Pietzcker, D. (2020). A decisive moment of truth: The covid-19 crisis unveils the weaknesses of western societies and the E.U. Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly, 1(3), 20-34.
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All crises – whether they are political, economic, organizational, societal or medical – have one decisive quality: they expose the strengths and weaknesses of the affected system and of all its members. COVID-19 challenges a liberal economic system where personal security, individual comfort and well-being, and the accumulation of wealth are considered to be the highest values. These values, and the way of life that goes with them, are still powerful motivational catalysts in societies based on materialism. Indeed, the free exchange of goods and services, individual mobility, the international flexibilization of production and distribution – all that we call globalization or as an eponym, “global capitalism” (Beckert, 2014) – carry deep, intrinsic risks. One of the most obvious outcomes of the coronavirus crisis is to reveal how easily this interdependent system between global players – enterprises, institutions and states – can be disrupted, damaged and partially destroyed. Those countries that succeeded in fighting, in as fast and draconian as possible, the COVID-19 pandemic will be the global winners of this race against time and spread. Among these countries will certainly be China, South Korea and Singapore, as they all entered the crisis in its early stages and quickly established strict, coherent and elaborate medical regimes (Welter, 2020). The economy of the Eurozone, already weakened before the pandemic, has suffered enormously and will not recover soon. Unemployment rates are already increasing dramatically in Southern Europe. Europe, and the E.U. as a political idea and visionary project for so many decades and generations, are facing harder times. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, authoritarian and reactionary neonationalist ideas are likely to gain strength, while the world economy may experience an enduring recession, destroying wealth and stability, and challenging – if not changing – the existing global order. COVID-19 could mark a crucial historical moment: the end of the laissez-faire era, not only in economics and finance, but also in politics, culture and private life.
Keywords: Asianization; economic crisis; European integration; globalization; neoliberal capitalism