BAGGIO, Ulysses da Cunha 
BAGGIO, Ulysses da Cunha. Population, Crisis Amplified by the Covid-19 Pandemic and Social “Invisibility”: Socio-spatial Outlines. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 06, Ed. 04, Vol. 06, pp. 170-197. April 2021. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link: https://www.nucleodoconhecimento.com.br/geography/socio-spatial-outlines
This article focuses, in an articulated way, on the population, the spatial mobility of people and everyday life in the contemporary city, considering in the analysis the inflows of the current crisis, recrudescent and expanded by the pandemic of Covid-19. We believe that this is a dialectically integrated socio-spatial totality, which is part of a geographically expansive and intensive urbanization, given the advances in science and technology, geographic networks and flows of people, goods and information. The analysis sought to cover, even briefly, sensitive impacts on the relationship between society and the State; in the advancement of socio-spatial practices of a self-organizational character and a more autonomistic perception in relation to politics; in the devaluation of capital and retraction of the profit rate; changes in the perception of time; in the expansion of the working day and the extensivity of work relationships to the private-family scope; in the revaluation of the local scale in life in society under the interferences and conditioning sts of the pandemic; in the idea of a condition of even greater social “invisibility” in the still somewhat erratic context of the behavior of the disease and its consequences, “invisibility” that is especially attributed to impoverished social segments, a subject that will deserve some prominence in the analysis undertaken.
Keywords: Population and spatial mobility, expanded contemporary crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, everyday life, social “invisibility”
The current world has been undergoing transformations in the most varied aspects and areas, which, to a large part, were already underway, but starting to acquire greater speed and intensity in the current context, under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sensitive changes are noticeable in the context of the daily life of populations, affecting mobility, ways of life, habits and behaviors, among other things. In this sense, new socio-spatial designs are being constituted, in the same way as their rhythms and expressions, demarcating spatialities that instigate reflections, which raise considerations about their implications and meanings.
There are dimensions in this scenario related to forms of socialization and sociability, which seem to be taking on new traits, more towards approximation and cooperation, enlivening, especially in the most impoverished and vulnerable environments, relations of help and a certain sense of community life. This does not mean that they are becoming prominent and that they assert themselves as a general trend in the social process. However, under the requests and urgencies regarding the defense of life, in an environment in which death is placed as an imminent risk by the dissemination and mutations of the coronavirus, the perception of one in relation to the other changes to the plane of the need to live.
This also involves, by our understanding, a political sense, not least, since actions, in an expressive way, become more prone to the search for resolution or mitigation of adverse and restrictive conditions to life under this condition. There are a diversity of examples that can be cited, and it can be mentioned, among others, practices in which shanty towns in the country, such as Paraisópolis and Heliópolis, in São Paulo, as well as in Taubaté, in the interior of the state. In these spaces, important community actions and mobilization actions are developed by CUFA (Single shantytowns Center) in coping with various problems and, at that moment, especially those represented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This brings us back to the same time as it replaces the idea of “subject”, which, by our understanding, not only resizes itself to the plane of its meaning, but also gains some strength in this context of crisis recrudescent. Hence, we understand as a subject a diversity of concrete social actors that undertake efforts and practical acts to equate problems and adversities that more directly and immediately affect their living conditions and existence, thus producing more desirable socially desirable situations. Such actions do not necessarily represent or produce ruptures to the current capitalist system. These are actions within everyday life that are motivated essentially by “necessity”, not by utopias or “projects” of construction of another society and another economy, as if shifting the redemption of our problems to the future, as presented, to a large extent, in the Marxist perspective. In addition, it should be added that:
Human beings appear in Marxist history only as ‘forces’, ‘classes’ and ‘isms’. Legal, moral and spiritual institutions have only marginal place or are put into discussion only when they can easily be seen in terms of abstractions that speak through them. Dead categories, imposed on the living matter of history, reduce everything to formulas and stereotypes (SCRUTON, 2018, p.59).
Therefore, the point of view postulated here values and focuses on the present and its demands as a major horizon of concern. This idea is not confused with negligence or even contempt for the future, but rather to give the present the place that it actually deserves in social analysis and in the political agenda. What calls, in terms of analysis and approach, a certain redefinition of culture in today’s times, which, despite the adversities and many difficulties experienced, has been increasingly oriented to the search for greater happiness and pleasure in dealing with life, and, contrary to what is said, forging forms and strategies to greater social cohesion. This is regardless of goals to be met in the long term or even a project constituted in order to achieve it, thus denoting a certain sense not previously conceivable or elaborated. In this direction, by emphasizing the present and pointing out the “saturation of Western progressivism”, Maffesoli tells us: “The short circuit of time can generate culture. It can produce affections that are far from being negligible, making collective creation a true social dimension” (2007, p.45). He adds: “We are far from Western transcendence, whether theological is hi political. […] to be, is to be in the world. […] Being of which we ‘participate” (MAFFESOLI, 2007, p.47-48). And this condition points to the idea, or even to the “feeling of belonging”, of groups, territories, to a given cultural orientation, etc. (Idem, p.48).
Thus, under a crisis of great proportions, aggravated and resized by the coronavirus pandemic, transformations in diverse areas are enhanced, as is the case in the world of work, with greater progress in telework and home office; in the economy, with the reduction of the interest rate and the rise of the dollar, reverberating in the real estate market and in the agribusiness segment, which may be boosted; greater intensity of the use of automation in the labor environments, favored by greater supply of credit; intensification of people’s use of the internet and social networks; more immediate transformations in each person’s lives and in everyday social routines; revaluation of the local scale in life in society, extending to the spaces of family and private life, which are transformed into extensions of work spaces; changes in the social perception of time, under the interferences of this new socio-spatial condition; changes, which were already underway, in the nature of the policy, covering the wear/weakening of the relationship between society and the State and the advancement of more self-organizational political perceptives; and, finally, the resurgence of a condition often referred to as social “invisibility”, noddedly, as already observed, among the most impoverished segments of society.
