Forecasts regarding the development of the coronavirus pandemic are still very diverse. There is no unified, or even dominant, view. Much of it reminds us of fortune-telling. However, this does not prevent us from thinking about what will happen to all of us as individuals and to the world community after the pandemic subsides.
Three general post-coronavirus scenarios
The first and simplest scenario is that the world will remain the same, and for humanity, this virus will remain nothing more than an unpleasant memory. The pandemic will not affect (or hardly affect) the mentality of people, including their political views, and therefore the current world order will remain as it is. In this scenario the argument (which is already underway) that the world will become different after the virus is nothing more than speculation.
The second scenario is that after the virus, the world will change dramatically, a new era will begin, in which the shadow of the ‘plague of the 20th century’ will forever loom. In this scenario, a clean slate in terms of world order could be likely and feasible.
The third scenario is not that simple but, in my opinion, the most probable: changes in the world will certainly occur, but in what areas, how soon will they take place, and how will they unfold is of course difficult to determine.
Faith in the time of coronavirus
Regarding faith in a post-coronavirus world, humanity will first have a feeling of ‘global civilisational insecurity’ (something like inferiority), a disbelief in human superiority. Because people, as it turned out, were unable to withstand a certain force that was beyond their control. Key institutions, including the state and the economy will collapse, and so on. People will find themselves in a different value paradigm to which they are unaccustomed. We can say that people will even find themselves in a different dimension, in which ethics and the relationship between common and material values change. To a certain extent, a concept of ‘common values’ would also evolve, and become depoliticised.
People will often turn to religion and seek the protection of the Almighty. The coronavirus could be seen as the ‘punishment of God’ for sins that people have accumulated over the centuries. An opposite reaction is also possible, namely, disgust of God, who failed and did not want to support his creation, created in his image and likeness. However, the first scenario seems more likely. In this regard, whether the number of parishioners in churches increases in the future will be telling. It will probably increase, because people will, first, thank God for the deliverance from adversity, and later thank the authorities and medicine, who acted with great delay.
Communication and public behaviour
It is quite possible that in the longer run, the need for in person communication will decrease, but virtual communication will increase, as it has already. At first, immediately after the abolition of isolation measures, the craving for face-to-face communication would sharply but briefly increase. However, after all, people will become more indifferent to each other, interpersonal detachment will increase.
Public distrust could grow; there will be a depreciation of some advanced technologies, especially medical ones. This would namely be due to the length of time it took to provide a vaccine and cure for the virus.
Because of the quarantine measures, some habits may change, for example, people will refuse to shake hands or give a kiss on the cheek at meetings, the number of receptions and gatherings in general will decrease, which will of course affect the nature of human relations.
For a while after the end of the pandemic, the public will remain wary of mass events such as concerts, rallies, etc. On the other hand, a part of society, primarily young people, tired of isolation, will compensate by actively participating in various public events, including political ones. It is possible that mass festivities will be held in some countries to mark the official end of the pandemic.
How will quarantine and similar measures affect family life?
Two polar trends will appear. On the one hand, it is a great opportunity to spend time with your family. On the other hand, in many families addiction to a separate life may form. Also, some sociologists predict an increase in the number of divorces.
The mass quarantine established in some countries is presented by authorities as a unique opportunity to ‘just live carefree and calmly’, assuming a household has access to all kinds of entertainment, albeit virtual, like a break from busy life. At the same time, there are many people who would argue that staying in a confined space is a kind of ‘austerity of the 21st century’, an opportunity to think about the meaning of life and the way of life that you lead.
Different political responses to the pandemic
The changes will affect Europe and North America to the greatest extent, as disasters are more acute in prosperous regions. Local communities in the West were not psychologically ready for this pandemic in the least. Confusion came. Western civilisation has revealed its fragility. Believing in its invariable superiority over all other countries and civilisations, the West has suddenly felt its vulnerability. (Inevitably, there have been comparisons made between the current pandemic and the medieval plague, which arose for unknown reasons and ended not at all thanks to the care of healers of the time.)
