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W&M business professor discusses new book on 'Community, Economy, and COVID-19'

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With Raymond A. Mason School of Business Professor Don Rahtz’s new book "Community, Economy, and COVID-19: Lessons from Multi-Country Analyses of a Global Pandemic," co-authored by Clifford Shultz and Joseph Sirgy, about to hit the bookshelves, Mason’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Rich sat down with Rahtz to find out what his new book is all about. The full interview is available in the video above, and edited excerpts are below.

What prompted you to write this book at this time?

It’s an interesting backstory from an experience getting ready to fly back from Asia in January of 2020 when all of a sudden, flights were starting to be canceled. The next thing I knew, I had to be rerouted up through Tokyo and finally got in on one of the later flights that came into the U.S. before everything got shut down. As it turns out, COVID was making its way through the system, and they pretty much shut down entry into the U.S. Not too long after I made it back, my colleagues and I, Cliff Schultz and Joe Sirgy, started to think about the impact this would have on countries worldwide, on markets, and just the whole system. We knew then the research we had been doing for some time on macro marketing systems and how things interface would undoubtedly be impacted. We also knew then there would be a lot of societal elements and quality of life issues that would be impacted as well. So we started to really think about what COVID will be doing to these systems worldwide, not just to our systems here in the U.S. That became the genesis of this book, "Community, Economy, and COVID-19: Lessons from Multi-Country Analyses of a Global Pandemic."

Did you sense on that flight when this was happening that it was going to be as big and last as long it did?

Not really. We didn't understand the true global impact until we got back. I’ve witnessed other outbreaks, and nothing prepared me for what this would become, and I haven't been on a global flight since that day. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that we began to recognize this virus would impact us in historic proportion. As a student of history myself, if you go back into history, several events are really tied to pandemics and affected the global trade routes of the day. The Muslim trade routes pulled back during the plague because they didn't want to interact with Europe. That allowed Europe to rise into those trade routes. Meanwhile, Chinese traders said, wait a minute, we're not going to interact with them either. So while not the interconnected global economy we have now, you can see how global trade was beginning to get disrupted, even then.

What do you think is unique and most interesting about this book?

The book’s real contribution is looking at and understanding the impact of the pandemic on different cultures, places and economies. As you can imagine, when you're talking about countries from all over the world, the difficulty is how we group them together and provide some sort of systematic way to analyze things. Previously, in 2017, we had written an article in a chapter of a book on community well-being. We took our work from that 2017 article and made it the basis for this book.