cover image The Revenge of the Real: Post-Pandemic Politics

The Revenge of the Real: Post-Pandemic Politics

Benjamin Bratton. Verso, $19.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-83976-256-7

In this dense yet potent account, Bratton (The New Normal), director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego, draws on lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic to “imagine a world in which planetary society is able to deliberately compose itself with compassion and reason” in order to tackle geopolitical problems. He blames Western countries’ chaotic, ineffectual response to the disease on a lack of international cooperation and “reactionary forms of political populism” in such nations as the U.S. and the U.K., where an overemphasis on individualism, combined with anti-Chinese attitudes and paranoia about surveillance technology, hindered the efficacy of available solutions such as mask-wearing and temporary lockdowns. In contrast, fatalities were relatively low in Singapore, Taiwan, and other Asian countries where contact tracing and testing were more competently managed and publicly accepted. Arguing that the pandemic has revealed the need for a “planetary positive biopolitics” that prioritizes the shared needs of humankind over geographic boundaries and cultural differences, Bratton outlines how such an approach could harness technological advances and the powers of the state and private corporations to combat climate change and other existential threats. While Bratton offers more utopian ideology than concrete, practical solutions, his call for a global shift in priorities is galvanizing. Philosophically minded activists will want to take note. (June)