Social Integration in the Post Pandemic Society

Harasankar Adhikari

Social integration is the pillar of the healthy human society. It determines the multiple roles of individuals as well as groups. Structural and psychological integration is two main aspects of social integration. Structural integration denotes the actual involvement of individuals with various groups (social, cultural and religious institution), whereas psychological integration is the subjective experience of connectedness to other (relatives, peers, friends, neighbor, etc.). These dimensions of social life are modestly correlated. It builds a comprehensive picture of people’s social integration.

Both structural and psychological integration is essential for individuals to function well, both in personal life and in work-related activities. Various studies show that ‘a high level of social participation increases longevity, buffers individuals from the effects of stressful life events, and facilitates people’s sense of well-being.’ It strengthens social networks of an individual which serve a control mechanism that promote healthy lifestyles and discourage antisocial behavior. At large the unity of society is based on the ability of individuals to connect with one another and coordinate their activities. Therefore, social integration, not only benefits individuals, but also is necessary for the smooth functioning of social institutions.

Social integration is always in threat because of social, economic, racial and cultural differences in a society.  Coronavirus or COVID-19 is an ugly threat to the world society because it influences social disintegration in multiple levels of society. It is an evolving crisis and the stress is unequally impacted on the individual and society and on the government. There is a structural risk everywhere, which affects everyone, is as economic as it is biological. Therefore, there is change in social, economic and cultural equation in society. In case of India, demonetization has changed the basic economic grammar. Globally, this situation has been compared to the financial crisis of 2006 and the Great Depression in the 1930s. This economic hardship would be for how long is ‘difficult to predict’. Economic hardship is the mark of all level changes.

Safety and security measures like social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, etc., have been pushing individuals into a separate corner to save and protect from infection. From the lockdown to unlock and thereafter, it has hugely impacted in the human behavior. All most populations of all ages are in a serious psycho-social crisis. Children and elderly population are locked into their home.  Closure of schools and attendance in virtual classes is the prime hindrance of their psycho-social development. It turns them into an isolated being, and their relationship with a virtual world would a stress and strain to them. Both the micro (social network within the family) and macro world (social network outside family) of a child, which is most important for child development is in the crucial stage. Family income is an important factor in determining parent-child relations. Economic hardship and losing job of parent(s) during this crisis would adversely be impacted in child care and development. In a study (1974) of children of the Great Depression found that economic deprivation resulting from unemployment was associated with fathers becoming less nurturant, more punitive, and more arbitrary in their treatment of children. Further, various studies show that long-term economic deprivation as well as abrupt fall into poverty is associated with low parental nurturance and harsh discipline of children. Poor fathers would fail to play their provider role, and it would make them irritable and oversensitive when interacting with children. Economic hardship would also increase the gender gap between sons and daughters in the family. As a result of this, they would be arrogant, demanding and would suffer from serious anxiety disorder and depression. Child as nation asset is in turmoil. 

On the other hand, elderly people usually live in a truncated social network. They are lonely and isolated. After the effect of this Coronavirus, they are in serious lack of social integration. They are neither able to attend their peers nor any social, cultural and religious institution which is the only platform to pass their leisure at their later stage of life. Their mental health is in critical which would increase their suffering from elderly illness. This mental agony would be a cause of losing life and the nation would lose the most valuable resources.    

Therefore, a new human being would emerge on the post-epidemic stage and daily behavior and thinking would differ from what was before the COVID-19 outbreak.  Pre-pandemic generation would face psychosocial problems which would be differed from the post pandemic era.

Due to a radical change in social integration and control, individual and collective behavior of society and state would impact adversely. Humankind would soon live in the world that is very different from the one before the virus. It would change the struggle to establish democracy and human rights, and preserve a safe environment for all. Consequently, inequality, injustice and differences in various forms would be further spread its wings. Mutual respect and support system would be decayed. Antisocial acts, conflict and violence, self-torture, and even suicidal tendency might be increased. There is need of social planning to resist social disintegration for an integrated society. 

Jul 2, 2020

 Harasankar Adhikari

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