“He Had Won the Victory Over Himself. He Loved the Lockdown.”

We’re publishing an original piece tonight by Dr Sinéad Murphy, an Associate Researcher in Philosophy at Newcastle University, about why it is the public have put up so little resistance to lockdowns. She was prompted to wonder about this by recent pieces on why the Conservatives did so well in last week’s election, from Freddie Sayers’s piece in UnHerd attributing it to Stockholm Syndrome to Noah Carl’s piece in Lockdown Sceptics discussing status quo bias. Dr Murphy thinks it is something more sinister – and deeper – than that.

In an essay from 25 years ago on contemporary conditions of work, the Italian philosopher Paulo Virno identified the phenomenon of uprooting as increasingly operative in societies like his own. Not a once-off uprooting, such as moving from one job or career to another, but an unending process of uprooting, the effect of precarious employment and its continual auditing, in which workers must always be ready to move onwards or upwards and to cultivate the commensurate skills of adaptability and virtuosic sociability.

Most pertinent in Virno’s analysis is the alliance it indicated between this endless uprooting and a certain brand of gullibility. The erosion of stability gives rise to a hyperbolic and free-floating feeling of belonging, even though occasions for it are slight or implausible.

“The impossibility of securing ourselves within any durable context,” Virno wrote, “disproportionately increases our adherence to the most fragile instances of the here and now… to every present order, to all rules, to all games.”

Does the phenomenon of uprooting that Virno described apply to our situation now? Does it explain the curious adherence of so many in our society to the present Covid order and to those who dictate it, no matter how fragile it, and they, have become?

Worth reading in full.

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