The conceptual rat race that the current crisis has launched is aimed at finding its ‘principle’, its hegemonic interpretation, and setting it in stone: “So that’s what it’s all about!” — within the event, as a redistribution of forces which splits clearly into before and after, the old ‘vision’ collapses and gives way to attempts to end up with ‘the upper hand’ by pulling oneself out of the bog by one’s hair. Such ventures are of little philosophical value. Such totalizing meanings are perhaps of most interest to spectators of the economic system — a kind of divining for the direction of fate in the bones, coins, or joss sticks.
An event is a multifaceted set of distinct problems. Each problem presents a case through the event it has been implicated in. Events don’t generate problems, but rather specify their conditions, prescribing the individual cases, which does not necessarily make the problems appear clearer or more tractable — quite on the contrary, their interconnectedness comes to the fore. The case of the double bind of “work and risk your life, or stay home and starve” is merely accentuated in the current crisis, as well as its connection to other spheres— the oil industry, fueled by the commutes of millions of workers, the dissolution of welfare in the name of economic efficiency, but also questions of family: care of the elderly, marital abuse. Thus we can hazard a definition of ‘crisis’ as a species of event (a quantitative distinction) — a crisis makes cases of vastly disparate problems, folding them together, letting them resonate. There’s an ambivalence here: it is not that the systems in which we live are pushed to breaking point by some outside pressure, allowing the cracks to show, it’s that the problems that have been conditioned into the lines of ordinary events that make up our lives have all reached special and critical points in their progressive determination. Thus we should compensate the predicate ‘unprecedented’ with the observation that despite how singular the moment is, all of the refrains that are now in crescendo are utterly quotidian, and that it is necessary for it to be so (this might just be the reason why ‘global’ principles sound so tasteless).
The bid and hunt for the totalizing meaning that could produce sense of these disparate problems — sublimate all of the cases — tries to dissolve these problems, swap out critical or singular points for ordinary points being prolonged. Nothing to see here. Thus, we should be as suspicious of the revolutionary rhetoric concerning the possibility of a ‘new world’ that might emerge from all this as the conservative rhetoric that hopes to demonstrate the ordinality of what is happening by creative accounting concerning death figures and probabilities…
An event might indeed be a time of change. And we try to figure out and control this change by understanding ‘what’s it all about’. But such attempts are not about liberation, they are about control (the ‘chance’ to introduce new means of surveillance etc). They are not about plenty, they are about austerity. They are about making us blind to the problems, and about making us unable to react to them.