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Santiago Maldonado Aquino

Post-COVID-19 International Relations

- The pandemic became a factor of change that also interacted in the way of life of international society, (mis)configuring power in world societies.

Post-COVID-19 International Relations

During 2020, and even in the middle of this year, humanity continues to experience the pandemic due to SARS-CoV-2 with official numbers of infected and alarming deaths. In this sense, the way in which societies —in their eagerness to find solutions against this deadly virus— have developed human knowledge as a form of self-defense and protection is not without attention. Thus resorting to a social instrument such as the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with which cultural power -or knowledge- was able to face the health crisis and the economic crisis generated by this pandemic.

However, it is necessary to remember that the combination of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the management of social power in its dimensions of cultural, economic and political power; They are applied by the analysis of the macro internationality of the science of International Relations in order to demonstrate that there is a change in international society. This transformation is of a social nature, giving rise to new lifestyles in the current situation.

In this way, it is worth asking a substantial question: is it possible that the pandemic could mark the breaking point, or turning point, between a declining form of international society vs. the emergence of an international society under new forms of social power? in the context of its three dimensions (cultural, economic and political power)?

Pandemic and the effects on the societies of the States

In December 2019, a deadly viral agent emerged in the city of Wuhan, China; which gradually spread to all the States of the world, thus allowing the World Health Organization (WHO) —through its director general— to declare the situation a pandemic on March 11, 2020 [1 ]. The genome was identified by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses as a member of the coronavirus family, named SARS-CoV-2 or commonly known as COVID-19[2].

Likewise, the health effects obtained from Johns Hopkins University in the Cases of people affected and deaths per day by COVID-19 as of June 17, 2021, are a little more than 3.8 million deaths and 177, 3 million infected cases, which means a high number of the population despite the fact that by this date it is already being counteracted with the application of vaccines in an approximate number of 2,484.3 million [3].

Similarly, the pandemic revealed the vulnerabilities of international society with high degrees of socioeconomic uncertainty. For this purpose, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Special Report No. 5 COVID-19 expresses rates with negative averages. However, it admits a slow recovery by the end of 2021, since this report not only contemplates the negative economic effects of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the countries, but also the poverty and unemployment rates, indicators that make visible the greatest economic fall since World War II [4].

Thus, the pandemic has revealed conditions of social reality that by themselves would not have taken hold with the force and drive of this deadly threat. Demonstrating the way in which the pandemic was the main threat to the lifestyles of international society, being that after 18 months societies changed course and are transforming, allowing the emergence of new styles that mark different conditions of existence for a new international community, thus resorting to arguments typical of macro internationality and post internationalism.

Although in the analysis of the macro internationality of international societies proposed by Rafael Calduch in his work Relaciones Internacionales [5], three stages are distinguished: genesis, development and crisis of international society. It is necessary to compare with the social reality that is experienced as a result of the declared pandemic, since it is inferred that the current society entered the downward curve of development, with a health crisis coupled with an economic crisis. The conjunction of both crises results in reaching the breaking point, or turning point, between the international society of a pre-pandemic located on the downward curve of development, with an international post-pandemic society that enters the upward curve of development.

The differences in the lifestyles of international society prior to the pandemic with the international society resulting from the effects of the pandemic, are located from the breaking or inflection point, with a substantial difference: pre-pandemic societies are in the low point of descent, that is, at the descent of the development curve; On the other hand, post-pandemic societies are at the beginning of the rise of the development curve.

This means a change in social structures, recognized in terms of James Rosenau, author of post-internationalism, in the theory exposed in his work Turbulence in world politics [6], as a turbulence that occurred with the pandemic. According to this author, from the point of rupture or inflection, a turbulent change of coexistence of actors, factors and relationships of a decadent society with an emerging society takes place, and it is what is shown between international society before the pandemic, with the international society after the pandemic.

