COVID-19 and the Corpse of Neoliberal Globalization An Intercultural View

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Tung-Yi Kho


The COVID-19 pandemic is as much a process of globalization as it is its outcome. In the wake of the death, socio-economic devastation, and radical uncertainties it has unleashed, this paper re-examines globalization anew. This paper’s focus is on the role that neoliberalism has played in precipitating the COVID-19 disaster, especially in the wealthiest nations of the West. Re-visiting history, the paper takes issue with the rhetoric of globalization that had been sold as a project ushering in an interconnected global village exalting culture and community. Against such exuberance, the paper recalls that globalization was a post-Cold War project celebrating liberal-capitalism’s ‘triumph’ over state-socialism. It reveals globalization to be foremost about economic accumulation, not community edification. Moreover, in the realm of ideology and policymaking, the past four decades have seen liberalism devolving into neoliberalism, and many national states becoming financialized corporate states. Especially in the West, the liberal state has been captured and financialized. Austerity—not redistributive growth—has reigned, engendering historically unprecedented social polarization which COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated. Globalization, I argue, has served as rhetorical cover for the social destructiveness of ‘neoliberalism’. The approaches and outcomes of pandemic management in much of the West are a further indictment of neoliberalism. Whereas ‘herd immunity’ had been the early de facto pandemic strategy of many neoliberal Western governments, most of East Asia a state-led commitment to ‘zero transmission’ and minimum casualties, leading to vastly different health outcomes.

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