There is certainly an even greater diversity of aspects and issues involved in this process, and it is not our purpose to explore them here, in a particular way, and we would not be able to do so, but to recognize that they, as a whole, have repercussions on the formation of new spatialities and expressions of the daily life of populations.
All these aspects mentioned are linked, in one way or another, to the contemporary crisis, amplified by the pandemic, impacting the lives of people and places. Let us remember that crises, historically, represent a point of inflection to the existing one, providing and inciting, differently, opportunities and practices that affect the destiny of people and their ways of being and being in the world; therefore, directly interfering in the sphere of everyday life.
POPULATIONS ON THE MOVE, PANDEMIC OF COVID-19 AND SOCIO-SPATIAL REVERBERATIONS
Quite noticeable ly in The Brazilian territory, it is observed that the spatial mobility of populations evidences the protagonism of medium-sized cities. They become spaces of greater population and economic attractiveness, although certain segments are still prominent in metropolitan spaces, such as the financial sector and information production.
In this context, the displacements are shorter duration, with shorter territorial distances, in general, although movements of larger, interregional intervals are still being found. There is an increase in its regularity and frequency, as attested by commuting movements, return to places of origin and other short forms of allocation. As mentioned in the hereby mentioned, long-distance flows, with São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília as centers of this process, are still in the country, involving new profiles of migrants.
But what is sought to highlight here is that we live today a trend that points to a greater heterogeneity and fragmentation of the economic and social dynamics in The Brazilian territory. This trend configuration reflects, by our understanding, both the impacts of the transition from Fordism to the paradigm of flexible accumulation (HARVEY, 1992) in the world of work and in the sphere of social reproduction, as well as the more immediate demands of survival of populations, in a scenario of crisis deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a crisis in which it is not known for sure when it might end, as in relation to its evolutionary dynamics, with a certain degree of unpredictability. Take, for example, the emergence/development of new, more aggressive virus mutations that are occurring, such as in England, South Africa and Brazil (more specifically in Manaus, AM).
It is not too much to remember that the Fordism crisis, more specifically, represented a strong impetus for the service sector in relation to the industry. This transformation has led to space-time restructurings within the accumulative process. In a related way, this movement covers changes in the modalities of work organization, in the technical and organizational basis of companies, in the state’s performance in the territory (territorial planning policies, involving large developments in the revitalization of urban spaces, etc.), in everyday life and even in the subjectivity of people. And in the current scenario, marked by the coronavirus pandemic, certain aspects and trends that were already underway acquire greater intensity, such as the advancement of tele work and home-office.
In the articulation of these variables it is understood that space and spatialities are also led to adapt, in one way or another, to the determinations of this process of change. The very nature of the policy and the ways in which its organization and exercise are also affected, requiring adjustments. And today, more than before, state policy, more specifically, is carried out in close relation with the business sector, although this relationship between State and market is at the origin of capitalism itself, thus not being something restricted or specific to our times. The fundamental difference is that in the present times this association has become a kind of strategic-operational expedient, acting as a kind of imperative to government policy, acquiring a sense or character of business, thus becoming strongly subject to economic and financial interests. Perhaps the main reason for the mispaths of politics in contemporary times resides, with the Brazilian case being something emblematic of this situation.
It is not meant by this that the relationship between state policy and companies is always, and necessarily, something harmful or harmful to the social interest. Public-private partnerships have increased enormously in our times, including around projects involving important social demands; projects in which the State alone would not often be able to carry out. And here the public transparency of this relationship and its monitoring by society and the supervisory bodies of the State itself is presented as something of fundamental importance, placing itself as a pressing need, in the sense of a more advanced democratic condition; thus moving away from a “state-centric” perspective.
Another important aspect can also be mobilised in terms of political change, given the role played by new information technologies. They, among other aspects, open new and greater possibilities to society’s participation in political life, making the conceptions and actions of government apparatus more permeable to social interference, which can potentiate results more consistent with the demands coming from below. In the same way it expands the connections and recycles the forces between movements and social subjects around issues of interest.
With the progress of the crisis and the escalation of systemic corruption, driven by populist governments, especially in Brazil and Latin America, it becomes noticeable in society a certain advance of the idea that politics should gravitate more around those concerned than the State. About this, it should be known that:
When, for different reasons and unevenly grounded, both the popular and medium-sized classes perceive that the State has ceased to give them security – the security that, by definition, is their responsibility to guarantee – the reasons for the sense of belonging are undermined, which, in the philosophical-political tradition and its original texts, sustain the state production contract (SARLO , 2005, p.53).
But this idea, well understood, does not mean, properly, denying or disqualifying the State in the exercise of its functions and regulatory actions. Even because imagining the absence of the state or the “minimum state” in a country like Brazil would be not only a mistake, it would only contribute to aggravate even more fundamental problems of the country, which would prove to be a technical and intellectually irresponsible posture. However, it is necessary to recognize that, due to the established limits, which become even greater with the pandemic, involving a diversity of interests and demands, this orientation of greater autonomy and self-organizational action, gains strength in the present times.
For some time now, state power has been eroding, losing organic and systemic capacity to the plan of its actions, limiting its performance in segments of great relevance to economic and social development. Examples include weaknesses and problems in policies related to industry, science and technology, health and basic sanitation, etc. Moreover, its ability to produce wealth, promote governance and regulation more effectively and effectively also shows conspicuous signs of decline.
