As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 rips through the world’s population, the World Bank has forecast slowing global growth for 2022 as well as the following year in its Global Economics Prospects report issued on Tuesday. While it was certainly not its intention, the report is an exposure of the claims by capitalist governments that no serious public health measures can be undertaken to eliminate the pandemic because they would be detrimental to the “economy.” In fact, as the figures in the report make clear, the policy of “let it rip” being pursued by virtually all governments is producing ever worsening economic conditions. No changes will be made, however, as the economy is completely subordinated to finance capital which opposes any measures that impede the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a rapacious oligarchy.
The current political era is best understood as a “great recoil” of economic globalization. It is a moment when the coordinates of historical development seem to be inverting, upsetting many of the assumptions that dominated politics and economics over the last decades. This moment corresponds to the “second movement” socialist economic historian Karl Polanyi described in his book The Great Transformation, when phases of capitalist expansion recede and are met by “societal responses.” According to Polanyi, in phases of profound crisis like that opened by the 1929 Wall Street Crash, society tends to act defensively, erecting forms of social protection against a capitalist logic that has manifestly failed to deliver prosperity, yet becomes even more aggressive in its attempts to extract profit.