The Coronavirus Outbreak is the worst epidemic in nearly the past 100 years with over 2 million infected cases and nearly 200,000 deaths so far, it has spilt over around the globe. Indiscriminately, it has affected both the developed and underdeveloped worlds both the Global North and Global South is suffering from the deadly disease.
The failure of first world countries in curbing the virus raises eyebrows over the sustainability and more importantly, the efficiency, of the global system which is largely based upon Capitalist Market. Although global wealth has been increasing with each passing year, the question arises whether this wealth is adding to the general welfare of the masses?
The triumph of Neo-Liberal System after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had brought many certain features with itself. The globalization, increasing global markets, privatization and the rise of billionaire individuals reflected the success in the areas of reducing unemployment and in more uniformly distribution of high-tech systems. The availability of information through the access of the internet, mobiles and other smart technologies was thought to be the greatest accomplishment in the history of mankind.
The zest was so popular that Francis Fukuyama, a political scientist, labelled this success as the last plausible stage of success which is perfect in its every essence. His book “The End of History and the Last Man” argues that no further stages of development are remaining after the Neo-Liberal System, otherwise known as the Capitalist World System.
However, most of the analysts and scholars failed to grasp the core idea of the welfare system. The idea of general welfare is related to the availability of basic needs to the general population. Most Western scholars justified the non-availability of resources and poverty in underdeveloped states by labelling their local systems as inherently corrupt. Hence, according to them, corruption is the prevalent factor which hampers those nations to prosper.
Moreover, the mass manufacturing of advanced tech-related products and the access of the general public to these items were deemed as the embodiment of development and welfare. The growth in the nation’s wealth due to the competition between various private enterprises also supplemented this notion of welfare. Hence, the projection of the state’s prosperity was carried out through the measurement of wealth and investments without specifying the areas of deposition of these investments.
The recent burst of Coronavirus exposed the failure not only in practice but in the basic tenets of capitalism as well. The concept of “self-maximization” which opens the door of competition gives the investors space in prioritizing those areas which breed more profit. Eventually, what Marx termed as “Fetishism” prevails in the society. The focus on luxuries while undermining the necessities have shifted the concentration away from the core assumptions of sustainable development. The shortage of medical supplies including masks and ventilators has explicitly highlighted the dark side of the capitalist system.
While there is no harm in achieving self-maximization through legal means yet the priorities must be set. The international system is structured as such that the states are the prime actors in it. However, internally, states, whether developed or underdeveloped, face challenges from the pressure groups who have the influence over the states’ system.
For the first world countries, the industrialists and billionaires who play a vital role in the economy, in fact being the main drivers of economy, have the monopoly over the production. The service and tech-based economy have enabled the billionaires and industrialists to creep more profit while adding to the wealth of the state. In return, while adhering to the realpolitik, states utilize the wealth to strengthen their structure and invest more on their defence as the stats reflect.
Ironically, the concept of security and defence is now largely attributed to the military measures only while ignoring the economic and health safety. The primary responsibility of the state is to ensure the efficiency of the health sector and better lifestyle of its public. Paradoxically, in the wake of this epidemic, states around the world, have themselves, deprived their public of these rights through the lockdown. The most affected strata from this step are the working class and the peasants since the elite and business tycoons require none or little support to keep their capital flow or to get the medical supplies. The discrimination is evident even if this is the global epidemic as the lower layers are becoming the most affected as the consequence.
Indeed, it is correct that by locking down the entire country, the state’s apparatus has contained the spread of the virus. Moreover, by generating funds to compensate the poor class financially is yet another step to minimize the impact of this catastrophic event. However, nearly every state is struggling hard to coup up with this tragedy and with each passing day, the capacity of various states is draining.
It is also a grim reminder of how much the states value their subjects i.e. the people. Alongside it, the billionaires and large industries which monopolize over the economic sector are at the backhand in this situation. Although some have announced donating some health kits and dollars, however, considering the bulk of their profit, such steps are more of a “display” instead of actual “assistance”.
It is important to realize that if the state provides incentives for the capitalist class to grow their enterprises, in return, it must be obliged upon them to support the state in any alarming situation. The “Keynesian Model” in this regard was proposed which empowered the state to initiate and supervise the business activities. Thus, many small scale businesses are established through this mechanism which helps in bridging the class gap. Still, it does not fill up the devoid of welfare needs for which the people entrust their rights to the state. The priorities must be altered.
Although the technology and services provide the luxury yet they cannot compensate for the welfare sectors. Both the government and the billionaires are accommodating each other so as to preserve their privileged status. The welfare activities are largely delegated to the NGOs. Such organizations play a vital role in the welfare sector but it must be noted that they only provide the government with a helping hand instead of taking up the responsibility as a whole.
Conclusively, capitalism has created the dichotomy in the same area for which it was initially envisaged i.e. human development and growth. The fruits of technological advancement can only be cherished once the surficial requirements are fulfilled uniformly. The epidemic has manifested that unless the investment in the welfare sector isn’t carried out, all the progress in all other sectors would remain futile. It is the responsibility of the state to devise the strategy in keeping the businesses activities in check and propose the demands before the investors to spend in certain areas of the state’s requirements.
Moreover, as the measure of reformation, states around the world must also pay attention to individual security in terms of both health and economy rather than ensuring the military might only. US and Europe with all their military might and the booming industries are now the epicentres of the virus. Hence, capitalism requires renovation if it is to be sustained. After all, the world has sacrificed 45 odd years just to ensure the triumph of capitalism i.e. the Cold War.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.