Issue #01, July 2022
Society in Crisis. Analysis – Perspectives – Desiderata
We are currently experiencing a deep social divide. This is not only to be observed in Western societies; it is a global phenomenon that has been progressing inexorably for several years. It can be observed in conflicts over economic and climate policy issues as well as identity politics - which are ultimately to be located in the area of the change of social value systems - but also in connection with interstate conflicts, military interventions and, above all, refugee policy. All of these discursive struggles have already been dominated by policies of socio-political inclusion and exclusion and, concomitantly, by the struggle for interpretive sovereignty over the identities and affiliations ascribed in these contexts (left, right, (national)-chauvinist, solidarity, progressive, (anti-)globalist, etc.). These conflicts are underpinned not least by the increasing economic dislocations in the (former) Western welfare states. They have led to profound skepticism in parts of Western populations toward political subsystems, especially the functioning of representative democracies and the media system.
Since March 2020, however, this division has accelerated once again and gained a new quality in the process. At its core, this results from increasingly irreconcilable perspectives on how to deal politically, medially, socially and economically with the manifold (and multiplying) crises of our time. A state of exception that threatens to become normalized is also accompanied by a hardening of discursive demarcations and an increasing exclusion of counter-hegemonic perspectives. Free public communication and democratic voting hardly or no longer take place at central places of contestation, fundamental dislocations in discourse and logic gain little public attention, and argumentative rationality suffers. The political in the sense of constructive agnostic dispute about rules and norms of an open society increasingly gives way to restrictive social antagonism and authoritarian technologized biopolitics. In this context, in addition to the crises already mentioned, we are also experiencing an existential crisis of the rule of law, which finds expression not least in the increasing public questioning of its modes of operation.
The first issue of the “Journal for the Critical Study of Society” brings together voices from different disciplines and with diverse perspectives. They are all united by the desire to critically reflect on the current social upheavals and the underlying logic of the crisis situation from their respective perspectives and with the toolbox of their academic field. Based on this reflection, these contributions point to more fundamental and longer-term developments and deeper currents of social, political as well as philosophical thought and develop the first approaches of an interdisciplinary research program that can grasp the crisis-driven transformation in its complexity, classify it, and point to possible solutions. In this respect, they also point the way for future issues of this journal.
PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Cognition and Delusion. The Problem of Science in the World Crisis
Negotiating the future of political philosophy and practice: Renewal of democracy or technocratic governance
, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
The widespread understanding of Covid-19 as a threat to public (health) security serves as the discursive foundation for the application of emergency measures – both in terms of public health measures as well as in the field of political decision-making procedures. It has led to a strengthening of the role of (medical) experts for policy-making at the expense of formerly established democratic procedures and public debate. It has also increased the notion that information can be either important or antithetical to security – observable for example in the stark increase in journalistic referrals to fact-checkers and the demonization of what has been labeled mal-, dis-, and mis-information. In this article, we first explore, whether this securitization of Covid.19 has led to disruptions in the societal sub-systems of democratic governance and scientific debate. Second, we examine the role of expertocratic and technocratic thinking in the current crisis discourse against the background of both historical and current trends in political philosophy.
Immunity: Security; Security: Immunity… ad infinitum
, Brunel University London
This article argues that the way Covid has been dealt with reinforces one of the major ideological shifts of our time, namely the conflation of immunity and security. This is a process whereby security has been increasingly naturalised as a kind of biological truth and the body imagined as a security system. Exploring the development of this conflation through both the immunological imagination and key texts from within the world of security, the article then turns to the autoimmune disease and asks the obvious question: if the immune system can turn against the very body it is meant to be defending, what does this tell us about the security system and what it will do to its own body politic?
Communicating Fear in the Corona Pandemic: On the Pattern of a linguistic-communicative Practice
, Universität Greifswald
On the Scapegoating of the Unvaccinated: A Media Analysis of Political Propaganda During the COVID-19 Pandemic
, University of Chicago
As COVID-19 vaccines were introduced to the public in 2021, nation states employed a concerted propaganda campaign to encourage vaccine uptake. At first, the propaganda claimed that the vaccines would prevent infection and end the pandemic. Once the number of COVID-19 cases grew exponentially shortly after the largest mass vaccination campaign in human history, the propaganda shifted to construct a new minority group called “the unvaccinated” whom it scapegoated for the hardships brought on since March of 2020 by state-enforced lockdowns. This essay analyzes the mediatized macropolitical discourse of late 2021 and early 2022, to show how it created an ideological climate which justified the political repression of persons identified as unvaccinated and the widespread establishment of a two-tiered segregationist society based on vaccination status.
The Destabilization of Democracies – A Discourse Analysis
, SSIP, Berlin
This micro-study, which analyzes a chat history on the topic of mask-wearing in the network "nebenan.de" between the first and the second Covid19 wave in 2020, focusses on the stability of liberal attitudes in Western democracies and the processes threatening them from within. For some years now, two tendencies have characterized public communication in Germany, a discourse of fear and security and a highly tense moralization in defending opposing positions, for which the phrase "That's won't do at all" has recently become an expression. Security discourses perpetuate fear, and fear discourses promote authoritarian attitudes. Together with the prevalent “cancel culture”, these tendencies add up to the emergence of an illiberal deformation of Western democracy that has been boosted massively by corona politics. The study aims to reconstruct these issues in a cross-cut of everyday communication.
Why communication studies needs a reboot
, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
The paper argues for placing public communication at the center of critical social analysis, critiques the status quo of media and journalism research, and develops an agenda that includes ownership, international opinion cartels, the entanglement of states and digital corporations, and the influence of resource-rich actors on media realities.