James Rosenau, father of post-internationalism. (Source: University of Southern California)

He means, the pandemic became a factor of change that interacted in the way of life of international societies —the descending and the emerging— being this phenomenon of a collective nature because it reached all the societies of the entire world. However, what was the predominant factor of this change? The answer is direct and unmistakable: the COVID-19 pandemic that interacted with international societies, marking a before and after in social reality, in which a new form of social power also emerged along with the emerging international society. This change of direction of society is due to the turbulence in world reality, in fact, it is what Rosenau mentions in his post-internationalist theory.

Social power as an influential factor in the pandemic

In the theoretical context exposed by Celestino del Arenal in the article Power and international relations: a conceptual analysis, he refers to the two great lines of thought: the realist and the idealist, which influence International Relations over which power prevails. , as their engine and explanation, where the States are the only actors in International Relations [7]; Logically, this statement is in the general framework of the interaction of international societies, among them represented by the States that exercise power in a social reality.

What happens with the pandemic and international societies is a different phenomenon, where the deadly threat is the virus against international society and not in the known way that it is between them, but from international society against the common threat of the pandemic, they collectively resort to their own social power to confront the deadly virus. In other words, power relations are not between international societies through their representatives -which are the States- that interact, but rather, they are the societies that assume a common collective position of social power to interact against the threat.

In order to better understand this specific framework where social power is applied collectively, we refer to the theory developed by Rafael Calduch in his book Relaciones Internacionales, who exposes the characteristics of social power when they interact with each other, establishing three basic dimensions of social life, these dimensions are cultural power, economic power and political power.

These three dimensions explained by Calduch are located in international societies in different ways that influence the social life of humanity. Thus, economic power is declining from the presence of the threat of the pandemic, the same happens with political power that was strategically paralyzed by the threat of the virus, not to mention cultural power, whose ignorance generated a rupture in the knowledge and use of technologies in the face of a threat that was not known how to face (where uncertainty was rampant in societies) due to fear of acquiring the virus -whether due to lack of attention and/or the ability in health systems.

The social power of this type of international societies -due to its economic, political and cultural characteristics- was in vertiginous decline, the States of the world entered resoundingly into the health and economic crisis. The political powers remained paralyzed but stable in the hope of finding scientific solutions to deal with the devastating action of the virus, of finding solutions that go beyond the biosafety protocols that were adopted and that counteracted the effects of the virus. These hopes were accentuated in actions aimed at the investigations that were carried out to discover a vaccine that curbs the effects of the virus.

However, at the same time that cultural power began to propose scientific solutions in the field of health, the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the so-called digital industry, became a force to move political power and emerge. of its stagnation - and strategic paralysis in which it found itself. The role of the cultural power of international society in this new stage is exposed in two fields: (1) the scientific and (2) the technological.

The dimension of cultural power in the scientific field is made visible with force and determination in two aspects, the first of an immediate nature with the presence of health professionals who put themselves in the front line to combat the virus, for which reason the Fund for Population of the United Nations declared them heroes of life [8]. And second, with the work of scientists in vaccine discovery labs and production capacity globally, scientists demonstrated the cultural power of international society with the work done around finding an effective vaccine that will address to the deadly virus. According to the WHO vaccine report as of February 18, 2021, called Vaccines against COVID-19, it indicates that there are seven different vaccines that the countries of the world have begun to administer, in addition, there are more than two hundred experimental vaccines in development. , of which more than sixty are in the clinical phase [9].

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and its influence on international society

The Fourth Industrial Revolution10 emerged at the Hanover Fair in 2011 as industry 4.0 [11]. However, the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was born in 2015, proposed by Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum with the purpose of explaining the changes in the way of living and its relationship with reality, which is generated from the irruption of technologies with exponential evolution capacities that promise to generate a symbiosis between microorganisms, between bodies, between the products that are consumed and the buildings that the individual inhabits. Thus, this group of technologies considers advances such as cloud computing or cell culture, as well as other unprecedented developments such as genetic engineering or quantum computing.

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum where he coined the term of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (Source: World Economic Forum)

It is necessary to emphasize that at the time of this vision of the use of 4.0 technologies in 2015, the COVID-19 pandemic did not occur or was expected. He means that the events for the evolution of societies were accelerated with the pandemic, until reaching the turning point in the year 2021 when the genesis of new forms of social life begins with a completely different social reality from the past.

