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Will coronavirus herald the end of capitalism?
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The shared experience of Covid-19 will ignite social change

As the world wars have shown, social change is much more likely when a community has experienced the same trauma.

The Argument

Some communities and groups of people are objectively more capable of handling the COVID-19 pandemic than others. For example, COVID-19 is ravaging inner-city communities because social distancing is difficult to practice in places where there is overcrowding. In addition, many people living in low-income neighborhoods are essential retail workers who can't afford to take a leave of absence from their jobs, resulting in them being in contact with members of the public each day, therefore putting them at greater risk of contracting the virus. This puts everybody in danger- including wealthy consumers who are better equipped to take precautions against COVID-19. The virus has "validated the core socialist tenet that we are all dependent on each other. When one nation lacks the public-health infrastructure necessary to contain an infectious disease, the public health of all nations is undermined,” journalist Eric Levitz says. “If millions of Americans cannot afford to stay home from work or access medical care when they are ill, the well-being of all Americans is jeopardized.” [1]The COVID-19 pandemic is an equalizer in the sense that it is a shared trauma, as every person in an infected society is impacted by the virus to some degree, and nobody is immune from infection, regardless of their privilege. Additionally, the pandemic is highlighting the various injustices and disparities that exist within our society. One example is how some businesses are forcing their employees to return to work once stay at home orders are lifted, despite some employees not feeling safe doing so. As a result, consumer spending is now a form of social protest: "Company behavior now will affect consumer purchasing choices later. More than three-quarters of Americans say that how a company treats employees and customers during the pandemic will be an important factor when determining whether to support them in a post-COVID world." [2] As a result, companies are more likely to adopt ethical business practices, such as expanding healthcare for their workers or raising their wages to compensate for the increased risk they're being put at, even though its at a greater cost to the company as a whole. Recently, "socialism has won the sympathies of Millennials, and now that generation has been riveted by two great traumas—the financial crisis and coronavirus recessions—that profoundly impair their careers, ability to purchase homes, and raise children." [3]The financial crisis is another example of a shared trauma that ignited a wave of social change, leading to disillusioned young Americans flocking to Bernie Sanders and supporting his socialist beliefs. The crisis is being exacerbated by certain aspects of capitalism, and because an incredibly vast number of people within society are being negatively impacted, this shared trauma will result in demands for reform and a shift towards a more compassionate, flexible economic system.

Counter arguments

COVID-19 is not a shared trauma because it actually doesn't impact every person the same way. The wealthy can live in isolation, work from home, and afford to purchase both essential items, such as groceries, and non-essential items, such as entertainment. The wealthy people within our society, such as business owners or politicians, possess the resources necessary to achieve social change (money, free time, political capital, etc), but have no incentive to work towards that social change because they are privileged individuals, and social change would not benefit them directly. Therefore, because COVID-19 does not negatively impact the most powerful people within our society, the pandemic is not a shared trauma, and no substantial social change is possible.



[P1] COVID-19 is an equalizer because it has a ripple affect that defies class, gender, or race privilege and affects everybody. Therefore, it's a shared trauma. [P2] This has lead to social change because consumers are now more aware of how the unethical actions of corporations are affecting society as a whole, and are using their purchases as an act of economic protest.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 7 Oct 2020 at 07:33 UTC