After Covid

Paleontologists disagree about whether dinosaurs were thriving or had already entered a long decline when an extinction event finished them off sixty-six million years ago. Depending on who is right, the asteroid that struck Earth either radically changed the direction of evolution or merely accelerated an established trend. Disasters that target the currently dominant species invite similarly divergent interpretations. Their capacity to jolt us out of our complacency is not in doubt. But in so doing, do they truly redirect the course of human history, or do they merely act as catalysts of ongoing change? Covid19 is just the latest in a long series of crises that have raised this perennial question. And how it has been raised! Since the pandemic began, journalists, pundits, scholars, and pundit-scholars speak as if the pandemic will itself periodize history, into the “Before Time” and the new world that we have entered. They have

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