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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchCrises Only Sometimes Lead to Change. Here’s Why.

Crises Only Sometimes Lead to Change. Here’s Why.

Author: Sheri Berman

Affiliation: Barnard College, Columbia University

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place:  July 4, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 4088 


Keywords: COVID-19, Economy, Crisis



The author begins by talking about the financial ramifications that COVID-19 has had on Western economies. The US has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by enacting many social assistance programs for afflicted citizens. European nations have taken several further steps. This crisis is expected to change the world forever and governments will be better equipped to deal with future problems like this. The Progressives believe that this is the beginning of a new era and that the “era of small government” is over. European nations are once again shown as examples for this argument. Giving the rise of the Soviet Union as an example, the author argues that a giant crisis could trigger a massive transformation. However, without a coherent future plan, such a transformation is not feasible; as while the opposition may all unite in their discontent and discomfort for the current system, they might not agree upon what should replace it. The author gives the example of anti-Monarchy riots of 1848 that took place in Europe to argue that common dissidence does not mean common revivalism. This disunity took place in Germany after World War I and it gave the Nazis every opportunity to seize power. After World War II, the United States took initiative by constructing new international security and economic agreements to promote peace, prosperity and democracy.  In Europe, this was agreed upon by both center-left and center-right parties. However, when another financial crisis hit in 2008, the left (once again divided) failed at both summarizing the problems of the existing order and proposing alternatives.  Some factions of the left in prior decades, such as Blair, Clinton, etc., had believed that the way to move forward was a technocratic approach to capitalism while other factions of the left completely forsook capitalism and decided to focus on social matters like feminism, multiculturalism, etc. These episodes can be summarized as the left’s inability to capitalize on a crisis. In the US, the biggest challenge for the Democrats is to combat the decade long anti-government rhetoric of the Republican Party. Suffering in a nation always helps nationalist and racist movements and this is seen as the main reason for Trump’s rise to power in the US.  They do this by resorting to what Hitler once did—blaming “the other.”

By: Taqwa Abu Kmeil, CIGA Research Assistant



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