What World Is This?
A Pandemic Phenomenology
by Judith Butler
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Pub Date 08 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 15 Feb 2023
The pandemic compels us to ask fundamental questions about our place in the world: the many ways humans rely on one another, how we vitally and sometimes fatally breathe the same air, share the surfaces of the earth, and exist in proximity to other porous creatures in order to live in a social world. What we require to live can also imperil our lives. How do we think from, and about, this common bind?
Judith Butler shows how COVID-19 and all its consequences—political, social, ecological, economic—have challenged us to reconsider the sense of the world that such disasters bring about. Drawing on the work of Max Scheler, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and critical feminist phenomenology, Butler illuminates the conditions in which we seek to make sense of our disorientation, precarity, and social bonds. What World Is This? offers a new account of interdependency in which touching and breathing, capacities that amid a viral outbreak can threaten life itself, challenge the boundaries of the body and selfhood. Criticizing notions of unlimited personal liberty and the killing forces of racism, sexism, and classism, this book suggests that the pandemic illuminates the potential of shared vulnerabilities as well as the injustice of pervasive inequalities.
Exposing and opposing forms of injustice that deny the essential interrelationship of living creatures, Butler argues for a radical social equality and advocates modes of resistance that seek to establish new conditions of livability and a new sense of a shared world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Judith Butler is Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. They are the author of several books, most recently The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind (2020). Butler’s previous Columbia University Press books include Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012) and Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000).
"In this timely and important book, Butler pays careful attention to the specifics of our contemporary situation with startling clarity, bringing her inimitable voice and philosophical resources to the questions of what it means for life to be livable, what it means for the earth to be inhabitable, what it means for an entity to be grievable, and the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has cast these questions into relief, at the same time marking how intimately entwined with each other they are."
--Amy Hollywood, author of Acute Melancholia and Other Essays: Mysticism, History, and the Study of Religion