At the time of publication of this issue, we are incredulously, insecurely, and helplessly witnessing a situation only comparable to that experienced in both twentieth-century World Wars. A global pandemic, which has once again placed the human species before a scenario that is as unprecedented and unknown as it is unpredictable, and which forces us to think about the world we have built and advance hypotheses about the consequences and potential future scenarios. With academic humility and aware that a new «black swan» can once again radically change any forecast.
Many questions are now being asked in social sciences (as well as in health and environmental sciences) about what the immediate future will be like and how it will affect our societies and our lives. Not only do we lack answers, but many questions will probably need to be changed. Nevertheless, academics, from their different viewpoints, have been quick to investigate (the outstanding contributions in this issue are a good example) and at the same time have ventured to analyse and discuss the underlying currents that concern contemporary societies in this new time which for some colleagues means the end of a world.
«The pandemic must not be used as an alibi to maintain unsustainable production and growth models»
Important analyses are now being made about the potential geopolitical effects in a world without a centre, which is increasingly multi-unipolar and in which the European Union is moving lazily, refusing to become the planet’s «third geopolitical space» between the relative decline of the USA and the relative rise of China. Bleak projections are made of the economic and social effect of the global pandemic, to the extent that we are talking about the Great Depression of 2020. The economic, social, and political consequences of the collapse of fractured societies that are demanding physical or virtual walls from their political representatives are being discussed – especially in Europe, where Euroscepticism is consolidated in the absence of projects capable of offering security in the face of a future that generates fears that are not only explained by the economy. There are warnings about the threats to liberal democracies and the temptation for various powers to use different versions of digital surveillance, restricting freedom and manipulating information. There is even a debate about which models are more «efficient and effective» (Asian or Western) in organising societies and which will advance or decline in the immediate future. Potential cultural changes and the impact on essential areas such as the city model, the influence or regression of religions, interpersonal relations, mobility, and even forms of consumption, are currently under analysis. Finally, there are discussions regarding the role of the media in an era in which lying is consolidated as a form of network communication, outside the traditional media, and as a political tool, at a time when what happens thousands of kilometres away is «local», while what happens in our own area is «global».
Nobody knows what the future holds, what that «strange country» my teacher Josep Fontana referred to. However, I believe that it is possible to draw some lessons from this global pandemic. I would like to suggest some, among many others, that I think are relevant. Firstly, there will be winners and losers, also among us. There will be differences, depending on the part of the world and the family in which we were born, but it is always the same people who suffer most. The invisible ones that we are now rushing to identify as essential. Secondly, it will now be more difficult to oppose the idea of extending public space. Especially the social and healthcare pillar. Thirdly, in a more de-globalised context it will be easier for public authorities to strengthen strategic autonomy at European level. Fourthly, it will be necessary to insist that it would be a mistake to leave aside the fight against the climate crisis in favour of a productivist model. The pandemic must not be used as an alibi to maintain unsustainable production and growth models. Finally, I believe it is essential to have public strategies to deal with new and unknown extreme risks, because they are here to stay.