Although a certain advance in democratic life in the country can be recognized, although this is not a consensus in society, the problem of social and regional inequality not only persists but also renews itself, configuring spatial disparities between historically constituted regions and within them; regions that have become, tended, more heterogeneous and fragmented. In this territorial context of increased contrasts, geograficities are developed that involve the sense of an effective degrading socio-spatial opposition, which undoubtedly disturbs and weakens democracy and the performance of institutions. This is a seemingly paradoxical scenario, but one that is revealed more specifically as a totality of contradictions and recrudescent ambiguities, in which they weigh the most recent impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
While it is taken into account dynamic and greater diversity in the regional economies of the Northeast, Amazon and Midwest, mainly, this process has not been able to ensure the most effective increase in labor productivity and the reversal of inequality in the country; inequality that stands as if not the greatest, one of the main challenges to be faced in a post-pandemic scenario. This historically recurrent problem strongly evidences a long trajectory of successive negligence and political-governmental inequities to its equation and combat. And the ongoing pandemic, with its spellings of death, fear and insecurity, opened the urgency to a more strategic and effective treatment of this central problem of the country, somewhat naturalized, by the way.
Finally, it is worth noting that public policies have been suffering from an expressive fragmentation, exposing the absence of an effective national project, tailored with society in its diversity, a fragmentation that not only weakens but also delegitimizes the governmental planning itself.
Our understanding is that, among other implications, this state of things incites changes or, perhaps, transformations in terms of the perception of politics. This scenario certainly poses great challenges, in which they weigh a territory of large proportions and expressively unequal, subjected to a significant spatial mobility of the population, thus covering a spectrum of scales.
The demands of locomotion and displacement of much of the population to their daily survival have been imposing as a pressing need, deserving a certain highlight those that need to be realized by the most impoverished populations, although not only they. This, from our perspective, engenders the search for alternative forms of survival, which undergo a greater appreciation of the scale of the place in the context of everyday life and social reproduction. Thus, and under the complaints of the need to live, the relations of mutual help and solidarity seem to be renewed and acquire a greater and more internalized political and social sense in minds. This refers to the idea of a possible strengthening of the sense of community or even a community sense in the face of a socio-spatial scenario made even more critical to life possible in these conditions.
It is reiterated that this political perspective seems to seek to move away and protect itself from greater interference and co-optations by the State apparatus in diverse social practices, but not necessarily in all aspects and situations. In any case, this condition of greater autonomy of the agents allows wider margins to create and experiment, in order to better respond to the demands of stakeholders. It is plausible to consider that this orientation can even favor more fruitful partnerships between state, society and market. Its achievement calls for more advanced levels of society’s participation in relation to the mechanisms involved in issues that most directly affect people’s lives. In this sense, more proactive political and social postures are required, in order to forge conditions in political life that expand socioterritorial consultation expedients, in order to subsidize procedures and provisions in terms of public policies to the more effective improvement of the spatial organization of our cities.
Thus, it is feasible to start a better distribution of resources, services and infrastructure in urban spaces, benefiting social life in various aspects, such as reducing inequalities, increasing the supply of employment, better distribution of wealth, promotion and maturation of democratic culture, etc… And this approach, which articulates the spheres of governmental, social and market power in urban environments, is placed, through our perception, as an imperative, possibly the most fruitful and feasible way to face the problems experienced on a daily basis. It acquires centrality and urgency in the face of the speed of the ongoing urbanization processes, especially in view of the coming decades, when the overwhelming majority of the world’s populations will be living in cities.
With the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the narrative that advocates a greater and more effective presence of the State in society and the economy acquires a certain projection, which is understandable in the light of our needs and problems. However, although this is, consjuncture, as something necessary and emergency, in the medium and long term the search for greater autonomy and plurality in the exercise of politics should continue and even assert itself as a trend. We have that understanding. In this sense, the importance of the State is reaffirmed, especially in countries with high levels of inequality and poverty, as is the case in Brazil, with no sense in the idea of a minimum state in our socioeconomic reality. What is proposed is the need to improve the functioning of the institutions and their necessary synergy with society and market forces. And in this correlation of powers, social power (with effective participation of society) is absolutely fundamental and decisive.We speak, therefore, from a perspective with more advanced conditions of freedom and democracy, which is not confused with a conduct of our state-centered problems.
The current context of a recrudesd crisis exposes fundamental keys to the understanding of the contemporary socio-spatial condition, with political nuances to pay attention to. This has repercussions on the ontological status of the being in its metabolic relationship with the environment (understood here beyond a strictly environmentalist connotation).
Let us remember that the contemporary world reveals as one of its main characteristics a state of continuous movements and superimposed population mobility, which favor the creation of scenarios and atmospheres of turbulence, tensions of varying hues, discrimination and intolerance, fear and stress, potentiating psychopathies. However, also of cooperation and mutual help, reinventions and even reenchantment of issues emptied of meaning. On this last aspect, more specifically, it is plausible to think about the very trends of the world of work. Undoubtedly, contemporary labor involves a great deal of precariously, which are resurgence under the inflows of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we understand that this does not present itself as a one-way street or something too rigid that cannot be politically and technically modified by social forces, in order to acquire more dignified and desirable features, not being restricted to a condition of losses and precariousness. In the context of this contradictory totality, with trends and processes enhanced by the coronavirus pandemic, places are constituted as spaces of belonging, identification, relationality and synergies, including strengthening on the impacts of the crisis; but, at the same time, and by contrast, as spaces of revulsion, topophobia and relational ephemeralities, devoid of value bonds between the being and the environment.
As we have seen, in contemporary circumstances the State has largely lost its former power, captured by global, suprastate forces or agents, whose action takes place in a dense environment of network flows in relation to which effective political control is practically unfeasible. “It is politics chronically besothing by the power deficit (and therefore also of coertion) that faces the challenge of emancipated powers of political control” (BAUMAN; BORDONI, 2016). It is, therefore, a dissociation between power and politics and, thus, a certain regulatory vacuum in terms of the procedural choices most appropriate to the treatment of the problems demanded, often revealing great incapacity in the most appropriate choices and approaches. One can mobilize here, for example, stun and even misguided attitudes of governments in the case of combating the new coronavirus.
