Dialectics of the pandemic: between authoritarianism and utopia?

CHBE beach: 2024 – 2027
No.: 511445208
Total funding: € 266,950

The study addresses the question, and in relation to the critical theory of the early Frankfurt School, whether the current corona crisis management reinforces authoritarian desires in society and leads to a new form of ideology that could be called necropolitical populism. From a dialectical perspective, however, the global health crisis could also provide an opportunity for political and social learning processes. It will therefore be examined to what extent civic critiques contribute to the emergence of utopian perspectives. Following Ernst Bloch, it will be discussed whether civil society based scandalizations that negate the status Quo are motivated by latent, i. e. not yet conscious, utopian desires that can be imaginatively transformed into manifest concrete utopias based on artistic forms of action and protest. The study draws on contemporary utopia-theoretical debates in (queer) feminist contexts and asks whether ideological interpellations can be subverted by dystopian narratives and artistic performance practices. The transdisciplinary project is situated at the intersection of psychoanalysis, cultural theory, and political philosophy and aims to develop a psychoanalytically informed critical theory that reflects on the origins and effects of authoritarian populism. At the same time, a dialectical perspective will be used to look for social dynamics that might counteract authoritarian developments in society and politics. The starting thesis is that a psychoanalytically informed critical theory can provide insights about affective as well as partly unconscious social dynamics triggered by the pandemic like no other social theory. Therefore, the social meaning, the origin as well as the partly unconscious and not yet conscious mode of action of desire structures shall be elaborated.The aim of the project is to develop a psychoanalytically inspired critical theory of political desire and subjectivation, which can be located in the field of political philosophy and critical cultural research. The innovative contribution is to elaborate the political and cultural significance of the unconscious and of desire, which has been neglected especially in social-scientific debates on the authoritarian crisis, from an ideology-critical perspective and to link them to questions of subject-constituting interpellations.


  • University of Vienna (Austria): Cooperation with the Institute for Political Science and the Institute for International Development as part of the DFG project “The Dialectics of the Pandemic”
  • University of Art and Design Linz (Austria): Cooperation with the Department of Cultural Studies as part of the DFG project “The Dialectics of the Pandemic”
  • Psychoanalytical University (IPU), Berlin: Cooperation in the field of cultural theory and psychoanalysis
  • Political Psychology Working Group at Leibniz Universität Hannover
  • Working Group Political Psychology at the Sigmund Freud Institute, Frankfurt/Main
  • Society for women in philosophy e.V.

Project results

At the end of the project, corresponding publications are planned, which we will present here.


Coordinator: Prof. Dr. phil. Nadja Meisterhans, nmeisterhans@karlshochschule.org

Scientific Cooperation: Dr. phil. Alexander Neupert-Doppler, aneupert@karlshochschule.org

Further information about the project can be found at: https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/511445208

Funded by the DFG. The project was transferred to the DFG as part of the “Money follows researcher” program.