As the mutilating power of Coronavirus strikes on lives and livelihoods and create havocs across the globe, the Davos priests of the World Economic Forum have started ‘the Great Reset Initiative’ to manage the consequences of the pandemic. It rightly recognises the urgent need for global cooperation to end the uncertainties and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis. There is absolutely no doubt that the current social, economic, political and cultural crises in 2021 are worse than the great depression of 1930s.
Therefore, the core objective of the Great Reset Initiative is ‘to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being’. The objectives of ‘the Great Reset Initiative’ sounds reasonable and holistic. But the strategy of the Great Reset Initiative is to ‘reorganise business models, societies, global relations and national economies’ in a direction which can reset the dominance of market and mobility of corporations to reverse the downturn. Prof Klaus Schwab (the Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum) calls openly for a “Great Reset” of capitalism.
The ‘Great Reset Initiative’ is old neoliberal capitalist wine packaged in a new bottle that intends to reverse the economic downturn by using the same capitalist system that caused the economic downturn at the first place. The pandemic has only accelerated the economic downturn that started well before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. The priests of Davos focus on building a new social contract without understanding addressing the structural conditions and causes for the failures of existing social and political contract. Why did the current social and political contracts collapse? What are the factors that led to the destruction of dignity of human beings? Who is responsible for dismantling human dignity? The answers to these questions are central to develop new social and political contracts to re-establish the dignity of every human being.
The role of states and governments were minimised for the greater freedom of market as a distribution mechanism. The public healthcare systems were dismantled and privatised in the name of greater efficiency and accessibility under the neoliberal regime of the markets. But in reality, the privatisation of healthcare led to the growth of profit driven market forces within the health sectors. The pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers are looking at illness and health crisis as an opportunity to make profit at the cost of human lives and health. In 2020, there were 8.3% of adults aged 18 and over have failed to access medical care in US due to the cost of privatised healthcare. The privatised healthcare system has failed in US as a result of which 400,000 Americans are dead due to COVID-19 and expected number of deaths are going to be well over 600,000 soon as per conservative estimates. The market command capitalist economic system in US has put nearly 11 million American children in poverty in 2021. It has failed to provide food security, economic and employment security to American masses. The American capitalist system and its neoliberal economic policies have accelerated the persistent social and economic inequalities, wage stagnancy, racial and gender gap in American society.
Similarly, neoliberal economic policies have created social, economic and political havocs in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and Oceania. The market driven capitalist systems have failed to provide peace, prosperity and pleasure. It has pushed societies, countries and communities into despair. The neoliberal business models driven by market forces have ruined people’s lives and planet. The capitalist economic systems are unsustainable as it destroys employment, ecology and human dignity. It has increased the gap between north and south, poor and rich, urban and rural areas. It only promotes mass alienation in world scale. The capitalist conditions of alienation, growing inequalities, exploitations, displacements, despairs and destitutions have led to the collapse of social, political and economic contracts in the society. The commodification, dehumanisation and exploitation of labour have laid the foundation of capitalist system, which is fundamentally unfair, inherently undemocratic and structurally authoritarian. Such a system has destroyed the dignity of human beings.
The ‘Great Reset Initiative’ to reset capitalism can never re-establish the new social, political and economic contracts to ensure dignity of human beings. The ‘Great Reset Initiative’ is an ideologically driven project which lacks new vision, mission, approach and abilities to move beyond capitalist market mechanisms. The internal contradictions of capitalism has produced social, economic and political conflicts to divert and recover from its own crisis. A simple reimagination of capitalism is not possible. A contradictory system can never offer any alternatives in the name of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
Prof Klaus Schwab has outlined three main components of the ‘Great Reset Initiative’ i.e., i) steer market towards fairer outcomes, ii) ensure that investments advance shared goals, such as equality and sustainability, and iii) harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good. Prof Klaus Schwab’s ideals are myopic under capitalism. The market seeks vulgar profit and never promote fairness. The neoliberal capitalist market is neither free nor open. It is a tool of exploitation of human beings and nature. The market and its forces can never promote fairness. The ideals of equality and sustainability are not compatible with capitalism. The capitalist system has accelerated inequalities in world scale and destroyed nature for profit. It has produced paradise of plenty for few and miseries for the masses. The digital divide in the early days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution shows that technology cannot establish equality, justice and sustainability by itself. Therefore, it is time to move away from capitalist market and re-establish social foundations of market where consumers and producer can interact with each other directly with the help of technology driven Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The post pandemic world needs a new social, political and economic contract based on human needs and desires that value environment for a sustainable present and future. This is only possible by bringing back collective foundations of economic systems, democratic politics and liberal society. It is important to re-engineer market as a social institution and process, where people interact with each other as social beings and not as merely customers. The world needs states led by collectives and governments led by people. There is only one name for it. It is called “A Great Socialist Reset”. It can only ensure freedom, democracy, peace, prosperity, equality and justice. It can be only possible through global solidarity for human dignity and environmental sustainability. The world needs a ‘Socialist Reset’ for the people and planet.
*Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Glasgow, UK