REVIEW: Pan(dem)ic! – Covid-19 Shakes the World (2020)

A book by Slavoj Zizek

I first came into contact with the writing of Slavoj Zizek through the essays and books he’s written for and on behalf of the Slovenian art industrial band Laibach. Most of the stuff published in English on the band is either by him or has something to do with him. He has a dry sense of humor that I appreciate and is very thorough with his discussions. While most of his books are NOT pop philosophy books, meaning a person like me, who only took one college class on the subject would be overwhelmed and lost at page one, he does occasionally make books like this for the masses. Pan(dem)ic! is a series of philosophical essays on a wide variety of topics related to Covid-19. Zizek attempts to make sense of things like toilet paper hoarding, bouts of isolation from quarantining, and even the political quagmire we found ourselves in last year.

“As an unprecedented global pandemic sweeps the planet, who better than the supercharged Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek to uncover its deeper meanings, marvel at its mind-boggling paradoxes and speculate on the profundity of its consequences? We live in a moment when the greatest act of love is to stay distant from the object of your affection. When governments renowned for ruthless cuts in public spending can suddenly conjure up trillions. When toilet paper becomes a commodity as precious as diamonds. And when, according to Zizek, a new form of communism – the outlines of which can already be seen in the very heartlands of neoliberalism – may be the only way of averting a descent into global barbarism. Written with his customary brio and love of analogies in popular culture (Quentin Tarantino and H. G. Wells sit next to Hegel and Marx), Zizek provides a concise and provocative snapshot of the crisis as it widens, engulfing us all.”

Some of his more outside the box thoughts were very interesting including Zizek’s observations of a new breed of Communism springing up through the pandemic when most accepted that we would become Ultra-Capitalistic due to the emergency. This is most evident in the many ways States have been forced to do things “that are not possible” like provide school lunches to children, mass produce goods such as masks by directive of the State, and even increase the safety net for those that have lost work as a direct result of the virus. He contrasts this with a concept of “New Barbarism” a term set aside for the “sucks to be you” mentality that politicians such as Donald Trump have seemed to employ. Zizek is well-known in circles as a man who fully understands Communist theory, as he is routinely put against people like Jordan B. Peterson in debates, so hearing him talk about this is interesting. He could be looking for things that aren’t there to prop up his own political leaning, but it seemed like he had a well-thought out argument.

As a “starter” book from Zizek, this is a great choice – his thoughts are self-contained and usually do not go into the almost masturbatory referencing to other philosophers without citation that most prominent philosophy books do. He has some good ideas and observations, and the book is fun to read. There is a second volume out there on the market that I also plan to read, and if this mess keeps up I could very well see a third. Definitely recommended if you aren’t already tired of hearing about Covid.

If you are interested in your very own copy of this book, click HERE.

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