All the editorialists announce: Tomorrow will no longer be as before. And the Covid crisis, by its brutality, by the new look it imposes on the world, is it heralding a new world, more united, more responsible, more aware of the relativity of our planet and of our humanity ? Or will it only exacerbate individualism, bitterness that those who were not already well in the world before, to awaken certain detestable instincts of revenge and denunciation? Is capitalism threatened, the model of our companies with it? How are we going to go from a globalized world that is the object of all our ills to a digitalized world?
For some proselytes of doom and resentment, the Covid crisis is a boon. It gives body and soul, reality and virtue, to what he predicted. The Covid would not be the omen of a world out of breath, that of the liberal economy, the globalization of trade, hyperconsumption, the outrageous exploitation of resources, the domination of some by others, the weakness of the nation states, … It is the end of a globalized liberal capitalism whose engines – those of finance, delocalized production, consumption and the renewal of markets – have exploded. For some, the pandemic and the inability to contain it are only the consequence of a globalist drift, of a world that had to be saved from its irresponsibility not to control its development. The procrastination of scientists to agree on a treatment or to find a vaccine can only be linked to international financial interests. For the “conspiratorial”, this is reassuring, he is finally right to denounce a system that he abhors. If it can’t overturn the world, the Covid will. This one is not a virus that science will eventually kill, it is the exterminating angel of a collapsing world. He told us so!
“We have to change the world, but what form should it take? Asked Marx. And therein lies the whole problem. Because the embittered of the old world has no idea about the next. He barely formalizes what he/she no longer wants, he/she doesn’t know what he wants elsewhere. Too much inequality on earth, too much wealth among others, too much collusion between those in power, and the overwhelming frustration of leaving him behind. The over-information the networks of which abhorred it only produces the frustration of not being informed – it is so difficult to know what news to devote to.
And the new world, it’s a safe bet that he won’t like it much either. Sourness is a slow-release poison that it will not get rid of. It leaves an acrid and permanent taste. She feeds him. He/she feels himself/herself a slave to a world he/she does not like, dreams of the almighty of the next. He/she just goes from one deprivation to another in this egotic journey. He/she wouldn’t be happy in any world, unable to cultivate a plot on the island of Utopia.
What is to be feared is that his narrow and individualistic spirit will only lead him/her to the “big night”, the revolution he/she dreams of, if he/she does not have the intelligence to build a tomorrow. His/her immediate satisfaction will be very short-lived. A world more united, more democratic, more social, warmer, more respectful … All this is nothing but an incantation devoid of any praxis, of any path to follow. “I want to slow down, take the time, take care of myself, love and be loved …”, All this flourishes on the canvas. All this makes no sense as it is devoid of any objective projections. This is the New Years Good Resolutions catalog. We know that from January 2, everything is already erased.
What will become of capitalism? Nothing more than it was
There are the embittered, there are the others. The reasonable ones who think, who build and who think that indeed it is necessary to change. But change what? Should we count on the end of capitalism since it would be the cause and catalyst of the crisis we are going through, both its cause and its symptom. The Covid is much more than a virus, it is a socio-economic marker of a society that is questioned for its excesses. Like capitalism defeated by the proletarians in Marx, by the intellectuals in Schumpeter, by finance itself at the time of the bankruptcy of Lehmann brothers, it could die, asphyxiated by the Covid, to the applause of companies which feel deprived of democracy and in search of a new order, more frugal, less inegalitarian or progress is ordered on other values than economic development. He’s the culprit. Well no! Even if convicted, capitalism will not collapse, nor will its nature be changed. The opposite will even happen. It will come out strengthened. In the absence of wars and revolution, historic markers after economic crises, it is capitalism that will save us from the slump that we are experiencing. It’s his tremendous ability to generate wealth. And, whatever it is, we must praise it for not having a moral, it does not doubt the path to take. The economic crisis we are going through will only be overcome by the capacity of capitalism not to fail. It is the politicians and the people they govern who fail to control it, to distribute wealth, to control its industrial and commercial concentrations, to abandon local independence in favor of a globalization which, when the day comes, does not that underline the loss of autonomy and the capacity to be master of one’s destiny. This loss of sovereignty feeds our distrust of democracy since we no longer control the power to meet our basic needs and no longer guarantees our independence, our security, even our education and therefore our freedom. Capitalism is not responsible for a moral that it does not have fundamentally. Companies must continue to generate added value, which they redistribute to their employees, their partners, the State, all those who make a living from it. The production of value added in capital systems and for a century and a half has largely benefited the increase in wealth and standard of living. Capitalism as a technoscientific and mathematical order – in the sense that Pascal would define it – is, whatever the economic order, which has brought the most freedom to the people and societies which applied it and benefited from it. All the other organizations, egalitarian in particular, have historically failed when it applied to populations that went beyond the restricted character of the tribe or the village. Marx predicted the end of capitalism overthrown by the proletariat, it is socialism – as a doctrine – which has died out except in a few distant states which, it seems, the liberation of man is not the center of concerns. Aleksei Stakhanov died in the mine long before the fall of the USSR. He did not survive praxis.
