COVID-19 and the Real Impossible

International Journal of Žižek Studies 14 (2) (2020)
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This article approaches the COVID-19 pandemic as an inherently antagonistic phenomenon. To do so, it carries forward the philosophical contentions that Žižek outlines in his Pandemic! COVID-19 Shakes the World, as well as his wider work. With reference to the parallax Real and McGowan’s Hegelian contradiction, it is demonstrated that Žižek’s philosophical premises hold a unique importance in politically confronting COVID-19. Indeed, by drawing specific attention to the various ways in which our confrontations with the Real expose the limitations of our socio-ideological orders, it is argued that it is in these very limitations that the limits of the Real are transposed through the various “fictions” we employ to fight and perceive it. In outlining this confrontation, a focused discussion on the Real as “impossible” – a “characteristic” that affords an important political significance for the present context and its ongoing limitations – is provided. In conclusion, if the COVID-19 pandemic demands a new “commons”, and if our response to the crisis should be one where the desires of the nation-state are regulated and controlled, then, it may not simply be enough that we “demand the impossible”. Instead, it is today that the impossible demands a new “us”.



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Jack Black
Sheffield Hallam University

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