While our national response to CoronaVirus has been couched in terms of ‘working together to beat this’, ‘solidarity’ and ‘social responsibility’, I don’t think our collective response to this virus can be characterised as ‘acting in solidarity’ or ‘enhancing social integration’.
Rather, I think the short- and long-term result of the Virus and our response to it is leading to more social fragmentation and division.
There is a lot of case study and statistical evidence you can use to back up this analysis:
In the initial phases of the ‘emergency response’ there was plenty of evidence of people not obeying the government advice of ‘social distancing’ – plenty of photos of people in buys Parks and crammed tube carriages for example, duly shared on twitter and other social media sites.
Then there’s the most recent government’s orders that we should all stay indoors, with a handful of exceptions such as for exercise and food shopping, during which time we all need to keep 2 metres apart from each other.
You might interpret this as ‘solidarity’ – all ‘distancing together’, but TBH I don’t think we can characterize us NOT doing things as solidarity. For the most part, people are staying indoors, isolated in their private life-worlds.
Yes, we can stay connected via social media and our Smart T.V.s, but this is a very selective kind of social interaction, we aren’t ‘rubbing up against’ people in public space anymore, at least not for the foreseeable future.
What we are seeing are new norms about social interaction – people view each other as potential carriers of the virus and thus a potential threat to their own health.
Maybe there is a new kind of uniting against the social pariahs who do not social distance? This article outlines how there have been social media campaigns shaming people ‘not doing their bit by keeping their distance’…. But that strikes me as a very weak kind of solidarity, at about the same level as online petitions.
Then of course there’s the evidence of so many people just looking out for themselves – by stockpiling food, leaving the shelves empty for others!
The response the Virus is set to be even more divisive
Public sector workers (bizarrely) do quite well (at least for now) by keeping their pay, private sector workers get 80%, but the self-employed seemed to have been left to their own devices.
Those on lower incomes and in precarious employment are likely to suffer the most of course, as these do not have the funds to tied them over a reduction income in the short term and maybe further cuts to hours and pay in the long term as a recession is likely.
Meanwhile I have no doubt that there will be a massive bail-out coming for the banks and Corporations, again, like in 2008.
All of this means that the young will probably pick up the tab as decreasing tax revenues and increasing government debt in future months will be managed by cuts to public services and probably pensions.
Finally, from a global perspective, I don’t imagine travelling abroad is going to be easy or welcomed by people in other countries – there may be more hostility towards tourists, let alone asylum seekers after this.
To make this sociologically relevant, I think CoronaVirus is a great example of an event that suggests Functionalist analysis is no longer relevant to understanding late-modern society.
TBH I’m not sure what perspectives are relevant to understanding this – I guess it’s an extreme example of how we manage Risk, so maybe Beck’s Risk Society thesis, maybe also Giddens – I think it was him who said Nation States were too small to tackle global problems, and this seems to be the case here!
Unless this current situation is the best we can do?
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