Faced with a sociocultural panorama made much more complex in our times, problems and weaknesses of political management of this process are often placed; especially in the case of illegal or clandestine population flows, tensions and problems of sociability, integration and assimilation of migrant populations in the societies of the receiving countries often occur; often involving interdiction and repression actions against them. This translates into a paradox of contemporary globalization, in which money is given great freedom of movement/fluidity, but there is no counterpart to the free movement of people, especially international migration flows.
The world and places are thus becoming socio-spatial areas of increasing mobility, with conditions for their transformation. In addition to ongoing changes in the world of work, it can also be pointed out the expansion of life-threatening situations of significant contingents of populations, today in the world, such as international clandestine movements and their condition of enormous vulnerability, such as illegal refugees and migrants.
Thus, the contemporary socio-spatial atmosphere is marked by an effective fluctuation, whether by voluntary or involuntary, peaceful or violent motivations. Likewise, due to the prevalence of a state of “existential nomadism” and the formation of a “new social choreography” (MAFFESOLI, 2007, p.15 and 40). New communication technologies and the most diverse means of spatial mobility of people and goods play a key role in these expressions. However, this new social choreography does not necessarily point to some long-term goal or form of political or existential project (MAFESOLLI, 2007, p.43), showing itself, more specifically, as a diversity of everyday locational experiences of the present time. They demarcated a close relationship with the condition of “being” in the world, even if they can occur in an unstable and changing way. This leads us to perceit them in a broader and encompassing sense, distancing ourselves from the rigidity of nominal classifications. Ontologically, they would be situated in the universe of relationships of belonging and participation in situations experienced in everyday life, capillarizing themselves in the diversity of the social body and places.
With the rapid advances of globalization, the connectivity between the places of the world is enhanced, whether physical or immaterial, in the same way as inequalities, given by the selective and contradictory logic that presides over its realization in the territories, establishing differential, hegemonic and non-hegemonic temporalities. The living conditions and the forms they assume in the places, reflect, to a large extent, determinations and conditioning of this complex and markedly differential terporospatial composition. We are, at all times, under the interferences of the sociocultural and “natural” environment, under the variability, therefore, of the inflows of our time and the socio-spatial contexts of experience.
Thus, we are part of a globalized environment marked by impressive scientific advances, especially in recent decades, when the societies of the world experience, on a daily basis, the resified convergence of events of the various cultural, economic, political and social instances. This configuration covers both situations of adaptation and a certain reinvention to the plan of living conditions, as well as difficulties/restrictions in terms of regulatory adjustments of the mentioned instances, thus giving us the meaning of a “crisis”, recrudescent and magnified by the pandemic of Covid-19. Given its breadth and complexity, it would also present itself, by our understanding, as a crisis of the civilizing process itself and, in this sense, of modern ontology itself. We postulate that both dimensions integrate and interact under the socio-spatial condition that is announced in the present times.
EVERYDAY LIFE AND SOCIAL “INVISIBILITY”
As we have seen, important transformations in societies and in places permeate the contemporary world, which involve, among the aspects mentioned, the problem of spatial inequality and, in a related way, social injustice. It has a close relationship with them the permanence/renewal of processes of exploitation of work and income. In this context, we are led to consider that the growing digital technogonization of social relations and work, driven by the pandemic of Covid-19 should accentuate them, retrofueling the system.
This same condition covers, likewise, virtualities to other paths, thus not revealing itself as a one-way street, marked exclusively or prominently by losses and setbacks. What we seek to highlight at this moment is a dimension experienced and shared by many at practical levels of objective reality and theoretical, philosophical and political analysis, in view of the impacts on living conditions under this crisis.
The systemic device of current global power, fundamentally established by the communion between corporate corporations and government political structures, engenders conditions and directions for national development projects to become national projects of the interests of powerful transnational companies, especially in peripheral countries of the world system, with their historical problems of intensive and extensive exploitation of resources (and the Brazilian case is quite emblematic when national interest groups, which have been able to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of their populations.
Not wishing to restrict the meaning of the current crisis to a strictly economic meaning, we believe it is important to consider that this crisis by establishing a large amount of dead work in the system, with the supply of goods exceeding demand, restricted conditions to the reproduction of capital. Under vectors of devaluation of the constituted crisis, capital is compelled to open new fronts of valorization in the context of the reproduction of space. Roughly speaking, this reactive device, which has led to diverse impacts on form and content in urban life, has above all allowed some support to the system itself. Thus, the urban space becomes a privileged object of large businesses and enterprises, with the management of cities operating in the sense of the largest possible capitalization of business. Take, for example, the great expansion of the real estate market and how it has served various territorial operations involving large contributions of financial capital. But it is necessary to highlight that the whole territory becomes the object of great interests, including here the field and its growing exploitation by agribusiness, gaining a certain centrality increasing demands for food, in an increasingly urbanized world. And Brazil, once again, appears in this context as a territory of high relevance, becoming strategic in this way, considering its great spatial extension and diverse potentialities. And not by chance, countries like China, among others, have substantially increased their investments in our territory and economy, operating in different segments.
This condition of devaluation, with a retraction of capital gains and the average rate of profit, imposes on economic agents the need to “burn” the large mass of surplus capital, until more favorable conditions are established for new valuations. Therefore, the accumulation made excessive in the decades following the Second World War, would be responsible for these retractions, producing robust impacts on the labor market and on the support of companies themselves. In general, companies have sought to reduce their costs and adopt new forms of management and organization of work, among other reactive measures.
These transformations have led to weakening in the more traditional forms of work organization, while insuffling business strategies to achieve more competitive positions in a globalized market and with increasingly smaller spaces of dispute to the desired gains. Hence it is possible to understand the expansion of the difficulties and contradictions of the system, with the State acting less as a regulatory agent of the process and more as a kind of preferred partner of corporate or hegemonic interests. This is even more incisive in peripheral societies, marked, among other aspects, by restrictions and irrationalities regarding the performance of their institutions. This, without a doubt, is the basis of much of its structural problems, and the related problem represented by corruption and its multiplication should be added.
