Covid 19 Evolving Society Focus Front Page Society

The Quarantine Subject and the Pandemic Spectacle

An attempt to make sense of the historical significance of COVID19 by proposing a metaphor.

Metaphors for Our Historical Condition and the Politics of Staying at Home

By Alexander Jakob Husenbeth

“The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images”.
Guy Debord, 1967


The global outbreak of what is commonly called ‘the coronavirus’ has shaken and thrown up plenty of dust. The vulnerabilities of regional, national, and global structures are being exposed, and all we can do is watch as the world we’ve come to know becomes more and more unstable. This is historically significant because the lockdown and social distancing measures amplify how we “on this side of the line” (Santos, 2016) have already come to live after decades of neoliberal restructuring and accelerating mediatisation. The idea is to put a finger on a moment where it starts to sink in, for those previously too comfortable, distracted, or busy to notice, that they are subjected to neoliberal and terrestrial forces outside of their control (be it the climate, the stock market, viruses, or complex supply chains that rely on a myriad of taken-for-granted material conditions that can be disrupted), and that the agency we have for changing our world for the better requires creativity and courage outside of traditional notions of politics. A new form of political power is emerging, as Adam Curtis explains in “Hyper Normalisation”.

The ‘quarantine subject’ can be imagined like a caricature of life after the constant technological revolution and neoliberal ‘structural adjustment’ of the last 40 years. The picture this metaphor paints, mediated to virtually all homes, seems like a cynical parody of life in contemporary information society before the outbreak: the subject is at the same time highly individualised and hyper-connected, while consuming a mix of inflated and deflated, overplayed and downplayed, facts, factoids, and fiction, through devices that are nothing but a mirror of the spectator’s fears and desires. A mirror, that is, which threatens to come to life in the absence of organic or social interaction, mistaken for reality and dissolving all agency for change. This results in a blurring of all information, whatever the intentions or integrity of the creator, into a wondrous spectacle for all specimens to weigh in on, as if Noah had decided to turn his arc into a floating circus(1) – without rehearsal. 

Our Historical Moment

To crystallize my argument into a few simple sentences: staying at home is deeply political. Our lack of motivation is deeply political. Our lack of certainty and orientation is deeply political. Doing nothing is infinitely more meaningful, in this moment, than expressions of what we think and feel on the internet. This essay, too, will only reach those already sympathetic to my views. The algorithms and echo-chambers of the internet will make me incapable of expressing anything truly provocative, critical or radical, not because of the content itself, but because the internet is a large filter that makes sure that everyone receives and retains only the content that they already agree with. The medium is the message (McLuhan). Reality has been destabilized and fragmented, maintaining the status quo as a theatre of the undead, artificially kept alive conventions and institutions that nobody is still really convinced of, but that nobody has both the will and the power to transform – let alone an idea what to replace them with. Yet, my argument rests on the metaphor of the quarantine subject, which is meant to encapsulate a historical moment in which we have the opportunity to become aware of this state of affairs, precisely because of an awareness of our terrestrial dependence and subjection. This may allow us to tune out of the Pandemic Spectacle and instead spend our time imagining a new vision for a local-global, resilient, and caring society. Or, to put it differently: turn off the news and build a garden.(2)

Specifically, I want to present the idea, with this metaphor, that in some crucial respects(3), the quarantine as a state of being is simply an amplification of daily life before the pandemic, which subjects the individual even more to a fragmentary, and yet unitary stream of information(4), in which reality is a “ceaseless shapeshifting, unstoppable because it is undefinable”(5) (Curtis, 2016). Yet the pandemic, as well as the social distancing and lockdown measures undertaken globally to contain it, may allow us to take a step back and reflect on what this current caricature of an already-alienated form of life entails. 

How might we characterise the contemporary subject and the states of being it experiences? And doesn’t it eerily resemble life before the global outbreak of COVID-19, at least for those in the bubble this essay is part of? Precarious. Physically atomized and ‘connected’ at the same time. Always as dependent on abstract structures beyond our reach as on our own individual resources. At the same time increasingly alienated from a community in between the atomized individual and the hyper-global market and governance structures. The only thing more pervasive than worry about the future appears to be fatigue, disillusionment with, and a subsequent scepticism of, the stream of information that might be referred to as a ‘spectacle’. 