The end of the concept of “Corporate Social Responsibility”?
Capitalism will not change. Will companies have to change? Will the myth of Corporate Social Responsibility withstand the formidable health and economic test that we are going through? Faced with the excesses of suspicious capitalism, should we believe the companies that are going to announce to us that, as they swear, they will become even more virtuous at the risk of being systematically questionable on everything they do? Should we believe the food distribution chains, those that garnish their shelves every morning, that they have understood the meaning of the word frugality, that they will fill their stalls only with organic products from local agriculture, should we believe that the airlines are going to stop flying their planes in the name of the end of the borderless world and the digitalization of the economy, that the manufacturers of mass consumption products are ready to give up the concept of market renewal … Obviously that not, because it is a question of their survival, their development, and the production of wealth, our economic autonomy, and, there again, our freedom. To make people believe that responsible companies would henceforth become virtuous is an absurdity, even a shame and, moreover, the recognition that they were not. It is to take citizen-consumers for idiots. A company has never sold, does not sell, will never sell a product or service out of duty, always out of interest, and that is what makes it so virtuous. Corporate social responsibility is a myth that would erase the capitalism from which it feeds while it is the navel. The company is an organization, a system. In essence, intrinsically, it has no morals. It is obviously desirable and laudable that its leaders and employees be virtuous and supportive and participate today in a tremendous movement of help and compassion for those who need it. The fact that it produces and sells according to the law is the least of things. But “making it an object of ethics” is only a marketing device and perfectly counterproductive in fine because virtue has no limits. The bosses of the most important channel of distribution are great entrepreneurs and most respectable, but they did not decide to double the capacity of their caddies in the 80s by duty and moral. They did so out of interest and because their customers wanted it, supported by politicians and / or economists who saw it as a way to curb inflation. Do you seriously think that they are going to make them the smallest today in the name of frugality? If they favor short circuits and understanding with local producers today and tomorrow, it is not out of kindness, it is because they are forced to do so by the emergence of a conscience which would reject a liberal, global and globalized economy. And it’s perfectly respectable. Thousands of jobs depend on their wise management. Large-scale distribution is a tremendous lever for wealth creation that benefits everyone. The concept of virtue is dangerous and it is advisable for entrepreneurs not to encourage it too much because it has fuzzy limits, if not to condone all local farmers to visit stores every morning to destroy products from elsewhere. The great virtue of the crisis that we are experiencing is that we will probably consume differently, less, healthier for ourselves and for the planet. The process is already underway, it will grow. Even if the Covid, a virus, has nothing to do with the excesses of uncontrolled capitalism, the adversity we face inevitably raises questions about the world we want to live in tomorrow. The Covid is probably not going to resist science, and eventually we will find a treatment and a vaccine. But it will have marked us because it underlines our powerlessness to master destiny at the same time as our finitude. What meaning do we want to give to our lives? The Covid crisis comes up against our questions about the end of humanity, of biodiversity, the decryption of the genome and eugenic manipulation, global warming and the end of the planet’s exhaustion. In the absence of God or Marx to order our lives, we must take responsibility for our destiny in a Promethean survival reflex. And we will have to live differently. Consuming better, consuming less, consuming differently are vectors of this new responsibility which will profoundly influence the activities of companies that will have to adapt or even change. The mass consumption served by the renewal of the markets is a model that we need to review, and thus take up all our lessons in Marketing. Companies will have to change, not by virtue but because they will be forced to do so by a more responsible market. It’s their interest. We will no longer buy the services of a company that pollutes or more generally that does not respect the ethical codes that are imposed on us to save the planet and its resources. The Covid crisis is a tremendous sign of awareness among consumers that businesses will have to satisfy. It is the end of Corporate Social Responsibility which is only a desperate attempt to want to moralize the company which seeks to justify itself of a crime which it did not commit, which is vain in essence , in favor of Consumer Social Responsibility, an emerging concept from which companies will have to change.
