The Post-Progress Era? Pandemics, Today’s Crisis and the Exhaustion of the West, 189-204

Radu Cristian Andreescu


The need to tackle a global crisis such as the pandemics calls for a reassessment of the theory of progress. This implies neither the impossibility of further historical progress, nor the end of history as such, but the steep decline of what Jean-François Lyotard called a “grand narrative” of progress which guided the modern European development. The recent global events could therefore mark the beginning of a post-progress era based on the end of this metanarrative. However, the debate initiated here does not aim to discover the effects of the language-games or to dissociate the “inhuman” of the technological development from the human, as Lyotard suggested. In fact, the figures of authority who fought for recognition during modernity, through scientific and political revolutions, are now facing a crisis of confidence. The scientist and the statesman are still expected to work on the separate fields of nature and society and to achieve certain results. Nevertheless, following Bruno Latour’s critique of modernity, we argue that this expectation fails, since it posits a modern, yet inoperative, separation between nature and society. The way a biological virus circulates today through the social networks challenges us with another major issue which is both political and scientific. The exhaustion of the West comes from what Latour called “work of purification”, namely the Sisyphean modern process of separating nature from society while paradoxically and simultaneously concealing and precipitating their hybridization. Since our modern world used to explain its progress by obliterating the intertwined nature-society objects, a post-progress era would mean the acknowledgement of the impossibility of progress under these terms. Consequently, the scientist’s and the statesman’s tasks will no longer be those stipulated by modernity, while the universal state based on modern assumptions ceases to promise the happy-end of our history.   


progress, Western tradition, pandemics, modernity, nature-society, history.

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ISSN 2668-0009; ISSN-L 2668-0009