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A month in must-reads

For the past month, Local Trust has been collating a selection of the most insightful pieces on the pandemic to try and cut through the noise and make sense of what might happen next, and in doing so, there have been some clear and continued trends and themes.

Thoughts on how COVID-19 might shape the world around us are changing rapidly.  Whilst many initially sought to advance the crisis as proof that their pre-existing perspectives and solutions have been validated and stand ready to be delivered, a general consensus has developed across the political spectrum that COVID-19 will irrevocably change the world we live in and as a result, the way that we live our lives.

There has been sustained talk of a move away from an interdependent world, as nation-states seek to build greater resilience within their own borders. Various writers have focused on how countries might mitigate against possible future shocks, for example through the on-shoring of supply chains.  The inevitable next stage of this argument has focused on the rapid retreat of globalisation away from the never-ending march of hyper-connectedness that has defined the last few decades.  This might point to opportunities for economic regeneration in parts of the country that have suffered from past de-industrialisation. But will the new factories bring with them jobs, when a human workforce might be seen as a vulnerability rather than an asset in post-pandemic times?

On a more personal level, much thought has been given to how we might connect as individuals in the future. Generally, there has been an acceptance that technology and digital living will inevitably loom large, as society seeks to re-orientate the way that people interact with one another in order to maintain a level of social distance.  And, increasingly, we are seeing community – often the place of first response when the crisis hit – also being placed at the heart of discussion of what needs to happen next.

In the UK, we’ve witnessed an economic dividing line emerge between those stressing fiscal prudence and cutbacks once we’re through the worst of the crisis, and those calling for significant investment and the running of large budget deficits for the foreseeable future. This argument is likely to deepen, with what looks like a re-run of the austerity debate of the 2010s against a background of much tougher economic times.

However, not all economic debate has been backward looking; the crisis has also economic proposals previously thought to be controversial or radical starting to enter the mainstream – including the floating of numerous forms of wealth taxes as well as a minimum guaranteed income or universal basic income. And ambitious proposals for reconstruction based around a low-carbon future.  Will any of these make it from blogs and opinion pieces into policy? It may be too soon to say, but the level of change we’ve seen over the last two months suggests that – for now – nothing is off the table.

Whilst we remain – for the time being – in the current lockdown, it’s much too early to say what the world will look like a month from now, let alone projecting years ahead, but it is clear that the range of thought on what might happen next is unlikely to slow and we’re keen to keep following it.

Take a look at previous weekly reading lists or sign up to receive future editions:

The weekly reading list – 1 May

The weekly reading list – 24 April

The weekly reading list – 17 April

The weekly reading list – 14 April