posts, Giorgio Agamben resists the emergency measures taken in Italy and elsewhere in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus as irrational and unfounded. According to Agamben, COVID-19 is nothing really different from the normal flus that affect us every year. The governmental reaction to the outbreak would be just another example of the tendency to use the state of exception as a normal paradigm for government. With terrorism exhausted as a legitimation for exceptional measures, the ‘invention of an epidemic’ would serve as an ideal pretext for scaling up such measures almost beyond limitation. Understandably, Agamben’s assessment of the current crisis has met with overwhelming criticism. Some commentators have even called to 'defend society from Giorgio Agamben', dismissing his statements as the dangerous ‘ramblings of a 77-year old man’ who should be de-platformed as soon as possible. Evidently, Agamben has been proven wrong in his appraisal of the spread of the virus as only an invented epidemic, nothing to be actually worried about from a public health perspective. That does not mean, however, that his critique should not be taken very seriously.

Suggested Citation

van den Berge, Lukas and van den Berge, Lukas, Biopolitics and the Coronavirus: Foucault, Agamben, Žižek (April 1, 2020). Netherands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2020, pp. 3-6, Available at SSRN:

Lukas Van den Berge (Contact Author)

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Janskerkhof 3
Utrecht, 3512 BK

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