Anti-lockdown Protests and the (Geo)Politics of Statephobia

Statephobia: Whose Sovereignty?

In this first episode of the Statephobia and Statephilia Series, political philosopher Mitchell Dean, one of the foremost contemporary theorists of state power, and political geographer Luiza Bialasiewicz discuss the nature of the current Covid-19 protests and their wider political as well as geopolitical implications.

The protests against Covid-19 mitigation measures have brought together a seemingly disparate coalition of political forces, ranging from the far and libertarian right, to the ecologist left. What unites these disparate movements are claims to ‘individual sovereignty’ and ‘individual rights’, invoked as a locus around which to contest the pandemic-powers of the state. These movements are also importantly characterized by a variety of conspiratorial thinking, in which social media plays a crucial role.

About the speakers

Mitchell Dean has been Professor of Public Governance at the Copenhagen Business School since 2012. He is best known for his Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society (1999/2010), a work cited in both the Oxford English Dictionary’s entry on government and in the first French and English editions of Foucault’s lectures on the topic.  The origins for his new book (with Daniel Zamora), The Last Man Takes LSD: Foucault and the End of Revolution (Verso 2021), can be traced to an event at the University of Amsterdam in 2016.

Luiza Bialasiewicz is Professor of European Governance at the University of Amsterdam and the academic co-director of ACES. As a political geographer, her work examines the intersections between geopolitics and everyday politics. Most recently, she has written on the contentious politics of the pandemic, including the politics of vaccines as well as anti-lockdown protests.

Statephobia and Statephilia Series

Has the Covid-19 pandemic brought about a fundamental re-thinking of the role of the state across Europe? The past year has seen states radically extend their reach in an effort to contain and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, with a growth in state powers unprecedented since the Second World War. A variety of taboos have been broken, both in the realm of economic intervention, but also in the extension of state policing and regulatory functions. And while polls suggest that across most of the European Union citizens’ trust in state leaders has remained high (as too popular support for strong state intervention), the pandemic has also opened up important – and at times violent – discussions regarding the appropriate extension of state power in moments of crisis such as this one.

This three-part series of roundtables tries to make sense of the seemingly contrasting forces of “statephilia” and “statephobia” that have emerged across the EU in this past pandemic year. It begins with a discussion of the most visible manifestations of this crisis in protests against Covid-19 containment measures and the rise of conspiracy theories, moving on to a discussion of the longer genealogies of statephobia in European intellectual history, and closing with a panel discussion on how we can re-think the European state after Covid-19.

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