A Sociological Overview of Post-Pandemic Period
Author: Prof. Dr. Ebulfez Suleymanli
Head of Department of Sociology, Uskudar University
We need to get rid of the perspective shaped by the effect of anthropocentric (human-centered) approaches, particularly from the viewpoint of the harmonious relationship between man and nature.
This epidemic brought humanity into a kind of compulsory social isolation process that it was never used to, and caused our lives to be out of our own initiative. In parallel with such potential changes, the situation resulting from this process will bring about a rearrangement of social relations in all aspects of life.
Even if this situation is temporary, it can be predicted that the effects of the phenomenon of individual and social risk will be felt to a greater extent in the world, because individuals will now constantly feel more at risk even if they are not personally ill themselves. On the other hand, we can also talk about the possibility of the development of a new social experience that differs from the usual and common forms of sense of community. The compulsory social isolation experienced by individuals is changing their state of consciousness and will. However, this situation may be replaced with preferred forms of isolation and/or solidarity over time.
The importance of physical distance and hygiene will continue to be effective after this period as well. Of course, for members of societies which have cultural codes that prioritize physically closer social relationship, like ours, it will not be easy to get used to the continuity of this situation. But after a certain period of time, people will perhaps have to keep up with a slightly more relaxed culture of social distancing in daily life for their personal health and the health of the people around them. In this regard, we can also predict that, especially in cities, people will prefer open public spaces such as parks, where the probability of having close contact and contracting infection is significantly reduced, in order to spend their leisure time.
Digitalization was a part of our lives also before this process. However, the fact that virtual forms of working from home and e-commerce have gained importance during the pandemic period has accelerated this process. Digital working and consumption behaviors, which have become a habitual pattern during the pandemic, will continue to a significant extent in many sectors after the pandemic.
The post-pandemic process will pave the way for the formation of new economic areas. Economists predict in particular that in parallel with the increase in investments in the field of healthcare services, the demand for artificial intelligence-oriented business areas such as anti-virus equipment and control systems will increase.
In this process, the change in people’s thoughts and behaviors also affect their consumption habits. Studies conducted in different countries show that individuals reconfigured themselves due to the daily routines and restrictions created by quarantine conditions, that they started to explore their humane and naive aspects, and that people started making new decisions during the quarantine period. Based on the findings, these decisions include, in particular, people’s taking a new approach regarding luxury products and restraining their impulse of shopping by considering these products to be unnecessary.
On the other hand, we have realized how we can be more efficient and productive in home life with limited opportunities. However, talking about a transformation from a consumer society to a productive society based upon this realization can be a superficial observation. Because, we live in a socio-economic order in which consumption has become a lifestyle, a mode of existence, a mood, and an ideology. Consequently, the consumption of those who stay at home continues in different or diluted ways. However, the changes caused by the fact that home has become the only area that combines many different fields of activity can be significant enough to support the transformation in the long term. One of the distinctive features of modern consumption-oriented society is to divide and organize time and to reinforce the functioning of the system along with this. Accordingly, the distinctions such as work-business and entertainment/leisure time become sharper and the individual’s perceptions of being in time, space, and life become mechanized. In those crises experienced by modern individuals and societies at a spiritual and materialistic level, it is possible to see the unfavorable results of this more clearly with each passing day. The intertwinement of holistic time and social spaces experienced today by those who stay at home, can contribute to the transition of a mechanized and alienated individual into a more natural, cyclical, complex but productive lifestyle. In terms of the temporariness and limitedness of the process, it would be invalid to characterize this as a prediction, but the fact that it is experienced personally can lead to personal and collective awareness and perhaps structural transformations.
Like any disaster experienced in history, this epidemic should also be evaluated together with its advantages and disadvantages. With the threat of this epidemic, we have once again perceived that we are first and foremost human beings. On the other hand, this process made us realize once again the importance of health, the fact that we attach more than necessary meaning to material things, and the fact that we should live in harmony with nature.
And on the other hand, it seems as if individuals have re-discovered how difficult it is to live alone and to spend time in a confined space alone for a long time; how strong the desire to socialize, communicate, and share is, and how essential they are in order for the human organism to adapt to life. It was once again remembered that interacting with the family and beloved ones and sharing life are the basic food sources for mental health, and of course, for physical health which is directly affected by them. The need to make contact has increased to meet these needs. Accordingly, individuals who have difficulties in establishing a relationship with their environment or who keep this relationship limited intentionally or for reasons beyond control have practiced their abilities to establish relationships and bonds.
This circumstance also played a very crucial role in satisfying the sense of self-esteem of household members by creating time for the development of both inter-spousal relationships, the family’s relationship with older members, and the parent-child relationship.
The virus threat constitutes an important opportunity to solve many global problems worldwide. Because, this process can strongly bring up the goals of ending the existing wars and conflicts in the world, establishing an effective mechanism of action that can resolve international disputes, and preventing many adverse conditions, such as environmental pollution, that create a global risk. It is important to develop global cooperation for the continuity of the visible improvement in air quality observed during the pandemic period as well as the important human values such as sharing, solidarity and compassion that have become more widespread throughout the world, and the state of de-conflict. From this point of view, there is an essential need for the renewal of existing international structures that have lost their effectiveness in our world today and for the creation of brand new global cooperation models. And for all these, a mental transformation should be achieved first of all. We need to get rid of the perspective shaped by the effect of anthropocentric (human-centered) approaches, particularly from the viewpoint of the harmonious relationship between man and nature. It is imperative that we pay enough attention to the warnings which the environment is sending us more increasingly every day.