For an Ecological Conversion

Seil Oh, SJ

 Seil Oh, SJ / Church Life / 31 March 2021

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Covid-19 and the global risk society

Covid-19 has forced humanity to face a global crisis that seemed unimaginable in our contemporary high-tech globalized world. It has affected schools, churches, sports, markets, and so on, bringing to a halt the ordinary habits and activities of all social organizations in every nation and region of the world. If we were under the illusion that technology and modern science had driven all the spirits out of the forests and controlled every aspect of human society, we were wrong.[1]

They have not yet provided us with a panacea in response to the virus. The pandemic has led our disenchanted world to clearly discover the vulnerable nature of global society.[2] Thus humanity is called to a collective and substantive reflection on today’s risk-based global society, in particular its socio-economic, political, ecological, cultural and spiritual dimensions.

Ulrich Beck, an influential German sociologist, writing about risk and globalization, stressed the need for such reflection, seeing in it the moral remedy to the problems of the “World Risk Society.”[3] In this regard, his insights are in tune with the concerns that Pope Francis expressed in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti (FT), reflecting on global social problems, such as climate change, the ecological crisis, increasingly severe polarization, the exclusion of the poor, threats to democracy and the common good, and so on.[4] The processes of global modernization have imposed a limited vision, which gives importance only to economic growth, promoted by “instrumental rationality” and the sacred myth of the “modern state” under the global ideology of “neoliberal capitalism.” For Beck, by concentrating on competition between individual nations and between nations as a whole, humanity has lost sight of the most important global perspective, namely, that which involves assessing and solving common problems in addition to those of individual nation-states.


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