While some talk of ‘deglobalisation’, the pandemic will push forward the globalisation of labour
Branko Milanović is an economist specialised in development and inequality. His newest book is “Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World”
Cross-posted from IPS Journal
The current pandemic is probably the first global event in the history of the human race. By ‘global’ I mean it has affected almost everybody, regardless of country of residence or social class. If, in a couple of years — when hopefully it is over and we are alive — we meet friends from any corner of the world, we shall all have the same stories to share: fear, tedium, isolation, lost jobs and wages, lockdowns, government restrictions and face masks. No other event comes close.
Wars, even world wars, were limited: people in Switzerland, let alone in New Zealand, did not have meaningful war stories to share with those from Poland, Yugoslavia, Germany or Japan. And in the past 75 years wars were local.
Many young people might have protested against the Vietnam war but most experienced none of its effects. People were outraged at the siege of Sarajevo, bombardment of Gaza or Iraq ‘shock and awe’. But for 99.9 per cent of mankind that outrage did not change their daily routine one bit: they still got up early to go to school or work, laughed with colleagues, maybe went out for a drink and ended up at a karaoke bar. They had no stories to share with the residents of Sarajevo, Gaza or Baghdad — nothing in common.
Even football — and its fanatical supporters tell themselves world events mimic football — cannot compete. The last World Cup final was watched by 1.1 billion people, about one out of every six people in the world. There were still many who ignored its existence and could not care less which team won or lost.
Into the history books
Covid-19 will enter the history books as the first truly global event also thanks to our technological development: not only are we able to communicate across the globe but we can follow,