Is Coronavirus The End Of It All?

Once every few years or so, something happens to make the pundits wonder if we have finally reached the end of the road for globalization. Y2K, the financial crisis of 2007–08, Brexit, and now the COVID-19 pandemic … each in turn point to vulnerabilities built into a tightly connected world, making some wonder if it’s all about to come tumbling down.

I’ve always thought such reports were, like Mark Twain’s death, at least somewhat exaggerated. Looking back over recent events or at longer history can be misleading; the truth is in our bones, and the desire to roam and connect is too intrinsic to human nature to simply switch off. Eighty-thousand years of wandering in search of food and mates must be habit-forming.

But while a coronavirus pandemic may not kill globalization, it may very well change it. Well before the first cases emerged in China, there were signs of a global system in transition — slower growth, vulnerable supply chains, creaky international institutions and stark regional differences to how to deal with matters like security, democracy, climate and, now, disease.

If you look close enough, you can see a world in the COVID-19 virus.

The pandemic reveals not just how fragile our globalized scaffolding is, but how personal, too. As Heny Mance writes in the Financial Times, coronavirus may finally force us to consider what’s really important — how we interact with each other, where we travel and why, and how utterly interdependent we have become, and perhaps always where.

Courtesy of David Gallagher, Board of Advisors member and President, Growth and Development, International for Omnicon Public Relations Group