A new global dialectic.
What will emerge from the ashes in the post-pandemic world?
The world is currently in a state of pandemonium. Never before have we as a collective race been threatened by something so all encompassing and so dangerous. Indeed, infectious pandemics have occurred throughout history and have taken the lives of many people in the process. However, the emergence of globalised, interconnected, multipolar society has meant that for the first time, an infectious disease has had the ability to spread across the whole world simultaneously. It is truly an Armageddon-like situation that we currently find ourselves in, unable to leave our homes unless absolutely necessary and unable to physically see our loved ones. Global mental, physical, and emotional health is slowly deteriorating throughout the world, as citizens struggle to come to terms with their own self-confinement.
The pandemic itself, COVID-19, will eventually end. That has to be made a clear conviction from the start. The disease will end, after it has run its horrifically deadly course through each nation-state, causing untold and unknown damage to people’s lives, families, and livelihoods. However, it will end, and life will go on. People will metaphorically crawl out from beneath the rock they have been hiding under and experience a world that appears starkly different from when they disappeared under the rock.
The world, in the next half a decade, will change in ways that we could have never envisaged if not for COVID-19. As I have argued in previous articles, COVID-19 has ripped up the carpet of humanity to reveal all of us, living underneath, in the darkness of our own naivety and ignorance. We need to learn from our mistakes in the recent past, whether they be political, social, or economic, in order to create a new world order that we can control.
The world is changing at a speed we never thought possible, governments are acting at speeds deemed deeply unnecessary outside of a wartime state. Global society is at the brink, as the dialectic moves ever forward. COVID-19 is the new antithesis to our 21st century thesis. What will occur next will depend on how we deal with this new counterpoint to global society.
Economic recession and Austerity
The International Monetary Fund has already announced a warning that the world will suffer its harshest recession since the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s. They have warned that it will be much worse than the financial crash of 2008. The IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, has warned that the “great lockdown [will be] the worst recession since the Great depression” as the global economy has been estimated to shrink by 3%. Compare this to the crash of 2008, when we only experienced a contraction of 0.1%. This 3% shrink however only assumes that the world comes out of global lockdown by June. If not, then the IMF suggest an additional 3% contraction. Whilst the IMF argue that the global economy is far better prepared than in 1929 to experience a worldwide economic contraction, the facts nevertheless project that the world will be plunged into economic Armageddon.
But the real problems always follow the economics. Indeed, in 2008, the crash brought brutal Austerity measures to the UK, which caused an increase in child poverty and a mass contraction of public services. As the UK currently begins to emerge from the cellar of Austerity, it seems highly likely that we will be forced to return into it in the short years to come. Austerity, in hindsight, breeds two types of global eventuality. One is a radical left-wing movement which argues to reverse the measures. The other is a radical right-wing movement which chooses to create a scapegoat, through which they can blame Austerity on. The unfortunate fact is that, as we saw with Brexit and Trump, right-wing radicalism usually prevails.
From this right-wing populism/radicalism, a surge of xenophobia and racism will cause hard borders to be put in place across the world. This will cause global society to revert itself back to the nation-state segregation before the Second World War. The result of global segregation will likely be a potential conflict. Whether it be war-by-proxy, or direct conflict, depends on who rules the global dialectic at that time.
Realignment of the global dialectic.
As the world emerges from hibernation, a new global hierarchy will need to be forged. When the global economy contracts, it will ultimately need re-booting. This regeneration can only come from two main superpowers: the USA, or China. The two nations have been at odds in a trade war since Trump’s election victory in 2016. Indeed, it conveniently ended just before the pandemic. These two nations will have the task of saving the global economy, as only these two have the financial and economic resources at their disposal to do so.
China however has an advantage over the USA. They have time. China has already experienced the worst of COVID-19 and has started to recover already. The USA in contrast, has not even reached its peak yet, and Trump will have to be re-elected later this year to continue his presidency. China therefore will have the remainder of this year to establish itself as the world’s saving grace. Indeed, they already control much of South East Asia, and nearly the entirety of Africa. Xi Jinping has been toiling away to control Africa for years, dedicating himself to his BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), under which he hopes to control global production both on the oceans and on land. A quote that I overheard completes the image of China’s superior vision and work ethic:
“The rest of the world is playing checkers, when China is playing chess”.
Jinping’s vision for global dominance has been planned for nearly a decade. He hopes to realign the global dialectic to make China the new status-quo. The USA needs to combat this if they want to remain ‘top dog’. However, Trump has a rather difficult year ahead of him. He will need to first deal with his national problems before he turns to retaining global dominance.
China’s potential dominance will bring two contrapuntal eventualities. On the one hand, it will bring an onslaught of subconscious vilification from the USA’s allies, who will try to degrade China and make them seem an illegitimate global leader. But on the other hand, the world will become even more dependent on China to meet growing production demands, as we enter an age of hyper-consumerism. These contrasting outcomes will likely fuse to a point where China will cement their position at the peak of the global hierarchy, not by legitimacy, but by the fact that the rest of the world will rely on them to keep their economies afloat.
Probably the most obvious change that this pandemic has brought is a sudden obsession with personal hygiene, which has never existed to such an extent before. Fundamentally necessary and essential to preventing the spread of the coronavirus, it must be noted that this level of almost compulsory cleanliness is unprecedented.
Nevertheless, these measures will likely remain in some form. Personal hygiene will be regarded as of the utmost importance in a post-COVID world. Regular hand washing will likely remain in place, as will some level of social distancing in supermarkets and consumer outlets. Restaurants may likely reduce table volume to allow more space between them. Whilst this is arguably what should have already been in place, life from a personal health perspective will become far more rigid and regulated.
People will most likely resent this transformation. Whilst consumerism demand will increase, the speed of physical interaction between the consumer and the producer will decrease, due to a lack of social patience. Online shopping will increase dramatically, whilst high streets and supermarkets will find themselves far quieter. More so-called ‘dark stores’ will be built to accommodate the demand for online shopping, and high street outlets will sacrifice their space for this.
These potential changes to how we will live our lives in a post-pandemic world barely scratch the surface. Every aspect of life will in some way change. Whether its for the best remains to be seen. What is certain is that when the pieces of the global kaleidoscope begin to settle, they will need to be repaired and reconfigured.
Who will fix the pieces, and in whose favour will they be fixed in? As of this moment, no one can say for certain. The speculations in this article are merely that. They may not even occur. But history has taught us that no event is an isolated nuance. Everything has a cause and effect. People who do not listen to history are doomed to repeat it. Before this is all over, a global power will rise from the pandemic ashes. The compass of global power will oscillate and then point in a different direction. That is undoubtedly certain.
Who will it point to? And what will it mean for us all? We will have to figure that out in due course. But first of all, we have a world to take back.