Since March 2020, many philosophers have written about the COVID-19 pandemic situation, including Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou. The two have very close political positions, but their reactions to the situation have been very different. While Žižek sees the coronavirus pandemic as an important trigger for fundamental political change, Badiou argues that the current situation will not cause a revolution or endanger capitalism.
We believe that the two philosophers’ different understandings of the concept of the other led to this difference of positions. Both philosophers have within three kinds of concepts of the other: the immanent and relative other, the transcendent and absolute other, and the immanent and absolute other. The crucial difference between Žižek and Badiou lies in the relationship between the two absolute others. In the case of Žižek, the immanent and absolute other, the object a, is the effect of, and is a part of, the transcendental and absolute other, the big other. In other words, the immanent and absolute other has a direct relationship with the transcendent and absolute other. In the case of Badiou, on the other hand, there is no direct relationship between infinity and void. For Žižek, COVID-19 is a big other in society, and thus can be an opportunity to reshape society. For Badiou, the pandemic cannot have any effect on the political situation, because the infinity has no direct relationship with the void.