11 January 2021

The Climatic Virus in an Age of Paralysis

CoverPhD Fellow Nikolaj Schultz has contributed to the recent issue of Critical Inquiry titled ‘Posts from the Pandemic’.

In the essay 'The Climatic Virus in an Age of Paralysis', which was first published in the beginning of the COCID-19 pandemic, Nikolaj Schultz discusses why the pandemic in its first weeks not only created wide-spread fear, panic and anxiety but also seemed to evoke a feeling of relief in the public.

Schultz suggests that this paradoxical feeling could originate from a prior accumulation of collective anxiety created by the climate crisis and its numerous political challenges. As he writes:

“If we understand these affects as partly deriving from the climatic changes, then we find at least two reasons for it being a logical outcome: on the one hand, because the pandemic now allows for a concrete drain of the collective anxiety that the climate’s abstract risks accumulate; on the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, because we are right now exactly seeing how all the social systems that we thought made the ecological transition impossible—production, consumption, mobility, and so on—are not chiseled in stone but are in fact changeable.”

In this sense, the virus may even end up as an emancipatory tool in an age of paralysis, he concludes.

The whole issue on the pandemic, which includes texts written by Slavoj Zizek, Bruno Latour, Catherine Malabou, Lorraine Daston, Achille Mbembe among others, is free to download.

Read the essay: The Climatic Virus in an Age of Paralysis