Coronavirus and Enaction of Human-made Complexity Paradoxes


I discuss some key characteristics of current societies as more sharply emerging during coronavirus pandemic. Going beyond the specificities of the virus, I argue that ‘human-made complexity’ represents the cultural milieu within which this pandemic is developing and focus on the technical and conceptual equipment this cultural context provides to manage extreme events, including pandemics. Without entering debates concerning whether this equipment is being properly used or not in present circumstances, I highlight how societies frame and react to systemic challenges in the light of human-made complexity and associated implications. This leads me to identify a series of key logical paradoxes that are being permanently enacted. “Managing the unexpected”, “isolating interconnection”, “rational irrationality”, “relying on invisibles” and “deadly vitality” are expressions to render the constituting antinomies. I then discuss how living within these paradoxes entails a kind of societal blindness to their inherent bipolarity and the possible generation of intolerable situations of stress and systemic crises. The final sections of the paper provide instead some food for thought on how to sidestep or escape these antinomies.

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