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"Follow the Science": The War on Covid-19, Strategic Ignorance and the Monopolies on "the Science" and "Truth"

By Anna Rößing

Both the UK and German governments claim to “follow the science” in their response to the corona pandemic. But which scientific ­findings of which disciplines and which persons are taken into account, which are not? This remains a genuine political decision. Furthermore, the notion of what constitutes the right knowledge also implies the notion of what forms of governance are appropriate and what are not. In this respect, claiming to base government action on “objective” findings serves to conceal responsibilities, to undermine democratic control and even to misuse knowledge in a discourse charged with war vocabulary. Moreover, dissent as a constitutive characteristic of democratic societies is often disregarded by politicians and experts, and the spectrum of discussion is inadmissibly narrowed to only one “reasonable alternative”. This also maintains elitist, racist and sexist structures. 

In particular, talking of an inevitable war constructs a context in which those who wage it are absolved of responsibility. The perception of the virus as an “enemy” fits into the growing tendency to interpret health issues as issues of national and international security. The corona pandemic shows how the liberal democratic order is gradually being replaced by a depoliticised state of emergency. This deterministic understanding has to be countered by a repoliticising view: The extrajudicial state of exception comes into existence only through the political measures that refer to it.

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