Brazil, more specifically, reveals an incisive and paradoxical ambiguity, in which the crisis reached very worrying proportions as illicit and corruption have achieved systemic and structural functionalities, having its core in the state apparatus itself, giving strong impetus to the escalation of kleptocracy in the country. The strategic meeting between party politics and corporate financial support to campaigns, with a strong use of media structures to electoral purposes, signal a point of inflection to democracy in its territory, causing substantial damage. This also affects genuine intentions in promoting real development, especially to the most impoverished segments of the population. Such aspects undoubtedly interfere and condition the social process, giving impetus to transformations in ways of life and existence, in ways of being and being in places, influencing new spatialities and ways of experiencing time and the world.
Under the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and daily life, in general, transformations and readaptations to new conditions seem to point, among other aspects, to a certain revaluation of the local scale in the conduction of a myriad of demands/functions, whether of work (home office), or leisure, entertainment, studies, etc.
This does not mean, however, ruptures or setbacks in the global communication system, which tends to become increasingly broad and sophisticated, but more properly relearning and experimentation around situational warps appropriating the present time-space, which involves the meaning of an existential pedagogy to the crisis. Such socio-spatial situations are erected by the stakeholders themselves (social subjects involved), from the bottom up. This points to the political-existential condition in which politics, as we point out, revolves more around people (concrete entities) than the State (generic and abstract), in a bottom-up movement. We have that these practices of self-organizational character carry auspicious potentialities in the daily confrontation of problems and social demands, favoring the constitution of what can be described as territorial ways of living, more enriched and influential.
Under the development of the current crisis, a logic advances that internalizes itself in the social body and practically becomes naturalized in people’s spirits; a logic that operates for the highest possible performance, imprinting new nuances to the relational and labor world, therefore, also in space and in everyday life.
Alongside compressive-restrictive structures and conditions on social relations, allied to the spread of fear, insecurity and unpredictability regarding the course of events, advances alienations and procedural misunderstandings in relation to the teleological sense and dimensions of reality.
With the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting social isolation, the perception of time undergoes changes, subtracting the notion from changes in the life routine. Variations in the duration of time under this condition have occurred both in the sense that time has been taking time to pass, and that it is taking place faster, considering the particularities of the internal and external agendas of each one. The sensation of a temporal distortion, for which the remote work modality, which is widely dissecting through society, has represented substantial increases in the work day. In this condition many people are being led to stay daily connected to the internet, needing to work on weekends and holidays, seeing their family living spaces transformed into true extensions of the companies and institutions in which they work.
Therefore, there are signs and evidence of excesses regarding the time of dedication to work and the conditions of its realization in this context, in a society in which “performance” has been affirming itself as a new paradigm (HAN, 2017). This leads us to the growth of problems to people’s mental and physical health, thereby aggravating existing adverse situations, giving strong impetus to “neuronal diseases” (HAN, 2017, p.20), such as depression, Burnout syndrome, ADHD, etc. Such pathologies are closely linked to the condition in which people are transformed (and subjected) by increasing demands for performance and production. They thus become “entrepreneurs of themselves”, under the imperative of a logic marked by the duty to increase productivity levels, leading to illnesses, by performance pressures (Idem, p.23 and 27).
Overwork and performance is sharpened in self-exploration. This is more efficient than an exploration of the other, because it goes hand in hand with the feeling of freedom. The explorer is at the same time the exploited. Aggressor and victim can no longer be distinguished. This self-referentiality generates a paradoxical freedom that, due to the coercive structures inherent to it, turns into violence. The psychic illnesses of the performance society are precisely the pathological manifestations of this paradoxical freedom (HAN, 2017, p.30).
In this sense, we can see the device that has been adopted in an ascending way by companies, of fixing work under the goal of results, even under the impacting circumstances of the pandemic, as observed in the work of judges, bank managers, telemarketing employees, etc. What has exerted compressions and caused situations of exhaustion and psychic corrosion to large and differentiated social segments , in varied sectors of the economy. And in times when levels of organic immunity need to rise more, given the risks of coronavirus contagion, this stressful and unstable work scenario causes concerns and questions. In addition, we must also consider the problem of the substantial increase in unemployment that the pandemic has been causing, reducing social inequality in the country and poverty.
Man may be subjected to a condition similar to slavery, perhaps a variant of it…, at unconscious and apparently disordered rhythms and intensities, influencing various disturbances to the health of his body and spirit, casting him into the labyrinths of daily illness.
Therefore, it is necessary to ask whether it would be possible to live in a world less resilient to crises, in which ordinary time relations would not apply. About this, Aldous Huxley points out, with acuity, that:
The disease modifies our perceptual apparatus, and thus also the universe in which we live. What will be the most real, the closest thing in itself, perceived by God – the universe of the healthy man, or the sick? It’s impossible to answer safely. The healthy man has the majority for himself. But vox populi is not the vox Dei. For practical, social purposes, the normal universe is certainly the most comfortable we can inhabit; but convenience is absolutely not a measure of truth. The healthy man leads to great disadvantage of not being disinterested. For him, the world is a place where progress must be made, a place where only the fittest survive. Like it or not, he has to face the utilitarian aspect of things. The disease pushes man away from the battlefield where the struggle for life continues, and transports him to a region of biological detachment; he comes to see something beyond the simply useful (HUXLEY, 1968, p.29-30).
It can be inferred that the dialectic between consciousness and will, under an atmosphere of pandemic and fear, departs from interests and utilities, or perhaps from utilitarian interests, acquiring temporal extension and permanence.In the current state of crisis-disease, apprehension and fear settle in everyday life, we would be led to a certain detachment from the spirit of “utilitarian reality”, enabling “to perceive, or create by itself, another reality, less superficial and biased than everyday, normal and utilitarian reality” (HUXLEY, 1968, p.30).
Positioning himself fully in defense of life, especially “as manifested in the health of our own body,” Sino-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan asserts that “the integrity of the body is the foundation of our sense of order and completeness. When we get sick, it also seems that the same is true of the world” (2005, p.139).
In a scenario of fear and anxiety to which we are subjected in these times of pandemic, with trajectories of the disease still somewhat erratic, we are confronted with a spectrum of other anxieties that permeate the contemporary sphere of daily life, guiding our attentions “to the hostility of the world” (TUAM, 2005, p.140-141). This perspective is identified with a strong and prevailing idea throughout history, from antiquity to modern times, referring, in the structures of thought, to the influences that the “environment” exerts or can exert on our lives. Environment, according to Tuan, understood as “a broad term that includes stars at one end of the scale and, at the other, specific geographical locations” (2005, p.153).
This opens questions and reflections around the possibilities – which integrate the structure of being – to human life and existence, in its permanent metabolism with the environment. This, however, finds the limit represented by death itself, which inexorably revokes the repertoire of all others. In this context, occurrences can be considered under the sense of disconnections to pre-established standards or standards. They would operate certain “displacements” of life modes and situations, hitherto existing, for others, but not necessarily in order to impose their end, but transforming or adapting them in the light of demands that assume the “foreground”, especially those linked more directly to survival. Therefore, we are talking about incisive needs, which point to a reorientation of life and, thus, from culture to the sphere of the economy, an area in which survival cries out under the inflows of a crisis recrudescent by the pandemic.
Everyday life thus seems to slip under the circumstances of a system that seems to reaffirm the unpredictability of the future and even the present, engendering incongruities and incongruities with qualitatively conceived life. Strategies oriented to the control and subjection of time and space, therefore, of life, become increasingly refined technologically and strengthened politically. This puts us before the possibility of becoming beings under constant monitoring and control, transformed into abstract data by the broad rise and dissemination of algorithmic logic and the use of applications. With this understanding, the Israeli historian Yuval N. Harari (2016) warns of the very feasible possibility of being converted into “irrelevant beings”, challenging efforts oriented to the well-being of societies, family groups and generations. This situation, if effectively constituted, would have the potential to not only impact, but also promote undesirable transformations in existing democracies, engendering a kind of asynchrony between technology and politics, with the former occupying the foreground.
However, it is plausible to admit not only an asymmetry, properly, between them, but an articulation, and politics can be enhanced by the advances of technology, experiencing, why not say it, even some form of reinvention. However, the perception that advances between societies is that the levels of control and monitoring over our lives are effectively growing, at rapid pace, which, in fact, is a source of great concern, because it threatens people’s freedom and privacy. Which tells us the idea of a totalitarian system, as George Orwel imagined, in his book “1984”.
In this context it is plausible to consider a certain retreat or loss of intensity of the policy, which would also apply to the theoretical creation itself regarding possible ruptures and transformations of the existing one. However, it is also perfectly permissible to think of the opposite path, just when the contradictions are intensifying and the sense of urgency in the face of the needs that cry for gains greater projections. This points to the replacement of the terms in which the relationship between society and nature is placed in the context of this crisis is severed by the pandemic, which also presents itself as a health and social crisis of wide proportions. And here, once again, space presents itself as a fundamental dimension of this process, exposing the exhaustion of hegemonic patterns in relation to their use and appropriation, with even greater force in peripheral countries of the world system. This requires, by our understanding, a profound rethinking of the contemporary socio-spatial condition, with space having become predominantly a basis for the reproduction of capital than of the promotion of human life and existence. And everything leads us to believe that this crisis will last longer. If this really proves, and everything indicates that yes, this situation will require us, at the very least, the adoption of a kind of existential pedagogy of crisis, in the sense of learning to live and live under a more prolonged criticalstage.
And an aspect that seems to us to be of fundamental importance in this context of crisis-disease refers to the political manipulation of the pandemic of Covid-19, which, among other aspects, operates as an instrument of social “invisibility”, especially in relation to the most impoverished segments of society. Invisibility in the sense of being ignored and made absent from everyday life, both in urban and outside environments, such as traditional peoples and cultures, such as indigenous populations and quilombolas. By our understanding it would translate into the subsumption of the logic of socio-spatial inequality to the established hegemonic powers, in which the exercise of state policy is embodied with corporate-business interests, especially large laboratories in the drug-chemical industry. They are known to invest very little in disease prevention and research that cannot assure them of robust gains. As for the gains, moreover, we can already perceive the enormous appreciation of shares of these companies in the financial market.
However, this idea of “social invisibility” needs to be relativized, considering, among other aspects, the spatial scale in which it is treated. And this is to the extent that in places where people are affected and eventually die (especially in peripheral spaces, of impoverished populations), they would not properly present themselves as invisible; on the contrary, even, since they are the most affected. Therefore, they would not necessarily find themselves in a condition of invisibility, except in situations of an effective “disconnection” or social division, as seem to be the cases of people who live practically alone in cities, which, in quantitative terms, are not at all despicable.There are many people in this condition, this being another link in the chain of the profound inequality of our society. But, still, when cases are placed in sources of greater scope, as in certain official vehicles, what is perceived is the prevalence of “cold numbers” in relation to occurrences, in addition to underreporting. It is as if they have no real existence, being reduced by statistics to the condition of abstract beings, or perhaps “things”.
This inescapably leads us to reflect on the expansion of the fetishization of social relations, more specifically in the transformation of cases of illness and death of the pandemic into object expressions, thus emptying them from the social drama they carry. And this seems very worrying to us, as it gives us evidence of asserting itself in contemporary social form, although not in an absolute way. This trait is revealed by the naturalization/acceptance of this condition, making it something common and commonplace. However, this “co-ification” of social relations transcends the situation of the pandemic; however, with it, it is revealing much of its extent and depth. This puts us before the need, intellectual and political, to deconstruct this horizon “cold” and negligent, building a look oriented to the dramatization of numbers, so as to raise the life that they hide to a plane of relevance, humanitarian and socially considered.
This situation would also involve the constitution of an environment of computer psychosis, producing the succession of emotional states of euphoria and abatement; situation, moreover, which is greatly favored by the voluminous, rapid and wide dissemination of information around the pandemic (infodemia), which are often false, incorrect or dubious, conveyed by unauthorized news sources and verified by accredited health agencies. Hence the formation of an adverse and worrying environment of disinformation, anxiety and panic in the population, which potentiates conditions of physical illness (including that of Covid-19 itself) and psychoemotional, variables that are often associated.
In this unusual atmosphere the marketing of the belief in medical and political, or perhaps medical-political, authority plays a powerful persuasive role. Such belief, instilled in minds by the wide and widespread media apparatus available, little or almost nothing is contested or questioned, with the exception of more qualified dissonant voices from society that manifest themselves here and there. These, as they do not have the support of the hegemonic narrative, appear as an uncomfortable and minority opposition. However, this “official” and “authorized” narrative is not univocal and consensual, with distinct and even antagonistic-disagreeing points of view regarding the pandemic and the procedures for approaching and acting to combat it. Furthermore, we have the indigestible and recurrent problem of poor management of public health resources, the insufficiency of assessment and diagnosis of socio-spatial situations of the disease and the underreporting of cases, especially in urban areas marked by poverty, known to be hotspots of acute contamination by the virus.
In this sense, we are faced with a scenario of conspicuous resurgence of social reproduction, which, it is worth remembering, plays a central role in the functioning of the socioeconomic system. Under the dynamics of the pandemic and the commitments imposed on it, involving a strong retraction in consumption and value generation chains and many human losses, situations even unforeseen to the system itself may arise. Systemic devaluations are already taking place, and depending on the duration of the pandemic, they will very likely become even greater. And the state is increasingly being called upon to act to contain a possible collapse. Which, ironically, runs counter to fashionable positions in defense of the minimum state in the economy. Having acquired a profuse dissemination in subjectivities through the spectacular media apparatus of our times, such perspective has become a new reason in the social body. Speed, insane competitiveness and unstoppable consumption are its fundamental components. However, it shows signs of being at an inflection point, being challenged and tested by the current conditions and circumstances of the system’s functioning under the pandemic.
Therefore, Covid-9’s inflows start challenges precisely in the context of social reproduction and its basic structures. This inescapably imposes weaknesses and questions to the prevailing consumerism, covering the very temporal scale of its realization, that is, signaling its reduction. Under this condition, everyday life becomes widely permeated and conditioned by a widely disseminated communication system, making people’s lives progressively monitored, interfering incessantly in the existential sphere and, therefore, in the ways of being and being in the world.
The spoliative processes of an economic-social system that agonizes are advancing. Masses of people considered “disposable” or “superfluous” are expanded, who, in the gears of capital reproduction, made even more critical and perverse by the ongoing crisis, seek forced survival in parallel-inferior circuits of the economy. Not even the disease and its adverse implications are able to stop it. This certainly points to a condition of even more expanded and profound growth of inequality and socio-spatial polarization, thus intensifying the structural contradictions of this economy.
Expanded movements of people around the world, noddedly international flows of migrants, occur under greater risks and vulnerabilities, both due to the absence or insufficiency of knowledge in relation to the spaces of destination, as well as the lack of basic social ties in them. All this, articulated to conditions of poverty, low schooling and socio-environmental vulnerability, establish a double compression/coertion: the political-institutional ignominy dispensed to them and, in a related way, the condition of a certain “invisibility” and even “naturalization” of their condition, making itself a kind of shallow nebula of the drama that permeates it. Thus, greater political and social attention is revoked to these people, especially the poorest, relegated to an inferior plane, sociological and geographically apart, as if relegated to the limbo of history.
We also wonder whether the upsurge and the very trivialization of violence in today’s times, considering here the impacts of the pandemic, would not have close links with this situation. We understand that. Likewise, and in a related way, with the advancement and resizing of social alienation, under a profuse technoification of everyday life and subjectivities. What rekindens concerns about socio-spatial alienation, amid the perception of the advance of a narrative that seems to naturalize, while obnubilating the suffering of others, insuffndo postures of indifference and compression of the subject, printing a revocation trait. The idea of a broad and renewed malaise in society, more cornered, neurotic and paranoid, would find in this scenario, it seems to us, its central link.
In this ongoing “new” socio-spatial condition, essential human values may be languishing, easing like soap bubbles in the wind. However, and in a seemingly paradoxical and distant way from binary perspectives, it also signals virtualities and ongoing expressions to reinventions reactive to this state of things, forging and/or that may arouse socio-spatial experiences that can respond more adequately to the demands of the interested parties themselves. What puts it on the agenda, perhaps the key to the approach and compression of the current social form, which seems to evolve under a bias of more self-organizational trait, in these times of crisis recrudescent. He would point to a more insinuating sense of community among people, especially in more impoverished spaces in the face of increased constraints, at the same time, and associatedly, that of valuing the scale of the place in the context of everyday life. We consider it plausible to consider that the current crisis condition, fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, is increasing perceptions that politics should revolve more around people than the State, despite recognizing the importance of this institution in the treatment of the issue. In this sense, it is reasonable to work with the idea that such aspects would not only be pointing to the constitution of geographical landscapes even more diverse throughout the world, but also by the places that give them concreteness, but also to the possible formation of a new status of everyday life.
This is clear from the need to view man and society as something inconclusive, being unfinished or restricted to a one-way condition or pathway, inert in the prevailing conditions, accommodated in structures of a certain political, pedagogical and existential framework. The perspective of taking them as a project is envisaged, that is, as a field of feasible possibilities from the present time, while not being reduced to them, thus posing prospectively. What it is worth saying are thought and worked, subjectively and objectively, in terms of the may become, in the light of imperative demands and needs of the present. And this is not confused with a Marxist perspective of putting in the future the resolution or redemption of our problems, and not even invoking superhuman supports to save us and free us from problems that we ourselves create. This refers to a more properly secular view of paths and actions to their achievement. It is certainly not intended to despise or ignore faith and religious cultures in this regard; but to draw attention that problems created by ourselves need to be faced with a greater dose of realism and a sense of responsibility, requesting more advanced levels of involvement and practical actions, from a transformational perspective in the face of the socially desired. Hence the relevance of more independent practices that involve more directly those interested around agendas more directly related to living conditions. And the critical context in which we live under the coronavirus pandemic puts urgent demands on us.
Ontologically, the condition of “being in the world” in current times includes both the meaning of a spatially moving and restless life (which reflects, above all, the new and unstable transnational forms of production and consumption, articulated with the financial reproduction of capital), and of a life subjected to many interferences from technocracy. Hence the uncomfortable situation in which life is repeatedly dwarfed under the terms of the compressive and disturbing logic of the reproduction of capital and wealth, which is redimensioned, as we have seen, under the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stupendous transformations produced in this context of crisis recrudescent by the pandemic have led to a certain expansion as of territorial dispersion of the scales of human interaction, multiplying unequal and heterogeneous environments. In this context somewhat kaleidoscopic has been forging, by our perception, new conformations of social relationality, especially forms more marked by self-organizational traits. This emergency scenario certainly involves new articulations between places and people, gaining a certain projection of the scale of the place in the context of everyday life, under the inflows of the ongoing pandemic.
Urban environments become more restrictive and, at the same time, diffuse under the conditions of this expanded crisis. In this context, a certain strengthening of mechanisms of control and power can be observed, but also of forces that seek, in one way or another, to forge conditions reactive to this state of things. We have the understanding that fissures are processed in urban environments under this reactive sense. It seems to be drawing a kind of existential pedagogy of crisis, which gives indications of achieving greater temporal and geographical extensivity. This pedagogy not only seems to involve a greater appreciation of the scale of the place to the plane of the most immediate relations of everyday life, under community sense, perhaps more advanced due to the impacts of the pandemic of Covid-19. Everyday life in urban environments gives evidence of being oriented to a certain relearning regarding the conditions of existence and social reproduction, subjected to higher levels of communicational technostation and inventiveness.Let us remember, therefore, that the expansive urbanization of the present times has advanced with the growth of expressions of precariousness of urban living conditions and habitat, which is evidenced, among other aspects, by the expressive suburbanization of our cities, especially in large centers. This gives us a scenario of greater complexity and heterogeneity of socio-spatial inequalities. Within oppositions that tend to be degrading and tensioned, increasingly close spatially, what is considered or treated as subaltern, neglected or “invisible”, reveals its dramas and redesigns the really existing life, conferring territorial concreteness to numbers and statistics. Urban planning and public policies strategies become even more questioned and challenged, under the meaning of an urgency to reposition their terms of realization, which calls, among other expedients, mechanisms of greater proximity and socioterritorial consultation. This requires more advanced levels of democracy and freedom, under a solid sense of social and environmental responsibility.
This perspective points to a social reappropriation of places that is virtually capable of making them more to the taste of its users and residents. And this condition, more than before, should increasingly involve the widespread use of communication technologies. It signals, in this sense, a possible diversification of life forms and relationality, with insertions/interactions in a more expanded political-relational circuit.
The deeper understanding of this crisis (and its present and prospective design) will depend on socioterritorial theories more sensitive to the aspects mentioned. This calls for greater attention to what is done on the ground floor, since people, on a daily basis, (re)make conditions more favorable to their worlds of life and existence, thus forging possible answers to uncontemplated needs.
It is not intended to postulate that valorization (political, symbolic, etc.) of the place represents or can represent the solution of all our problems, but highlight that it is an indispensable condition for the construction of possibilities socially more feasible and desirable to people’s lives.
One cannot lose sight of the dialectical dimension of this process, which shifts from univocal perspectives of history, that it is a one-way street, as is observed in relation to the neoliberal perspective. Non-hegemonic actors, generically and mistakenly considered as “invisible” or of “low relevance”, based on new technological resources and networking strategies, can even forge more visual and virtuous socio-spatial situations, with projects more consistent with their needs. And this is not confused with a blind bet on technology as a kind of panacea to the dilemmas of these populations, which, in fact, are far from “invisible”, especially in a country as deeply unequal as Brazil.
As already suggested by this study, the Internet plays a fundamental role in this process, giving remarkable impetus to modalities of work of associative and collaborative character, which cover varied sectors, such as industry, communication, education, entertainment, among others. In this universe, the cooperative and collaborative organization of work, under the control of the interested parties themselves, shows auspicious signs of being moving on the rise, pointing to the constitution of more desirable life forms, even if the inflows of the adverse conditions of the current crisis are considered. Adversities, by the way, which in much condition changes.
It remains to be seen whether these changes will be able to lead to fundamental socioterritorial transformations in a complex world and largely subject to the logic of the State and corporate market interests. The unequal development, recrudesed by the deleterious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, shows certain signs of confronting the logic of current globalization and, more specifically, with the prevailing form of the relationship between society and nature.
Everything leads us to believe that we have reached a new tipping point, a critical limit that calls for the inescapable condition of taking people’s lives and health to the foreground, our largest and most urgent social project.
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 PhD in Human Geography from the University of São Paulo.
Submitted: February, 2021.
Approved: April, 2021.