Twenty to forty million people died in each of our most recent major wars - the two World Wars. These conflicts fundamentally changed the political and social order of Europe, then the world. Empires collapsed, borders shifted, there were rapid and radical transfers of wealth and power.
After both pandemics the world economy, though bruised, rebounded to heights never before experienced
The Black Death (after a contraction of 23 .5%!) probably catalysed the first ever real expansion of the European economy and the Spanish Flu was immediately followed by the world’s most famous bull-run: the Roaring Twenties.
More fundamentally, the Black Death led to profound and permanent shift in the power of labour as the lower classes permanently claimed a stake in society. This process, started by a pandemic eventually spelled the death knell for selfdom and the feudal system itself and can even be traced as the source of the democratic revolutions that have led us to today.
How's that for impact!
Likewise, the Spanish Flu (which didn't originate in Spain: the first case was recorded on a military base in Kansas, US) accelerated the conditions for extremism that ultimately led to both Communal and National Socialism (shorthand: Communism and Nazism).
Again, quite the impact!
In both cases it seemed that little outwardly changed with the pandemics, but under-the-surface the very foundations of the social and political system shifted.
Everything that was already in train sped up.
This is a question we can now start asking, both at a social level but also in our lives and work-places.
Here’s a short-list of some high-level things we know Covid19 is accelerating but there will be many more around you:
- Remote Working
- Political polarisation
- Re-localisation and the ‘end of globalisation’
- Social surveillance
- Social Capital
One of the greatest academic contributions to the field of recovery was the concept of Social Capital coined by Robert Putnam in 1994 (HERE). These are the ties and relationships that bind people together. The drive for ‘rehumanising’ the workplace has been given a massive boost in the last few weeks - see HERE for a slide deck I've been using with clients this last two weeks. Click HERE if you want to schedule a quick chat about the role of social capital in organisational recovery.
“The mask has slipped… no-one expects you to be super-human anymore.”
We don’t yet know what is going to emerge from this pandemic. What we do know is that it is likely to be profound.