The Politics and Pedagogy of ‘Post-Truth’, COVID-19 Knowledge

Year: 2021

Author: Kwok, Henry, Singh, Parlo, Heimans, Stephen

Type of paper: Individual Paper

In this paper we theorise ‘post-truth’, using work by Foucault and Bernstein, making two arguments; 1. that ‘post-truth’ as refracted through the pandemic resonates with some aspects of ‘will to truth’ in Foucault’s work. Contemporary versions of ‘post-truth’ might be understood as an indication of a strengthening scepticism against the contemporary social mechanisms by which truth and knowledge are ordered. Second, by making use of Bernstein’s extension of Foucault’s work, we make the case that ‘post-truth’ has two features in relation to the conditions of knowledge (re)production: (1) that tensions arising from the pedagogisation of medical knowledge are more visible than they have been before, and (2) that greater exposure to aspects of scientific knowledge production enhances the biopolitical process of responsibilisation: i.e. the pandemic engenders feelings of uncertainty, increases the fear of losing control and security- which are also features/ outcomes of neoliberal governance. As individuals and collective agents, we see ourselves as responsible for our own fates and health. In this paper, we dig into the media discourse around the knowledge controversies concerning the COVID-19 in order to illustrate our argument. We investigate the division of knowledge labour in relation to post-truth and elucidate how and by whom knowledge production/reproduction is struggled over. These struggles are important to pay attention to because the number of deaths and illnesses caused by the pandemic, and the search for answers about the causes of the pandemic, and what/who/how the pandemic can be stopped or curtailed, remains an important task.