Regional structures and national governments, suddenly visibly of central relevance to common wellbeing, are being put to a test of legitimacy and competence. Some are failing, some are succeeding. But the lesson appears clear: the commons – that which human beings share the burdens for and the benefits of – appears not only better at handling the crisis, but is an empirical reality: we are in this together, whether we want it or not. But the commons is not only local. It is also global. Politically, it was Slavoj Žižek who asked one of the crucial questions: how can we, as a species, create democratic mechanisms to “act in a united and coordinated way”? What the pandemic suggests, he argues, is that an “abstract sense of solidarity” is not necessary for the quarantine subject. To encourage global structures of collaboration, in fact, strictly calculated, self-centered rationality, leads to the same conclusion: “if Germany now doesn’t help Italy they will get an even stronger … epidemic… so, helping others – solidarity – is something that is demanded from us precisely if we think as rational egotists. It’s a time to step together”. Thus, collective solidarity and rational egotism yield the same result and become consequentially indistinguishable. I would add to that: the very act of staying at home is an acknowledgement of terrestrial interdependence. Meanwhile, the ‘free market’, this neo-mystical field of forces presented as beyond morality and history, reveals itself to be a fragile pseudo-commons: as neoliberalism redistributes capital towards those who seem most keen to preserve ‘the free market’, the markets moan and ache for taxpayer relief amid the global pandemic, letting the suffering trickle down towards those already most vulnerable. 

Quarantine and social distancing, atop our already pervasive use of digital media devices, entail a situation in which the individual, while physically mostly isolated, is habitually and anxiously consuming an endless stream of images, messages, reports, video calls, emails, and an incredible multitude of other formats. This diversity is displayed on one, two, maybe three different screens, and all dealing with the same global state of affairs. For the quarantine subject, this spectacle is all that moves, all that entertains, replacing what would normally be called experience or society, and it crystallises into a responsive and maddeningly engaging stream, existential and in flux like the water that runs through our homes(6). It’s nearly impossible to escape. It already was, before COVID-19. Now, this situation is amplified. Will we continue wanting to feverishly stare into a cold mirror when later stages of this pandemic are reached? Or will we start yearning for the warmth of life that engenders balance and harmony with the organic world? I guess it depends how long this drags on…

Like the virus itself, viral information occupies a space between life and nonlife, its vitality constituted consequentially by its inevitability for the quarantine subject. As we physically distance ourselves to avoid infection, we are pushed into a different kind of virulent sociality: a global spectacle, the central thematic object of which is the pandemic. Even content unrelated, and published prior to the outbreak takes on new meanings, and nearly all new ‘viral’ memes and content have to do with the pandemic and how it affects human beings. We are consumers of a pandemic spectacle.

Crisis and Opportunity

The concept of the quarantine subject is strangely optimistic, because the historical moment it represents brings to the forefront problems already inherent in what Guy Debord adequately named ‘societies of the Spectacle’. Is it cynical to feel enthusiastic of how the corona-virus reminds us of the reliance of the entire economy on labour, and of life itself on the terrestrial, in times in which we had forgotten the politics of not going to work, turning “off the news and building a garden”? Possibly. But nonetheless, I think that this spectacle which the quarantined selves experience represents an opportunity. The terrestrial, which may also be called ‘Mother Earth’, reminds us that she exists, and that that’s not enough. We have to let her breathe, too.

The pandemic spectacle allows us to compare and follow, globally and in real time, which scenarios the same virus – the same root cause – creates under which systemic circumstances. We get to compare, as if running a test for the environmental disasters, famines, and future pandemics that consumer society and environmental degradation increasingly cause, which political and economic systems are best suited for maintaining a life of dignity when consumer society and global capitalism approach their limits. It is not merely coincidental that the cause of this outbreak appears to be the hunting, keeping, and selling of ‘exotic’ animals on so-called ‘wet markets’, where animals from all continents are confined, mistreated, and sold in highly concentrated and unhygienic Noah’s arks. 