From a globalized world to a digital world
What we learn from the Covid crisis is that digital could replace all face-to-face relationships in the achievement of social or economic exchanges. No need to travel, to leave your home, to visit your neighbors, or professionally your suppliers and customers. Almost everything can be done in “distance”. Obviously, this is great progress when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint. Ecological virtue comes to the rescue of any doubts that one might have about the progress generated by a digital relationship. It is also effective. We can prefer to dance the Slow rather to use Tinder, we can deplore the evolution of the modes of social relations, however little chance that we will return to the Slow. It was slow and random. Regarding the organization of our professional relationships, and even if the shock is brutal, we learn that we can make conferences, meetings with multiple interlocutors without really losing the quality of the relationship, nor of information being deteriorated. And even better, we learn all the interest that we can draw from it on the level of attention of the interlocutors. It will probably be difficult to go back. In companies, as much meeting time with others as to set the date and time in the old world, as much time and performance savings to reconcile the agendas when you no longer have to travel physically. Organizations will change. If we used to wonder about what we could do in “distance” and by screen, the reflection will now be to know what we absolutely must do in face. The company will lose its physical meaning in favor of a virtual one on which the springs of identity will have changed. Because “going to work” marked the pace of our lives, it gave it a purpose, a meaning. When you no longer physically go to the office, what sense does it make to work for this or that company? In other words, ” what does it mean to work in Nantes, Lille and Paris or at Peugeot if I never go there? ” The virtual relationship frees the company from physical constraints. Work at home will develop since it is made possible and we will be able to overcome costly travel in time and financially. But from a chosen work concept, it becomes imposed work for health reasons today, economic reasons tomorrow. As we measure the constraints of confinement, it will exacerbate social solitudes and will inevitably develop reflexes of stricter control. If the time clocks have disappeared in most service companies, they could be reinstated in terms of virtual activity, because there is no question that employees can overcome the constraints of attendance. And where being physically present partly guaranteed the accomplishment of the work, distance will not offer the same comfort. It is the whole of the social relationship and the social pact that will have to be reinvented. Small minds always inclined to profit will want immediate compensation without measuring the challenges ahead, those of control, autonomy and freedom. Designing a new world: The challenge? Freedom…Tomorrow will no longer be as before. Capitalism will not change in nature, neither will companies. It will always be globalized and companies will continue to trade with the world. States will nonetheless be more careful to ensure their health, industrial, energy, food independence … and will question the concept of nation-state and welfare state. We thought we were deprived of democracy, that’s the protection we lacked. But the Covid crisis reveals another issue far beyond the health and economic crisis we are going through. For 40 years, we have learned freedom by traveling all over the world… We are deprived of it by confining ourselves, which obviously we accept, obliged but despite ourselves. Are we going to accept to go from a globalized world without borders to a digitalized world under control? Will we agree to be constantly monitored for health or professional reasons as we accept confinement? Freedom could be the stake for years to come and design, the one whose object is to represent the world in which we want to live, be its main material.