For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Virus interruptus: An Arendtian exploration of political world-building in pandemic times"

by Gardiner, Rita A; Fulfer, Katy (2020)


Building upon a series of blog posts and conversations, two feminist scholars explore how political community, trust, responsibility and solidarity are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We explore the ways in which we can engage in political world-building during pandemic times through the work of Hannah Arendt. Following Arendt’s notion of the world as the space for human togetherness, we ask: how can we respond to COVID-19’s interruptions to the familiarity of daily life and our relationship to public space? By extending relational accounts of public health and organizational ethics, we critique a narrow view of solidarity that focuses on individual compliance with public health directives. Instead, we argue that solidarity involves addressing structural inequities, both within public health and our wider community. Finally, we suggest possibilities for political world-building by considering how new forms of human togetherness might emerge as we forge a collective ‘new normal’

Key Passage

The virus seems to have brought our existential vulnerability and interdependence to the fore. Thus, it alerts us to a paradox; that is, our physical health is vulnerable to the new virus, while our mental wellbeing is vulnerable through increased isolation. While it seems that many are grappling with this paradox of vulnerability, our argument is that the virus and this paradox should also alert us to pay attention to our social connections with others, to take responsibility for structural injustices that occur in the workplace and to recognize how they affect diverse working lives. In particular, what this pandemic has brought to the fore is the gender, race and other intersectional inequities that can be erased behind our politicians’ calls for a collective and dutiful response on the part of citizens. (p.157)


Gender, Pandemic, Covid-19, Public Health, Public Space, Essential Workers


On Arendt

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