This completely unnecessary and cruel form of consumption threatens global health and wellbeing. But just as treading into the wilderness and extracting from nature for profit and consumer pleasure without concern for the global consequences sounds familiar to Westerners, so too does ‘unnecessary and cruel form of consumption’. In this sense, the coronavirus is itself a fitting metaphor for our historical condition, because we live in times where we are all sitting – most of the time these days, literally sitting – in the same boat, from where it appears ridiculous and inappropriate to blame ‘the other’. Passports and lines on a map do not care about viruses, and industrial mass animal farming is not any better than wet markets. Wet markets may have a higher risk of spreading viruses – but mass animal farming accelerates another global health risk: antibiotics resistance.(7) Thus, nationalistic blame games fall flat on their face when the root cause of a crisis is, as Slavoj Žižek put it, “something as stupid as a virus” that spread because of the increasing economic interdependence and connectivity referred to as ‘globalisation’. Yet if it is interdependence that makes us vulnerable, and in which rational egotism and solidarity become one, then instead of blaming, shouldn’t we start building resilient, sustainable, and self-reliant local and regional structures that cover for a future in which we can no longer count on globalised consumerism? At the same time, global collaboration must be engendered through the internet, to learn from one another and send support. Love thy neighbor does not mean hate those on the other side of the border. It means love those that you have the means to love. 

The Pandemic Spectacle and the Politics of Staying at Home

The interesting thing about what transpired this spring is that consumer society, along with the modern deity of economic growth – the holy grail of the spectacular imaginary of progress – didn’t prove very difficult to stifle, at least momentarily. All it took was for people to stay at home! Now imagine what the people of the world could bring about by staying at home deliberately. For better work conditions, healthcare, and for the ecosystems of our beautiful planet… But as we are distracted by the Pandemic Spectacle, those who do have a clear intent and vision of how to change society ceaselessly do their work. Naomi Klein(8) warns us that historically, crises have been used by elites to dust off plans that were already ‘in the drawer’, and to restructure society while everyone is distracted. An example transpiring right now is Viktor Orban’s push to curb trans rights, among other weaponizations of the virus and a useless blame-game that serves nothing other than to delay our acceptance of our dependence on terrestrial forces outside of our control.

This leads me to a more fundamental look at life itself. Risk and defectiveness is inherent in life itself, e.g. death and the eerie feeling that something is always missing. The remedy of the afterlife, forgiveness, and salvation constitute central aspects of what drives humans into spirituality. Transposed into the present, it is the constant presence of precarity that makes workers work and consumers consume. If we see the market as a modern equivalent of the church, money as a modern equivalent of God, then this precarity has to remain present, to some degree – it has to be part of normality (for the workers) for the market to persist. Uncertainty and disorientation are, at this point, the only forces that can keep the status quo alive. In the idea of the subject as homo oeconomicus, this is cynically reduced to ‘economic incentive’ – after all, why would I work a job I hate if I receive a universal basic income that is enough to survive? The lockdown has imposed a pause to this routine, and suddenly we become aware of the power of normality and habits. It is this normality that makes us conduct our daily lives in particular ways. But ‘the quarantine subject’ – you and me – inhabits a different reality, so let us ignore the factor of normality for a moment. 

If we imagine a devout catholic believer driven into serfdom and worship by life’s inherent precariousness, on one hand, and God on the other, then God is the psychic manifestation of the believer’s need for stability, confidence in an afterlife, and not having to face the difficulties of life alone. I would argue that a similar relationship exists between the individual investor and ‘the market’. We used to interpret natural phenomena and things that happened in our life as God’s will, which was always mysterious and required a priest to deliver or decipher the heavenly message to us believers. Now, there are economists who interpret for us, or we interpret market tendencies ourselves. We bet, predict, and discuss what ‘the market’ will do next. Who is the market? How come the individual responsibility of the actors that profit from and gamble in it remain anonymous in a supposedly secular world? From a Nietzschean perspective focused on power, religion was a gigantic code or social convention hiding and legitimising the workings of a clerical power hierarchy. In this large system, individuals had to submit to God’s will and do their best to curb it in their favor, collecting points for an imaginary afterlife… Numbers on the screen, go up! Rise until I reach heaven! 