Klaus Schwab, in relation to the fourth industrial revolution, referred to the relationships of societies in the following terms: "We are on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to each other. In its scale, scope and complexity. The transformation will be unlike anything humanity has experienced before. We still don't know how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all political actors globally, from the public and private sectors, to academia and civil society." [12]

The pandemic would highlight those accurate forecasts issued by Schwab in the context of International Relations, more than a prediction is a forecast, which by a simple historical comparison between 2015 and 2021 would reveal the functionality in which the current international societies. Forecasting in International Relations is defined by Braillard in his work Reflections on forecasting in International Relations as the activity that seeks to reveal, through the analysis of the present and the past, a certain number of possible futures, of futures, of potentialities that can be realized. in the future [13]. This concept is applied very closely to what was expressed by Klaus Schwab in a present given the circumstances in 2015 and a forecast for the future that is verified today in 2021.

At the same time, as Piero Gayozzo affirms in his article Fourth industrial revolution and pandemic, the appearance and greater use of nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technologies and cognitive sciences, together with the multiple convergences and combinations that occur in the technological field, they changed and revolutionized the reality of the entire world [14]. To all these results are added cell culture technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, among others; which converge in the creation of strategies and solutions to face the pandemic and the health and economic crises unleashed by it, reaching a different social result than pre-pandemic societies.

Although the technological development achieved by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a manifestation of material power, it is different from the natural power that responds to mechanical and impersonal laws in its manifestation of destructive power of nature, or in its creative and reproducing power of nature. same nature. However, there is a difference, as Rafael Calduch establishes in his work on International Relations, a difference in human power due to the conscious nature of the use of power, which does not happen in natural power. This allows us to affirm that the technological development of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not in the field of action of natural power, rather, it corresponds to human power, an affirmation supported by Calduch when he affirms that knowledge is the source of the powers of all and each one of the men as of the concrete conditions in which they exercise it.

Following this logic of argument, it becomes clear that technology is an expression of the material power that surrounds man, which has application in the collective spheres of social relations, which, due to the pandemic, these social relations gave rise to the manifestation of social power. A present social power resulting from interactions with a strong dimension, first of cultural power, and then of economic power, to end up stabilizing the dimension of political power in international societies.

final considerations

Due to the premises of the science of International Relations manifested with greater preponderance by the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the analysis of macro internationality intervenes in the three stages of genesis, development and crisis of an international society, it has been shown that contrasts a before and after the pandemic that marks the disappearance of the lifestyles of one type of international society to give rise to another type of international society, with a strong dose of technological development of the Fourth Industrial Revolution -where the The turning point, or rupture, between both types of societies is still the pandemic.

Likewise, in the emergence of this new type of international societies, it is still preponderant, and will continue to be so, the knowledge that the human being has, which gives rise to human power as a first difference with natural power. A human power that, due to the social interactions of different societies, gives rise to international societies that are not confronted or in conflict with each other, as is usually the object of study by the science of International Relations (when there is a conflict).

Rather, all of these have a common threat, which is the pandemic, and in the face of which social power is revealed. A social power that finds its point of origin at the breaking or turning point, in this case, in the pandemic that caused and continues to cause a health crisis and an economic crisis at a global level. Given this, the knowledge of human power with cultural power arises, that is, it drives material power with the use of the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In short, it is still pending within the framework of the science of International Relations to take the forecasts that these new types, and lifestyles, of the emerging international society with the use of cultural, economic and political variables. Which are linked to the power of inequality gaps that may exist, so that they are not large, under the premise highlighted by Bart Landheer that there is no equality in social reality, but rather inequality [15] and what these inequalities are not expected to be in capital letters will depend on the effort and importance that societies give to cultural power.

10The first industrial revolution used water and steam to mechanize production. The second industrial revolution used electric power for mass production. The third industrial revolution used information technology and electronics to automate production.


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Maldonado, Santiago. “ Relaciones Internacionales posCOVID-19.” CEMERI, 22 sept. 2022,