Corona and Globalization Part I

Corona and Globalization Part I

Suddenly, the whole world was hit by a state of emergency. Planes were put on the ground, schools and cafes closed. In addition, many lost their jobs. What happened, and what does the covid-19 drama tell us about globalization?

  • What is globalization?
  • How does globalization make us vulnerable to pandemics?
  • What significance have pandemics had in world history?
  • What social consequences can the pandemic have?

The corona pandemic is a global crisis: it is affecting people all over the world.

We are soon eight billion, and the vast majority of us have heard about the disease and have had our lives changed by it. It is a world-historical event that will have consequences for the economy, politics, identity, culture and interpersonal relations for a long time. This crisis is probably the most significant global event since World War II, and no one can know for sure what the long-term effects will be.

2: Covid-19 from China to Chile

It was late in 2019 that what turned out to be a new coronavirus had begun to spread in the city of Wuhan in central China. In the following months, the disease, known as covid-19, spread explosively and exponentially, ie by doubling. The numbers were modest at first, but soon millions of people were infected and many thousands died. Most of the infected did recover, but many needed treatment, and the capacity of hospitals in several countries was blown up.

Across the world, strict security measures were put in place to limit the spread. Schools, kindergartens and universities were temporarily closed, as were restaurants and cafes. Public events, from debate meetings to concerts and football matches, were canceled, and anyone who had the opportunity was encouraged or required to work from home.

Although there was some variation from country to country, there were many similarities between the advice and orders given by the authorities in different parts of the world, from Chile to Mongolia, from Ireland to Indonesia.

3: The close ties of globalization

To understand how and why we have been so affected by the new coronavirus, it is important to understand what globalization is. Globalization can be defined as the totality of the processes that make the world increasingly integrated across national borders. It has economic, political, cultural and environmental dimensions.

  • Economically , all countries in the world are dependent on international trade and production. According to PROZIPCODES, an item assembled at a factory in Germany may have components manufactured in China, raw materials imported from Morocco and a large part of the market in the United States.
  • Politically , a large number of agreements exist between countries, but even more important is international cooperation through supranational organizations such as the UN system. The number of international organizations has increased rapidly since the 1950s.
  • Culturally , ever larger parts of the world’s population are characterized by the same currents, from advertising and film to English courses and consumption habits.
  • When it comes to the environment, the whole planet is like a giant ecosystem, where pollution and emissions in one country affect the climate and environment in other countries.

4: The Butterfly Effect

Between 1980 and 2020, world trade quadrupled. Air traffic has also increased dramatically this century. In 2004, around two billion flights were registered – by 2019, the number had more than doubled. In addition, more and more of us live in cities. In 2007, for the first time in world history, more than half of the world’s population lived in cities. We are more and more often in contact with others than ever before, also across national borders.

The constant exchange of goods and services, the increased communication and contact across national borders have led to significant economic growth globally, but it also creates vulnerability.

We are all interdependent thanks to billions of invisible, thin, but important bonds that connect us across the planet. In a globalized world, it is actually possible to say that everything is connected to everything. It is not possible to close the borders and protect oneself one hundred percent against outside influence, something the pandemic reminds us of.

Globalization shows that changes in one area create major ripple effects. A metaphor used in research on complex systems is called the butterfly effect . It is based on a butterfly that flutters its small wings in Rio de Janeiro and thus creates a tiny stream of air. This airflow meets another, larger airflow and changes its direction. Similar effects propagate upwards in the system, and the result is a hurricane in Texas.

A small tug can overturn a large load, it is also called. The corona crisis is an excellent illustration of the fact that the saying has gained new relevance in a globalized, intertwined time that creates great opportunities, but also equally great vulnerability.

It probably began when a customer at the market in Wuhan was infected by a shellfish (pangolin), which in turn had been infected by a bat. This local, seemingly insignificant event caused, just three months later, thousands of planes to land around the world, millions of people had lost their livelihoods, billions lived under strict state surveillance and with limited freedom of movement, stock prices fell, and heads of state spoke as if their country was at war.

Air traffic fell by more than 90 per cent in March 2020, compared with March 2019. This says something about the extent of the crisis.

There was general agreement among experts that the corona crisis would lead to a severe setback for the world economy. It therefore tells us something significant about the nature of economic globalization and about how closely intertwined the world’s population is in the 21st century. One reason why it is important to understand how the global economy works is that it affects virtually every other aspect of society, from personal lifestyles to international politics.

Corona and Globalization 1