What’s next?

April 08, 2020

Whatever you might be thinking about the long-term impacts of the coronavirus epidemic, you’re probably not thinking big enough. Our lives have already been reshaped so dramatically in the...

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Whatever you might be thinking about the long-term impacts of the coronavirus epidemic, you’re probably not thinking big enough. Our lives have already been reshaped so dramatically in the past few weeks that it’s difficult to see beyond the next news cycle. We’re bracing for the recession we all know is here, wondering how long the lockdown will last, and praying that our loved ones will all make it through alive.

But, in the same way that Covid-19 is spreading at an exponential rate, we also need to think exponentially about its long-term impact on our culture and society.

A year or two from now, the virus itself will likely have become a manageable part of our lives – effective treatments will have emerged; a vaccine will be available. But the impact of coronavirus on our global civilization will only just be unfolding. The massive disruptions we’re already seeing in our lives are just the first heralds of a historic transformation in political and societal norms.

If Covid-19 was spreading across a stable and resilient world, its impact could be abrupt but contained. Leaders would consult together; economies disrupted temporarily; people would make do for a while with changed circumstances – and then, after the shock, look forward to getting back to normal. That’s not, however, the world in which we live. Instead, this coronavirus is revealing the structural faults of a system that have been papered over for decades as they’ve been steadily worsening.

Gaping economic inequalities, rampant ecological destruction, and pervasive political corruption are all results of unbalanced systems relying on each other to remain precariously poised. Now, as one system destabilizes, expect others to tumble down in tandem in a cascade known by researchers as “synchronous failure.”

The first signs of this structural destabilization are just beginning to show. Our globalized economy relies on just-in-time inventory for hyper-efficient production. As supply chains are disrupted through factory closures and border closings, shortages in household items, medications, and food will begin surfacing, leading to rounds of panic buying that will only exacerbate the situation. The world economy is entering a downturn so steep it could exceed the severity of the Great Depression.

The international political system – already on the ropes with Trump’s “America First” xenophobia and the Brexit fiasco – is likely to unravel further, as the global influence of the United States tanks while Chinese power strengthens. Meanwhile, the Global South, where Covid-19 is just beginning to make itself felt, may face disruption on a scale far greater than the more affluent Global North.

Excerpted from: 'Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?'

Counterpunch.org



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