Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Imagining life after COVID-19

  • 25 March 2020
To think of life after COVID-19 is daunting. The changes that it has brought to our daily lives have been vertiginous. Our awareness of its potential harm is still limited. We are only beginning to catch sight of the grim beast that slouches towards us threatening death and devastation in coming months.

Nevertheless, with so much rebuilding of society that will need to be done and so many opportunities that will present themselves for shaping a better society, we do need to think beyond the present.

Some possibilities are evident even in the disruption caused by our response to the threat. One of the most surprising features of that response has been flexibility, even in the face of visceral convictions. It is seen particularly in the abandonment of the economic ideology accepted by both major parties.

This equates the national good with economic growth. It centralises the freedom of competitive individuals in a free and minimally regulated market. Governments’ role is to support the market by balancing their lean books, privatising community assets, and bullying individuals who cannot compete in society. 

This view of the world is deeply held. Yet within a week or two the government has been persuaded to go heavily into debt, to prop up no-longer competitive businesses, to consider nationalising them if necessary, to give money to people who are unemployed and make it easier to for people suddenly employed to access benefits, and to listen to experts other than party-line economists in framing policy. All these measures effectively subordinate the economy to the health of the community. Though the change is explicable and commendable, I find surprising the lack of resistance to the betrayal of such a deeply rooted ideology.

These and such other such changes to conventional wisdom, such as the encouragement to work from home, will create a demand for broader change.


'When reflecting on the society that we wish to build after coronavirus, we need to go beyond rebuilding the priorities and the ways of working that were there before. They were clearly inadequate.'  

This will be resisted because of an abiding conflict between different priorities given to the economy and to the wider culture. This difference finds expression in the way that the individuals and community are valued, and to the relationship between the local and the global.   

The regnant neoliberal construction makes economic growth the mark of a good society, and free competition by individuals