- After global financial crisis in 2008 we faced a new era of skepticism towards economic and political establishment.
- The utopian energies of the meta-narratives no longer exist, people lack such a deeper source of energy. Consumption is not enough – people strive for meaning.
- The current crisis opened up spaces for unique opportunities. It’s up to us how we deal with it and what happens next.
- Digitalization and globalization are our biggest allies in fighting the crisis. We’ve never had more knowledge on technology, scientific findings and other cultures.
The political and economic arrangement that has dominated the world for several decades is on its last legs. What is not determined is what will take its place and the pace at which a transition to some new arrangement will occur. However severe the current crisis, and whatever the outcome might be, big changes are coming in how the worldwide economies will develop, how people and societies will live and set priorities, and which political system will provide the best answers, if there is any.
In the 1980s, and especially at the beginning of the 1990s, a proclamation that there is no better alternative was placed and established successfully around most parts of the world. “Free markets” and “less government” (today termed as neoliberalism) were going to deliver the goods to all. After the fail of a socialist counter-system, capitalist profits were up again after the serious slump and stagnation of the 1970s.
“However severe the current crisis, and whatever the outcome might be, big changes are coming”
That bubble is now going to burst. The global financial crisis of 2008 exposed the system’s dysfunction. Bailing out the finance capitalists with their laissez-faire economy who caused the crisis while leaving the working and middle classes to fend for themselves, was a jolt to public’s opinion worldwide. The steady rise in inequality since has turned that jolt into a deep well of anger against the powers-that-be.
Mistrust Between Generations and Nations
In addition, the demographic shifts, a changing mindset within societies, the skepticism about the benefits of globalization and the digitalization and its technological power ended in a large-scale disruption of the economic and political establishment and its competences in many countries. This has caused a raise of intolerance between nations and mistrust between generations.
The escalating crises of climate change, racism and global migration now hang over everything. The coronavirus pandemic, which’s impact is still in its early stages, does too.
It seems to be the end of an era and the beginning of fight of what will replace it. So, what comes next?
The reality is, we have no idea. And that’s the danger of this moment and its exhilaration. Amid the heartache and tragedy, the current crises open up spaces of political possibility in ways scarcely imaginable without it. What will take its place is up to us and as we familiarize ourselves with the virus, the recession and social crisis are shaping and we shouldn’t view it just as a tragedy, but also as an unique opportunity.
Without a doubt, 2020 is a year of multi-dimensional volatility and significance that is forcing us to question many believes and historical achievements.
Meta Narratives Lost Their Radiance
But the causes started, of course, well before this year: The big stories are either no longer told, or people don’t believe in their relevance. The meta-narratives of Enlightenment, Idealism and Liberalism have lost their radiance. The message of the liberal political, economic and social order and its legitimacy is increasingly critically questioned by society. And in the face of constant wars and environmental destruction and other injustices, hardly anyone can believe in the idea of meaningful historical progress.
The result, in my view, is a much more pronounced reluctance on principle to the established, to the “obsolete” views of the experienced generations, and to a policy that has brought many people a lot of prosperity in recent years. Being against something on principle cannot be a good motto, at least not if you can’t present people with (better) alternatives. The danger I see is that a vacuum will be created, which will not be filled with any suboptimal alternative. Instead, one orients oneself more and more on small stories, which today are mostly egocentric, banal and commercial. At least this is the impression when you look at the big stories of the political leaders via Twitter and the many small stories of the fellow human beings via Facebook, Instagram or TikTok.
The comprehensive promise of individual carelessness in the sign of a permanently attractive commodity-producing capitalism inspires many people – and not only in the West. The people of Germany – and China – are materially much better off than previous generations, but this ubiquitous consumer spectacle lacks meaning. Nor is it sustainable energy as the effect lasts only briefly – the constant supply of consumption is therefore inherent in the system. This leads to intangible dissatisfaction. People not only have material consumption needs, but also a very strong need for meaning.
“Without a doubt, 2020 is a year of multi-dimensional volatility and significance that is forcing us to question many believes and historical achievements”
Globalization and Digitalization are Important Allies
Now that the utopian energies of the meta-narratives no longer exist, people lack such a deeper source of energy. The result is no social attachment and a certain energetic exhaustion. If we, as a society, want to feel a solid and common ground under our feet again, then we must quickly reach a common denominator about our social, political and economic objectives. And we must learn that some of the “devil’s work” of politics in recent decades – especially globalization and digitalization – may be the most important allies in finding a new order and not just destroy jobs or promote inequality around the world.
AI and Big Data need to be used for the better good. Collaboration in a connected world is crucial and not the promoted protectionism, which we hear all around the world these days. And the science behind climate change is by far better and conclusive this time around, while we have a lack of common understanding of how to handle this global pandemic. The world is in trouble, since too many disruptions happen within a short time period for us to ignore those political, economic and technical tools, which we already have at hand.
Now a space has opened up for a different, more realistic view of human nature: Ability to cooperate across borders and cultures. From this conviction, the rest can follow – a society based on trust, a tax system rooted in solidarity, governments that fulfil their obligation towards their citizens, and the sustainable investments needed to secure our future, while using these tools and knowledge. And all this just in time to be prepared for the biggest challenge of this century, our crises in slow motion – climate change, health crisis, economic disaster, inequality and migration.
Nobody knows where these crises will lead us. But compared to the past, at least we should be prepared better, because we’ve never had more knowledge based on our generation’s experiences, our available technology, our scientific findings and our learnings about other cultures.
Christian Muche is an internationally well recognized executive and business strategist operating at the intersection of digital, marketing, technology and event industries with an extensive track record for brands like AOL, YAHOO and FIFA. Christian is the co-founding partner of WUNDERGUARD and the initiator behind this new boutique consulting firm. In this role, Christian creates successful brands and design, position and support companies as well as individual global executives all over the world. He is also the co-founder and brain behind DMEXCO, one of the leading global digital marketing event platform. With his decentralized team in Europe, he ran the day-to-day business of DMEXCO for nearly ten years till 2018. In 2019, Christian launched D:PULSE – the innovative global boutique-style conference show.
For more than 13 years Christian Muche has lived with his family in New Zealand, holds a German as well as Kiwi passport and enjoys various outdoor sports, including mountain biking, trekking and diving.