Great Reset or Greater Divide?

Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo

Two paths are diverging in front of us as the world stumbles to feet recovering from the COVID-19 crises. 

The first path is an optimistic and positive scenario in which the world unites itself to turn this crisis into once-in-centuries’ opportunity to make a major revision of the globalization.

The World Economic Forum takes this view and proposes an initiative to advocate a “Great Reset,” according to its website.

Certainly, we might expect or dream of such a great opportunity.

Of course, it would be better if we constructively take advantage of this extraordinary situation in altering and reconfiguring our approaches to globalization, devising new ways of overcoming the malaise of it.

The other pessimistic view, however, looms large. COVID-19 might be another strong accelerator of problems we have been plagued by for a long time.

From this point of view, what was bad before COVID-19 will become worse after it, exacerbating during the prolonged “With-Corona” age.

I’m in a mood to take this latter pessimistic view, for the moment. The Great Reset argument seems like a salvation theology which gives us a hope of the great reset away from the unsolvable problems, with the help of some the almighty power outside who judges ever-righteously and all-correctly.

However, as famous Quranic verses teaches us, “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Quran, Surat al-Ra’d, Verse 11), if people just wait for the salvation and stop trying to solve problems by themselves, the great reset will not come.

In contrast to the dream of the dawn of the new normal world in which social and economic malaise are solved miraculously, under the lockdown, those who already have social capital take easily advantage of the situation.

To be sure, the younger generation, who is familiar with the tools of the Internet and more used to live in virtual spaces, might take the lead in the stage of restricted social activities.

However, such emerging young generation which is able to take advantage of this situation might be limited to those who have inherited sufficient social capital from the generations of their parents. Those preexisting social capital is acquired and accumulated by face-to-face relationships within certain strata of society, which cannot be renewed or recreated in this situation of lockdowns.

After COVID-19 world, gap and divide in society might have been wider and the rich may become richer and the poor the poorer.

I hope this is a dystopian vision influenced by the psychological depression caused by the compulsory stay-at-home period for too long.