Spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic, global capitalism is on the brink of a new round of worldwide restructuring based on a much greater digitalization of the entire global economy and society. This restructuring began in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession but the changing social and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic will vastly accelerate the process. It is likely to heighten the concentration of capital worldwide and worsen social inequality. Enabled by digital applications, the ruling groups — unless they are pushed to change course by mass pressure from below — will turn to ratcheting up the global police state to contain the coming social upheavals.
The emerging post-pandemic capitalist paradigm is based on a digitalization and application of so-called fourth industrial revolution technologies. This new wave of technological development is made possible by a more advanced information technology. Led by artificial intelligence (AI) and the collection, processing and analysis of immense amounts of data (“big data”), the emerging technologies include machine learning, automation and robotics, nano- and biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), quantum and cloud computing, 3D printing, new forms of energy storage and autonomous vehicles, among others.
Computer and information technology (CIT), first introduced in the 1980s, provided the original basis for globalization. It allowed the emerging transnational capitalist class, or TCC, to coordinate and synchronize global production and therefore to put into place a globally integrated production and financial system into which every country has become incorporated. Just as the original introduction of CIT and the internet in the late 20th century profoundly transformed world capitalism, this second generation of digital-based technologies is now leading to a new round of worldwide restructuring that promises to have another transformative impact on the structures of the global economy, society and polity.
If the first generation of capitalist globalization from the 1980s involved the creation of a globally integrated production and financial system, the new wave of digitalization and the rise of platforms have facilitated since 2008 a very rapid transnationalization of digital-based services. By 2017, services accounted for some 70 percent of the total gross world product and included communications, informatics, digital and platform technology, e-commerce, financial services, professional and technical work, and a host of other non-tangible products such as film and music.