In their response, international organisations, from the European Union to the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, have demonstrated their failure, a ‘weak link in the chain’. In a number of Eastern European countries, for example Serbia, there has been great disappointment in their partners to the West.
National states took on the main role in protecting against complete disaster. And this indicates that the nation-state paradigm will remain in world politics. This will lead to a decrease in the importance of the mandatory implementation of collective decisions adopted by international organisations. In particular, it may concern the continuation of sanctions against Iran, Russia, etc. Each state will proceed, first of all, based on its own interests. So, in the 21st century, the ideology and practice of the Peace of Westphalia, concluded in 1648, is turning out to be more than relevant.
In such a situation, the United States will find it more difficult to claim hegemony both in the West and in the world in general. In Europe, attention has been drawn to the fact that at first Washington tried to find a means of fighting the coronavirus on its own, neglecting cooperation with its allies. The unpreparedness of the leading world power for the pandemic also caused disappointment. However, cooperation has started and there are expectations that it will be effective.
Hence the even greater discrediting (almost collapse) of the idea of globalism, which was recently developed primarily in the United States and was intended to serve as a confirmation of the inevitability of US leadership.
In the minds of Europeans – at least some of them – the question arises as to which regimes are more able to withstand large-scale disasters. The popularity of national populists criticising the local authorities and the European Union will increase even more, and they will have chances for further political success. As a result, in some European states, as well as in the US, a transformation of political order will occur.
The possible spread of the coronavirus among migrants may contribute to these changes. This cannot be ruled out due to the presence in many cities of migrant areas, as well as ‘Muslim areas’. To date, accurate statistics on this are not available. If a spread does occur, it will aggravate the interethnic and interreligious situation in Europe.
Arguably, authoritarian China acted more efficiently than Italy, Spain, and the United States, showing greater reliability than its democratic counterparts. China offered its assistance to a number of countries such as Serbia. Such humanitarian actions can subsequently affect, if not the establishment’s position, then a public opinion, which would bode well for China’s image.
The way Russia will cope with the pandemic is of great importance. If the country succeeds in a relatively short time and with minimal casualties, its credibility will increase. Russia provided assistance to other countries. Russian sent 15 aircraft to Italy, with several medical teams. According to the Ministry of Health in Kyrgyzstan, Moscow provided resources to the Central Asian country. Russia has also given economic assistance to Moldova.
All of this taken together will serve as proof that there are no ideal political regimes in the world, and therefore it is possible and necessary to deal with those that exist as best we can.
As for the East and South (Eurasia and Africa) – in other words the ‘non-West’ – cataclysms are not perceived as tragically in these places. Due to a number of characteristics such as their historical or civilisational development, as well as geography, a habit of coping with crisis situations has formed. The ‘non-West’ is poorer than the West, and therefore the material losses of each individual person are not so significant. The ‘non-West’ will survive the pandemic with seemingly less pain. It is difficult to predict how dramatically the situation will develop in Africa if the disease begins to spread on a large scale though.
At the end of the day
It is premature to make any final conclusions about how the coronavirus pandemic will ultimately affect the world. The process continues, and is rapidly changing every day. Contrary to what many journalists and publicists predict, it is the author’s view that fundamentally people will not change, though perhaps some superficial behaviour will. Some of the trends noted in this article were developed long before the current pandemic, which has the potential of stimulating some of these trends and slowing others down. The important thing is which of its consequences will be long-term, and which are opportunistic. In particular, this applies to some democratic norms. And if at the moment a part of society has gained confidence in the need for their partial restriction, then after the epidemic, such legislative norms can be restored.
The pandemic will no doubt affect the formation of the world order. The nation-state will remain central, the role of international intergovernmental organisations, including the UN, could be weakened, and public distrust could increase. Perhaps the role of public, humanitarian, and scientific institutions will increase. The value of bilateral relations could also increase. Discontent over US hegemonic claims will intensify. And the last point: having felt a vulnerability to a common threat, humankind will increasingly take care of climate change issues, which, if accelerated, will also lead to disasters.