The same perspective, when applied to the market, reveals a gigantic depersonalisation of individual and institutional actions in the name of economic laws (including fraud and gambling with entire communities’ livelihoods). Sustained by a reductive image of the human being as homo oeconomicus, and under the fanatic pretense of rationality and individual responsibility (which it is really opposed to), the ‘invisible hand of the market’, presented as a mere matter of rational calculation, serves as a fantastic trick to keep the believers, who are now employees and consumers, submissive and compliant. After all, who are you to mess with the laws of economics? As if there never was another system, and as if there never will be!

The historical contingency and fragility of neoliberal market society is being revealed by the United States, particularly by those who in their inability to deal with the precariousness of reality escape into a made up world: “I don’t take responsibility at all”, as Donald Trump recently said about the COVID-19 meltdown of the country he is meant to be leading. However, while markets, like deities, also rely on confidence and faith in them (and on taxpayer money as a sacrifice when they fail), it is fear of market crisis that makes them tumble. In other words, the belief system of financial capitalism is inherently precarious. Modernity does not enable human beings to transcend their embeddedness in the terrestrial, fragile, and organic things and beings that make life possible and that require care. Modernity as a belief system differs fundamentally from religious belief in what it presents and permits, because it is an expression of an affluent industrialised society rather than a feudal society plagued by material precariousness for most, and thus requires a spectacle to sustain it:

“Religion justified the cosmic and ontological order that corresponded to the interests of the masters, expounding and embellishing everything their societies could not deliver. In this sense, all separate power has been spectacular. But this earlier universal devotion to a fixed religious imagery was only a shared belief in an imaginary compensation for the poverty of a concrete social activity that was still generally experienced as a unitary condition. In contrast, the modern spectacle depicts what society could deliver, but in so doing it rigidly separates what is possible from what is permitted”.
Guy Debord, 1967, 25

Thus, the spectacle depends on maintaining what Debord calls “augmented survival” (Debord, 1967, 40) – what I called precarity as a part of normality. This also sheds a light on what Debord means by “imaginary compensation for the poverty of a concrete social activity”. Debord offers a modern equivalent: 

“In the expanding economy of ‘services’ and leisure activities, the payment for these blocks of time is equally unified: everything’s included,’ whether it is a matter of spectacular living environments, touristic pseudo-travel, subscriptions to cultural consumption, or even the sale of sociability itself in the form of ‘exciting conversations’ and ‘meetings with celebrities.’ Spectacular commodities of this type … would obviously never sell were it not for the increasing impoverishment of the realities they parody…”.
Guy Debord, 1967, 152

Does that seem relatable to anyone trying to replace social contact by virtual means? On one hand, then, it is still precariousness and an ‘impoverishment of reality’, coupled with a naïve faith in progress that compel us into the routines and investments that constitute the condition for the machines of consumer society and global capitalism to keep on running. On the other hand, however, when a hint of precariousness and fear rises up to the feet of the owning and investing classes – because the basis necessary for production, consumption, and exploitation is stripped away (i.e. workers staying at home) – the financial markets tank, making the whole volatile construct of leverage(9) collapse. What makes this possible? Turning again to Debord, it is precisely the autonomous and separated nature of the spectacle, of which financial markets are a part, that engenders the structural conditions necessary for such volatile, complex, and therefore unpredictable constructs like stock markets to operate:

“The spectacle keeps people in a state of unconsciousness as they pass through practical changes in their conditions of existence. Like a factitious god, it engenders itself and makes its own rules. It reveals itself for what it is: an autonomously developing separate power, based on the increasing productivity resulting from an increasingly refined division of labor into parcelized gestures dictated by the independent movement of machines and working for an ever-expanding market. In the course of this development, all community and all critical awareness have disintegrated; and the forces that were able to grow by separating from each other have not yet been reunited”.
Guy Debord, 1967, 25

This separate power must persist, because it constitutes the central institution for investment, which is the material manifestation of the modern teleology of progress: a momentary pleasure is repressed (Bennett, 2005), delayed and replaced with the fervent fascination of what is possible: returns, more, growth. At the same time, then, this practice is entirely dependent on the belief in progress. When alternative possibilities, like a global pandemic, turn from dystopian, anticipated risks into realities, can this imaginary survive? The danger with the death of belief systems is that if the shock is too deep they tend to be replaced with something even more horrible: fascism.

Those at the receiving end of the gargantuan bailout welfare checks know how central they are for the persistence of the way of life we know, and thus typically show no solidarity whatsoever. We can observe these dynamics in daily life. Whether it is celebrities singing “imagine no possessions” while filming themselves in their million-dollar mansions, or the American neoliberal and neoconservative elite spearheaded by Donald Trump keen to make workers go back to work in the midst of a pandemic to save the stock-market from plummeting. What this scenario reveals, beyond the idea of “socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor” cemented in 2008, is that the market is simply an abstract symbol for an institutionalised, systematic culture of individual gain devoid of responsibility and community: neoliberalism. However, it is what happens after capitalist crisis that really constitutes the power of its ideology: the recovery, bailout, and rejuvenation of capitalism is its rebirth. 

What Debord termed ‘augmented survival’, an integral part of the society of the spectacle, is the maintenance of an abstract, commodified form of the struggle to survive. But once this struggle to survive becomes concrete and only commodifiable by some industries, will the spectacle start to crumble? In the last three weeks, the market and the sphere of never-ending consumption came to such a sudden halt that the onslaught of commodities that ordinarily distracts us, and the routine that we owe our sense of time to, can no longer reduce our historical consciousness to the anticipation of the next purchase, the next weekend, or the next vacation. Now, we anticipate the end of the pandemic as weekends are meaningless and vacations uncertain – while it is known all over the planet that other crises in which we are also all connected, and which we cannot ignore, are coming or already here. Will we forget how fragile our way of living is this time? Will we descend into a society driven by hate, fear, and “survival of the richest”(10)? Will we finally accept the inherent vulnerability and fragility of life, and take this not as a source of fear, but as a source of compassion and care? 

It will probably be all of the above, and this is why we need to start imagining and planning new ways of living while the world is in an eerie standstill. Of course, it would be naïve to believe that the onslaught of commodities that distract us truly came to a halt, and cynical to want to trade a real struggle for survival for a manufactured one. We are now simply focusing more on particular commodities (toilet paper, rice, or hand-sanitiser) over others. Even more significantly, the commodities that normally supplant, or commodify lived experience (tourism, going to the cinema, amusement parks etc.) are now simply replaced by digital commodities provided by Netflix, YouTube, or other websites, giving us a sense of being in a vacation while we are in a pandemic. But isn’t it the worst vacation ever? Don’t we all feel that the virtual can’t replace the smell of fresh air on a sunny spring day, and the pat on your back your drunk buddy reminds you of his friendship with? This dystopian scenario we are living through is a reminder that the state of pure alienation and isolation it engenders may be our future nostalgia if we continue on the neoliberal trajectory of ever-more economic growth.

Commodification. Photography by Alexander Husenbeth

A Last Warning?

This global pandemic seems like a last warning. After the global financial crisis of 2008, and the decade of failed revolution and vague social unrest that followed, it seems that we are granted a moment to breathe in, breathe out, and reflect on how we want to live. The Occupy movement and the Arab Spring showed that we have a means of organising: the internet. What we don’t have is a vision of what to do with it, because the internet only feeds back to us what we put into it, engendering bubbles that reflect a simplified and seductive image of ourselves back to us. The large numbers of people yearning for change can become, as we have seen with Trump and Brexit, fodder for ‘movements’ that promise change by selling visions of fear and hate. The beliefs and deities of liberal economy may be dying or faltering during this historical moment, but it is in the atomized realm of our own walls and minds that we as quarantine subjects need to make sense of it. We need crises to show us what to change and what to keep – to make us reassemble the pieces of a fragmented society. 

