Morality and Law
Values ​​of the Coronavirus Era

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is spreading to new cities and countries. An increasing number of people are being forced to observe quarantines and self-isolate. Many have lost their jobs and businesses due to the suspension of economic activity. Entire industries are on the verge of bankruptcy. Society is starting to feel more anxious and more uncertain.

Naturally, this poignant change in the social situation around the world has led to a surge in expert analyses of newly-emerging problems and the search for ways to solve them, if not immediately, during the epidemic, then at least in the medium term. This is also justified, because today there is strong public demand for an examination of the problems and consequences of the pandemic. All other topics of world politics and economics, for obvious reasons, are now considered secondary among readers, consumers and decision-makers.

As a result, already at present, there is no shortage of various forecasts regarding the future world order after the coronavirus. All of them can perhaps be reduced to two large groups. One point of view is that after the epidemic, everything will return to normal. People will return to the joys of life, and the economy and social fabric of interconnections in the world will actively recover to a more or less rapid degree depending on the financial resources of various countries and companies. Relatively speaking, here we see the most understandable example (and model) of the history of the rapid development of the world after the end of World War II. This position is distinguished by an initially optimistic worldview, and expert assessments in this context are focused on how to restore what was most optimal and least costly. The overall outcome, according to this paradigm, should be the revival of the pre-coronavirus status quo, naturally, with the addition of more attention to medical problems.

The alternate point of view is very different from this. Its concentrated expression is perhaps best represented in the phrase: "The world will never be the same again." The logic of its adherents is that the scale and level of upheaval both for the global economy and, no less importantly, for social connections and mental attitudes and values ​​will be too large and will have too strong an impact on social psychology, which will turn out to be impossible to shift back to the way it was.

Those who have studied Marxism can recall here one of the laws of dialectics on the transition of quantitative changes to qualitative ones. According to this logic, this is precisely the case when this law begins to act and proves its merit. Thus, the main result of this approach is the emphasis on the irreversibility and initial transformation of coronavirus-related changes in the world.

This point of view is largely based on the theoretical principles of the concept of a global risk society. Earlier on at the Valdai Discussion Club, we wrote about the notion’s increased popularity in connection with the coronavirus:
When Disasters and Epidemics Become a New Normal
Oleg Barabanov
Over the past half century, or in the 75 years since the end of World War II, the human community has developed at an unprecedented speed. The scientific and technological revolution led to a real breakthrough in the field of transport communications; the Internet and mobile communications not only caused a revolution, but also qualitatively changed the areas of trade, investment, etc. Globalisation, understood not only as a single system of world trade, but as a new quality of mobility and the interconnectedness of people, has become a reality that transcends state borders.

. In short, the essence of this concept is that a sharp increase in humanity’s impact on nature, the complexity of technological development and the intensity of global social ties, together with the explosive development of consumer society have led to the fact, that in the world, the level of risk of various disasters, epidemics, etc. has significantly increased. In part, these are echoes of the old catastrophism in the report on the Limits of Growth by the Club of Rome, but they are connected not only with lack of resources, but, so to speak, with systemic imbalance at the global level. As a result, risk and a sense of impending danger become constant companions of humanity. According to this logic, even after the end of the coronavirus epidemic, something else will surely happen in the world. It is clear that the catastrophism and pessimism of this approach are not very attractive, but any quick review of global public opinion will underscore its popularity. This isn’t just due to the influence of current anxiety stemming from the rate at which coronavirus is spreading. Such an approach is equally important for its transformational potential, so that the optimal reconfiguration of global society, economics and politics after the coronavirus runs its course is carried out optimally, taking into account the possible new risks and challenges of a non-political nature in the future.

And in this regard, the question arises not just about political and managerial practices in such a context, but also about new moral principles of our global society.
Each era has its own values, unique to it. And if the world “will never be the same”, then its values ​​will also change greatly.

 It is clear that it is extremely difficult now to give a full-fledged forecast of what the values ​​of this new world will be, but some first hints can be made now.

