Tom 26 Nr 3 (2022)

“A picture held us captive…”: Or, on what the pandemic has changed and what it cannot change

Strony: 13-30

PDF (English)


The article aims to establish how incisive the changes in social reality triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are. The first part examines the distinctiveness of the current pandemic in comparison with other epidemics, and investigates responses to it from within the humanities. The second part focuses on defining the viable criteria of social change. Two such criteria are provided: change in the world-picture in terms of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy and change in the concept of the reality of reality as proposed by Luc Boltanski. In the following part, these criteria are applied to analyze the debate on the pandemic unfolding in the humanities and social sciences. In the concluding part, the notion of the apparatus (dispositif) is introduced as a useful tool for exploring and depicting the social consequences of the pandemic. When this notion is juxtaposed with the adopted criteria, the epidemic can be seen to change the operative trajectory and the structure of apparatuses and, consequently, to alter the world-picture and the reality of reality as it progresses. While what durable changes (if any) the pandemic will cause cannot be established with any certainty, it can definitely be expected to enhance the social and political processes which had commenced before its outbreak. In this regard, the epidemic has produced one crucial change; specifically, communitarians are clearly getting the upper hand over liberals in the long-standing dispute between the two.