Of course, we already knew something was wrong. We were already living daily in this alienated way, pushed to play our roles in the large poker play of a historical gamble, the stakes as high as ecological, social, and economic collapse. But neoliberal capitalist society and the culture of instant wish-gratification it promotes does not prepare for disasters by building resilient structures based on long-term considerations, putting some profit aside for avoiding scenarios scientists warn about. Does that sound familiar? 

Neoliberal cost-benefit analyses are made, at Wall Street and other stock markets, constantly – for the present moment and the fiscal year, but not the next years and decades. This is why at first, the Trump administration played down the virus (keeping the stock market from collapsing while hoping for a magical cure), and then reluctantly followed through with social distancing measures (outcome of a cost-benefit analysis based on new, more damning numbers). As such, the corona-virus pandemic serves as a warning sign for the systemic inadequacy of neoliberalism to deal with climate change.

As sketched above, the rule of money is at least as volatile as the rule of religion. Fear of death and the last judgment is replaced with fear of negative returns on investment and market collapse. It’s a big game for investors and corporations that need the state to save them when they lose. It plays a risky and much more short-term game, always seeking for higher returns on investment, gambling with life itself. Yet it is neither ‘the invisible hand of the market’ nor the benevolence of a higher spiritual power, or any other human imaginary construct, that will guide humanity through this crisis. It is humanity itself – us. Tied to their home, if one is so fortunate to have one, what remains for the quarantine subject is the possibility to reflect on her own: how much do I want my life back? What would I rather not return to, and what has lost credibility and legitimacy altogether? What do I appreciate more, now that I no longer take it for granted? What systemic vulnerabilities and injustices need to be fixed, and what is at stake? And why do I feel so damn inert, passive, and unmotivated, if I possess all the technology necessary to replace my normal occupation with? Do you mean to tell me, dear essayist, that life is way more than rationally ordered symbols on a screen?

Back at Home

Presently, as isolated selves, it is through our own experience that we must perceive, critique, and overcome the state of affairs sketched above, and in isolation that we can rediscover what unites us. As solidarity and egotism melt into one, this pandemic compels humanity to create stronger global collaboration, and it compels local communities to develop more resilience and self-reliance. Never has it been more clear that we live in a local-global world. The home of the quarantine subject is the four walls it is quarantined in and the celestial body we call Earth. Everything in between is a matter of perspective. However, as described above, when it comes to the economic implications of this pandemic, it seems that a new (and very much old and familiar) opposition, a new and old struggle, re-emerges: that between the working class and the owning class. In some countries, the momentum for class solidarity and general strike (e.g. if the Trump administration pulls through with its dangerous plan to re-open the national economy) is strong – staying at home is powerful! The historical moment I have tried to put a finger on with the notion of ‘quarantine subject’ is ripe with urgency and possibility for local and global collaboration. Dust has been thrown up, so let’s dust off what we may have taken for granted: old things like gardens and grandmothers, boring things like hospital beds and hand sanitizer, stupid things like viruses, and old and dusty workers’ strikes. It’s not sexy. But is it sexy to worry about a virulent lung disease while being forced to stay at home? 

At the same time, we have to be especially wary of what else is being dusted off: discriminatory rhetoric and legislation, corporate bailout checks while millions slide into precariousness, and possibly similar solidifications of authoritarian structures to those that followed 9/11. We know what’s at stake. We know that the precariousness of life under neoliberalism is real for a growing amount of people. We can see who can be counted on and who is willing to sacrifice human lives for their stock portfolios. We have to be conscious of the significance of the decisions and visions for and of the future that are being made now and create resilient local and global structures based on undifferentiated solidarity. Remember that all things must pass. But remember, too, that patience is only a virtue if coupled with readiness and imagination. The more one ignores and represses what is inevitable already, that harder it will hit. Finally, let’s ask ourselves: are empty town squares more powerful instruments for instigating change than those filled with protesters without any vision of the future, if the town squares are empty because we are busy creating one? 