The first value of this new world will undoubtedly be associated with global solidarity. In a planetary society of risk, it is solidarity which becomes the key to survival. At the same time, we agree, the first months of the current pandemic showed, along with vivid cases of this kind of solidarity, much more examples of closeness and the cutting off of global social ties. The growth of sinophobia in the world during the early stages of the epidemic has now transformed into tangible tendencies toward xenophobia in relation to other risk groups (white tourists in the developing world, for example). This xenophobia from the level of states, races and peoples descends to lower social levels: to the levels of individual cities, neighbourhoods, down to their neighbours at home. Will this feeling of xenophobia disappear after the end of the epidemic, when everything will return to “the way things were” or will it remain as a long-term mental attitude towards all strangers, due to the fears experienced during the epidemic? If it remains, then serious obstacles will arise on the path to global sustainable development. Thus, we can suggest that, perhaps, the value of global solidarity will become the main value of the post-corona world. Certainly, against the background of contradictory aspirations pushing for closeness and xenophobia.

The second possible value for the new world will be related to the dilemma between freedom and security. The coronavirus epidemic is very acute and extremely quickly puts this dilemma at the forefront of the public consciousness. Rapid quarantine measures limit many human rights. In a number of countries, a fairly wide public debate has begun about the admissibility and extent of this. The thesis that “the epidemic will end, but restrictions will remain” is also gaining popularity. It is clear that these debates are caused not least by the internal political struggle in individual countries. However, it’s obvious that in a society threatened by omnipresent risks, the balance between freedom and security is likely to shift as people place more value on the latter. Thus, if the full political implications of such attitudes are understood, people could indeed continue to make do without personal liberty throughout the world, even after the epidemic. Naturally,  can and will be acceptance of the new status quo would be combined with nostalgia for lost freedom. In an extreme case, such a society could take the form of a practical dystopia, like in the film "The Matrix".

The third value, which is now emerging from the response to the epidemic, is also almost unthinkable from the standpoint of globalism and its moral principles. This is the value of state support, and, more broadly, the value of an effective state as such. The pandemic revealed that private business collapses faster and earlier in a global catastrophe than the state. It brings with it unemployment, social unrest, and other problems. In almost all countries, the key question now is the issue of large-scale measures of state support for both citizens and private business. In a society which addresses long-term risks, this request for state assistance will be met. Naturally, there is a dangerous proclivity towards authoritarian tendencies on the part of the state, which may spread non-transparent and corrupt management practices, but nevertheless, the state would be much more highly appraised in a global risk society than it is now.

The fourth value will be related to rethinking the current value of consumption and lead us to rethink the status of the global consumer society as the status quo. Here it’s not my intention to belabour the "horrors" of the consumer society (in quotation marks or without them). But simple logic allows us to assert that in a society of global risk, there is no place for the overvaluation of consumption, there is no place for consumption to be the sole purpose of the existence, be it among the middle class or the broad masses. And, accordingly, the global risk society displaces consumer society.

Naturally, this sketch of possible future values ​​is incomplete and somewhat provocative. Each reader can imagine for him or herself other options that reflect what he or she considers important. In conclusion, everyone would like to hope that the pandemic will quickly end, and everything will be the same again. The optimistic scenario for restoring the pre-coronavirus status quo is understandably more enjoyable and desirable in terms of social psychology. But the need to ensure that the global political framework is ready for possible new challenges does not allow us to discard the pessimistic and transformational scenario, with its new values ​​(or anti-values, as you like)he ongoing coronavirus pandemic is spreading to new cities and countries. An increasing number of people are forced to switch to quarantine and self-isolation. Many lose their jobs and businesses are due to the suspension of economic activity.
Coronavirus Ethics: Is There a Difference Between the First and Third Worlds?
Oleg Barabanov
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has apparently spread from China to Europe in recent days. Italy was the first European country where the number of infected people reached the hundreds. The number of people infected in France and other countries is also growing; every day, the coronavirus distribution map adds new countries. And, worst of all, the increase in the number of infected people is accompanied by a growing death toll, including increasing death tolls in Europe.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.