The Cosmopolitan Karma: Coronavirus Pandemic and the Fate of Globalisation

by Dr Hüsrev Tabak*


The cosmopolitan karma. China has recently introduced harsh restrictions on international flights, stepped up its border control measures, and temporarily suspended the foreign nationals’ entrance to the country. This has been as part of actions taken for preventing the coronavirus (COVID-19)’s transmission to the country from foreign countries, as the foreigners and the returnee Chinese nationals are now believed to be transmitting the globetrotting virus back to China. Accordingly, as of April 7, 951 overseas-originated cases have been reported in the country. The virus, therefore, after infecting more than three million people worldwide and leaving tens of governments into a self-help situation, has now returned to where it was initially originated.

This corresponds to, what we may call, a cosmopolitan karma, as part of which the country initially responsible for the creation of an unintended global risk community has become a victim of the now-imported coronavirus cases.he coronavirus pandemic has proved one more time that the global is the most fundamental category in thinking about human survival on earth. And, despite the reinvigoration of the discourses of national self-reliance, the pandemic has merely provided further steam to globalisation as a category of everyday political, economic or cultural practice. The cosmopolitan karma discussed below simply shows how.

* Associate Professor of International Relations, Deputy-Director of CESRAN International

All hail to the national. The coronavirus pandemic has become just another point of reference for arguing that globalisation has come to an end. The apparent failure of the global governance mechanisms in firstly controlling the spread of the virus, then in helping governments to deal with the detrimental effects of it justified the wide circulation of such arguments. Upon this, the governments all alone had to forge national responses to a global threat – a fact creating a condition in which the belief in the national came to be subordinating all other alternative categories of belonging and community groupings, particularly the global one. The national voice, at this very juncture, gained an unmatched upper hand on globalism despite the widespread cries for global solidarity. And, as a globe-wide empirical fact, with the governments’ increasing their control over the permeability of borders, for the first time in the post-WWII context, the Herderian organisation of the world has become temporarily materialised – the difference between inside and outside has come to be a legitimate goal to be achieved, and its actualisation has secured significant public backing. What follows have been the expectations for the furthering of economic protectionism and of a political distrust to global solutions to global problems – a conclusion that led many commentators worldwide to declare that ‘globalisation is dead, long live nationalisation’. As practices further worsening the concerning situation for globalisation, the governments worldwide have immensely exploited and profited from this fatal public health crisis. This has been through gravely increasing state-control over people and their daily lives in the guise of risk-control and moral/constitutional duty or through securing a broad public consent on their assuming a totalitarian role. This is how the validity of national solutions has come to be overweighing the global ones.

The coronavirus as a cosmopolitanising fact. Despite the governments’ nationalising the fight against coronavirus, it, evidently, is simultaneously a local and a global threat and reality. Even more, it has become an unparalleled cosmopolitanising development. A virus spawned in a town in one part of the globe cosmopolitanised the entire world for good. Accordingly, through going far beyond sparking fleeting empathies for the victims of the pandemic –as has been seen in many cosmopolitanising developments such as terrorist attacks or environmental catastrophes–, it made the people worldwide experience precisely the same fate and also awakened them to a fact that they are at the target of an enemy threatening the entire humankind. It thus cognitively materialised humanity as a category of community in the minds of people worldwide. What is more striking is that this cosmopolitanisation has been enforced upon people; it was not a willing awakening – they found themselves suffering from and fighting against a common enemy.

Globalisation survives this enemy. This feeling of fighting a common enemy is what gives globalisation a necessary impulse in a time when governments intend to nationally-frame their or other countries’ fights.

The coronavirus remained as a national problem only for a relatively short period when the cases were confined to China. Yet, even in that time, as a cosmopolitan practice, people worldwide announced their sympathy with the Chinese people. Nevertheless, as soon as it turned into a pandemic and an unmanageable global public health crisis, the scapegoat has become the globalisation itself. This has been the case even though the World Health Organisation, as a global mechanism, for instance, long warned governments worldwide to take necessary measures. The governments yet ignored the warnings, underestimated the seriousness of the threat, and even came to be suggesting that the virus was affecting only certain races. Nonetheless, globalisation itself proved them wrong – the humanity as a whole is imperilled by this pandemic regardless of their so-called races or of the flags they are living under.

The cosmopolitan moment created by the pandemic shows that the global is the most fundamental category in thinking about everyday human practice on earth. The cosmopolitan karma experienced by China is only another example of this – the national problem once China dealt with has now resurfaced this time as a global one.

On globalisation’s fate. Considering the strengthening of the national voices worldwide, people often think that in the post-pandemic context globalisation will not be welcomingly embraced as a political discourse by governments. This position simply misses two crucial points. Firstly, the pandemic has shown that no country alone can deal with such a crisis. The states may become more capable in providing health services to the sick, yet to find a cure to the disease or to develop mechanisms for preventing its spread, global solidarity and global instruments are needed. In the post-pandemic context, therefore, the global efforts for detecting and defeating such threats will be enhanced. Secondly, the level of interconnectedness the humanity achieved in this century taught us that for the survival of the humanity, all of its members should be kept ‘healthy’ – so one’s life depends on those of others. This relationship one more time proves Ulrich Beck right in suggesting the global risks’ enforcing cosmopolitanisations globally and making the global as the only real reality the humanity has been and will continue to be experiencing.


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