1. The cynic in me can’t resist remarking that Noah’s arc happens to provide ideal conditions for a virus outbreak, much like the global hyper-connectivity of goods, persons and raw materials, not only exemplified by the Chinese ‘wet markets’ but also by tourism, extractivism, and other systemic manifestations of a global society ordered around always more consumption of commodities – this very society that now experiences the fragility of this way of living.

2. Youtube: Lukas Nelson and Family – Turn Off the News and Build a Garden (Quarantunes Evening Session)

3. And, it should be noted, only for those fortunate enough to be able to afford social distancing or quarantine without falling into extreme poverty.

4. Again, this applies to the more privileged.

5. For a history of how reality became unstable, I recommend the film I took this quote from: HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis (2016)

6. Again, on this side of the abyssal line (Santos, 2016).

7. World Health Organization: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today… can affect anyone, of any age, in any country. Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process”.

8. See The Intercept: Noami Klein – Coronavirus Capitalism- and how to beat it

9. In highly simplified terms: the use of borrowed money to make investments

10. I heavily recommend this article for an illustration of what I mean by ‘lack of solidarity and responsibility’. OneZero Medium: Douglas Rushkoff – Survival of the Richest


Bennett, D. Desire as Capital: Getting a Return on the Repressed in Libidinal Economy in Bracker, N., & Herbrechter, S. (Eds.) (2005). Metaphors of economy. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Braidotti, R. (2014). Writing as a Nomadic Subject. in Comparative Critical Studies 11.2–3 (2014): 163–184, Edinburgh University Press. DOI: 10.3366/ccs.2014.0122.

Brand, R. (2020). Youtube: Corona Lockdown! Can Anything Positive Come From This?! | Russell Brand in Russell Brand. Last access: 02/04/2020.

Debord, G. (2016). Society of the spectacle. Detroit, MI: Black & Red.

Santos, B. de S. (2016). Epistemologies of the South: justice against epistemicide. London: Routledge/Taylor&Francis.

Žižek, S. (2020). Youtube: Coronavirus situation is way too serious to be in panic in RT. Last access: 02/04/2020.

About the Author:

Alexander Husenbeth, picture by Irene de Giorgi

Alexander Husenbeth grew up in Germany. Since 2017, he has lived and studied in Denmark. His Bachelor’s subjects are Social Psychology and International Studies, which together offer an interesting micro, meso, and macro perspective on the human subject in a fast-changing world. He is interested in critical psychology, cultures around the globe (particularly music, food, and philosophy), environmental humanities, climate activism, and literature.

3 comments on “The Quarantine Subject and the Pandemic Spectacle

  1. Pingback: COVID19 – Live Blog

  2. Kevin McFoy Dunn

    Excellent anatomization. If I may, something in the same vein from Terry Eagleton: “If the US sanitises death, it is because mortality is incompatible with capitalism. Capital accumulation goes on forever, in love with a dream of infinity. The myth of eternal progress is just a horizontalised form of heaven. Socialism, by contrast, is not about reaching for the stars but returning us to earth. It is about building a politics on a recognition of human frailty and finitude. As such, it is a politics which embraces the reality of failure, suffering and death, as opposed to one for which the word ‘can’t’ is almost as intolerable as the word ‘communist’.” [Guardian, 25.v.2005]


    • Anonymous

      Hello Kevin,
      this choice of quote is absolutely on point – that is what I wanted to convey in a nutshell! What do you mean by anatomization?
      Admitting frailty, finitude, vulnerability – all of these are, I think, the key not only to ecological and economic but also gender-related issues. We see increasingly how feminism has been turned, to some extent, into another narrative of strength, invincibility, competition, and performance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: