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New normal

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A new normal is a state to which an economy, society, etc. settles following a crisis, when this differs from the situation that prevailed prior to the start of the crisis (the "old normal").[1] The term has been employed retroactively in relation to World War I, the September 11 attacks, the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the aftermath of the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic and other events.[2]

Usage history[edit]

World War I[edit]

In 1918, Henry A. Wise Wood posted a dilemma,

To consider the problems before us we must divide our epoch into three periods, that of war, that of transition, that of the new normal, which undoubtedly will supersede the old. The questions before us, therefore, are, broadly, two: How shall we pass from war to the new normal with the least jar, in the shortest time? In what respect should the new normal be shaped to differ from the old?[3]

Dot-com bubble[edit]

The phrase was extensively used by Roger McNamee in his 2003 interview to Fast Company while describing the new normal in technology development in regards to business and finance after the dot-com bubble bust,

Forget about the Next Big Thing, the next thing has started. It’s called the New Normal, and 2003 will be the first full year of it. The New Normal isn’t where you wait for the next boom. It’s about the rest of your life. ... There was so much urgency that every standard — for due diligence, leadership, recruiting, and investment — was relaxed. The New Normal is about real life — and real time. Getting things right the first time is more important than getting things done quickly.[4]

2005 avian influenza[edit]

The phrase was used in 2005 by Peter M. Sandman and Jody Lanard in relation to methods of manipulation of attitudes of the public towards avian influenza. They explained that the initial, typically temporary, fearfulness of a novel risk such as a flu pandemic is something to be guided, that this initial period is a "teachable moment" and offers the opportunity of establishing a "new normal".[5]

2008 financial crisis[edit]

The phrase was used in the context of cautioning the belief of economists and policy makers that industrial economies would revert to their most recent means post the 2007–2008 financial crisis.[6]

The 29 January 2009 edition of the Philadelphia City Paper quoted Paul Glover referring to the need for "new normals" in community development, when introducing his cover story "Prepare for the Best".[7]

The 2010 Per Jacobsson lecture delivered by Mohamed A. El-Erian at the International Monetary Fund, was titled "Navigating the New Normal in Industrial Countries". In the lecture El-Erian stated that "Our use of the term was an attempt to move the discussion beyond the notion that the crisis was a mere flesh wound...instead the crisis cut to the bone. It was the inevitable result of an extraordinary, multiyear period which was anything but normal".[6][8] El-Erian's lecture cites a 18 May 2008 Bloomberg News article written by journalists Rich Miller and Matthew Benjamin for first using the term: "Post-Subprime Economy Means Subpar Growth as New Normal in U.S."[9]

The phrase has subsequently been used by ABC News,[10] BBC News,[11] the New York Times, and formed part of a question by Candy Crowley, the moderator of the Second U.S. presidential debate of 2012.[12]

2012 China's economic slowdown[edit]

Since 2012, China's economy has shown a marked slowdown, with growth rates declining from double digit levels (before the 2007-2009 financial crisis) to around 7% in 2014. In 2014, a statement by Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, indicated that China was entering a 'new normal' (Chinese: 新常态).[13] This term was subsequently popularised by the press and came to refer to expectations of 7% growth rates in China for the foreseeable future. It was indicative of the Chinese government's anticipation of moderate but perhaps more stable economic growth in the medium-to-long term.

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

During the earlier parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the term new normal was used to refer to changes in human behavior during the pandemic or speculated changes after the pandemic.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

In May 2020, physicians at the University of Kansas Health System predicted that daily life for most people would change during the pandemic after the lifting of lockdowns. This would include limiting person-to-person contact, like handshakes and hugs, as well as maintaining distance from others, known as social distancing. They predicted things would change again after vaccines became available.[21]

In Europe, the term "new normal", first conceptualized in 2018 by Austrian philosopher and political scholar Paul Sailer-Wlasits, has become a popular buzzword in contemporary politics.[22][23] Initially introduced in the German-speaking world, Paul Sailer-Wlasits associated the term with various phenomena, including political populism and the 45th U.S. administration under Donald Trump, which he critically dubbed the "new global normal".[24] Since then, the phrase has gained traction among politicians in Austria, Germany, and Spain.

In Austria, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz incorporated the term into his rhetoric typically based on a few catchy buzzwords from mid-April 2020, establishing it as a new political buzzword.[25] The Austrian media reacted critically to this, questioning whether this was intended to convey a permanent erosion of civil liberties.[26][27]


Some commentators objected of overuse and misuse of the phrase by the media while describing atypical situations or behaviors, which turned it into a cliché.[28][8][2] Sociological research has also shown this terminology does not adequately capture societal shifts that occur during times of major disruption, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.[29]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Robert A. Heinlein used the phrase in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, with a character telling lunar colonists:

    Citizens, requests may reach you through your comrade neighbors. I hope you will comply willingly; it will speed the day when I can bow out and life can get back to normal — a new normal, free of the Authority, free of guards, free of troops stationed on us, free of passports and searches and arbitrary arrests.[30]

  • The New Normal is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from September 10, 2012, to April 2, 2013.
  • A dramedy produced by Nigerian filmmaker Teniola Olatoni Ojigbede in 2020.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanmic/article/PIIS2666-5247(20)30151-8/fulltext
  2. ^ a b "There's nothing new about the 'new normal' - and here's why". World Economic Forum. 5 June 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  3. ^ Beware!, N.E.L.A. Bulletin, Volume 5, 1918, pp. 604-605
  4. ^ LaBarre, Polly. The New Normal: From Boom to Bust to War to Whatever Comes Next. Superstar investor Roger McNamee defines the new era of business and finance and shows where the smart money is headed. Here’s what you need to know about investing, competing, and winning today — and for the rest of your life, Fast Company, April 30, 2003.
  5. ^ Peter M. Sandman and Jody Lanard (2005). "Bird Flu: Communicating the Risk". Pan american Health Organisation / World Health Organisation. p. 5. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b Navigating the New Normal in Industrial Countries. International Monetary Fund. 15 December 2010. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-1-4552-1168-5. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Gotta Find a Better Way", Philadelphia City Paper, January 29, 2009 paragraph 3
  8. ^ a b Josie Cox. COVID-19 And The Corporate Cliché: Why We Need To Stop Talking About ‘The New Normal’, Forbes, April 22, 2020
  9. ^ "Post-Subprime Economy Means Subpar Growth as New Normal in U.S." www.bloomberg.com. 18 May 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  10. ^ Gomstyn, Alice (15 June 2009). "Finance: Americans adapt to the 'New Normal'". ABC News.
  11. ^ "Is America's high jobless rate the new normal?". BBC News Online. 10 August 2012.
  12. ^ Johnson, Glen (16 October 2012). "Candidates aggressive in 2nd debate". Boston Globe.
  13. ^ Saggu, A. & Anukoonwattaka, W. (2015). "China's 'New Normal': Challenges Ahead for Asia-Pacific Trade". United Nations ESCAP. SSRN 2628613. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  14. ^ Saeed Elnaj. The 'New Normal' And The Future Of Technology After The Covid-19 Pandemic, Forbes, Jan 25, 2021
  15. ^ David Hochman. The New Normal: What Comes After COVID-19? Experts predict how the pandemic will change our lives, AARP, June 8, 2020.
  16. ^ The New Normal After the Coronavirus Pandemic, Bloomberg, 2020
  17. ^ Sharon Kirkey. After the COVID-19 crisis ends, what does our 'new normal' look like?, national Post, May 2, 2020
  18. ^ Brian O'Keefe. What comes next: How leaders can cope with America’s ‘new normal’, Fortune, February 4, 2021
  19. ^ Eric Lloyd and Kaleb Vinton. Special Report: The New Normal – The Changes That Will Outlast COVID-19 Archived 24 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine, WWTV/WWUP-TV 9&10 News, February 18, 2021
  20. ^ Survey XII: Digital New Normal 2025 – After the Outbreak: Hopes and worries for the evolution of humans and digital life in the wake of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elon University/Pew Research Center
  21. ^ "The 'new normal' after coronavirus". Kansas Capitol Bureau. 1 May 2020. Archived from the original on 30 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ Sailer-Wlasits, Paul (7 September 2018). "The New Normal: Woran wir uns gewöhnen müssen". DerStandard.at (in German). Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  23. ^ Pesendorfer, David (28 March 2021). "Der Erfinder der "Neuen Normalität"". News.at (in German). Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  24. ^ Rötzer, Florian (10 May 2020). "Die neue Normalität: "Gewöhnt Euch dran"". Telepolis.de (in German). Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  25. ^ Münch, Peter. "Österreich: Kurz will zu "neuer Normalität" finden". Süddeutsche.de (in German). Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  26. ^ "Kurz neue Normalität - Google Search". www.google.de. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  27. ^ red, ORF at/Agenturen (22 April 2020). "Nationalrat: Debatte über Schlagwort "neue Normalität"". news.ORF.at (in German). Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  28. ^ Catherine Rampell. The New Normal is Actually Pretty Old, The New York Times, January 11, 2011
  29. ^ Deejay, Aleks; Henne, Kathryn (21 October 2023). "Creating a New Normal? Technosocial Relations, Mundane Governance and Pandemic-Related Disruption in Everyday Life". Sociology. doi:10.1177/00380385231205135. ISSN 0038-0385.
  30. ^ Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), p. 152.
  31. ^ Laura Berger. American Black Film Fest 2020 Women Directors: Meet Teniola Olatoni Ojigbede – “The New Normal”, Women and Hollywood, August 24, 2020

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Our new normal, in pictures, CNN, November 23, 2020
  • The New Normal?, 7-country report drawing from a survey of 14,000 people on the impacts of COVID-19 on trust, social cohesion, democracy and expectations for an uncertain future in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.