Normalizing the Population: The Biopolitics of the “New Normal”

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While the whole world is trying to get its bearings in the face of the radical changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, two prevailing attitudes or approaches have emerged: (1) a yearning for a return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy typified by what I call the “typhoon-shelter approach” and (2) recognizing the irreversibility of the current condition and seeking to establish a “new normal.” The biopolitical analysis employed in this paper reveals unintended consequences that slip through the mesh of traditional forms of critique centered on capital, ideology, or class conflict. Specifically, the “new normal” project prevents the free movement of peoples while ensuring the continuous flow of data through what Luciano Floridi calls the “infosphere.” This politics instills a xenophobia in which the other is construed as a disease while migrating the population to the realm of virtual reality.