Can COVID-19 Inspire Mass Political Change Like Other Pandemics?

History is littered with proof that when the going gets tough, things don’t go back to normal. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve heard a lot of bluster about ‘the new normal’ and ‘getting back to normal’ – but history shows us a different reality.

Throughout history, humanity has risen up and demanded mass societal and political change after a pandemic. It’s become a repeating part of history, with the most famous example being the 'Black Death' plague that shook the world. Changes were made on the back of that pandemic – but can we expect COVID-19 to lead to similar political change? Possibly.

Already, there are mass calls for changes to how we care for ourselves, including demands for fairer healthcare for all worldwide. Another major call has been economically, though. People are fighting back against returning to the austerity-driven economics of the last two decades, with mass change demanded. Talk of Universal Basic Income being installed has become a more vociferous talking point, with more governments under pressure to make a call for UBI a reality.

As many people face yet another decade of unstable or no work at all, there is a demand to give people more back. The Black Death forces pretty drastic changes to how we looked at the world, with the world-changing drastically between the 14th and 19th centuries.

According to experts working on the Comparative Politics program, we should expect to see some big changes to come in the near future. They looked at various consequences arising from the Black Death in German-speaking nations in Central Europe and looked to find what political changes happened there.

The Start of a New Story?

While COVID-19 at its worst is unlikely to kill even a similar amount to the Black Death (thankfully), it could force massive economic change. The Black Death forced to change because many of the workforces that were so key to that era of life were wiped out. While we might not be wiped out physically, economically we could face a wipeout.

Many companies simply will not open again after the COVID-19 crisis; this will mean further unemployment and more government support needed to help those left behind. It’s likely that this could force us to look at changes in the economic order. How else are we going to support the mass unemployment that is certain to follow in the years to come?

We could see more change coming in the form of a more equal system of wealth distribution. Governments won’t be able to simply sit back and let people suffer even more than they have for the last two decades; the rising number of protests across the globe are testament to that. While we aren’t likely to see the seismic change that the Black Death brought, COVID-19 might just cause enough economic shock to force mass changes to how money is distributed to the populace.

The current system barely worked prior to COVID-19; how can we go back to ‘normality’ when what was already an uneven system is about to get even more uneven?