A significant factor in how well or badly we handle the disruptions we are living through will be how our understanding of scarcity continues to evolve.
This applies to areas ranging from ground-level responses to economic decline, to the choices made by the environmental movement, to the adaptation of the "cultural industries" to technological change.
In most cases, scarcity is a function of the interaction between hard material realities and softer social and cultural realities. Economics is commonly defined as the study of "how people make choices under conditions of scarcity." (This definition can be traced back to Lionel Robbins' An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, 1932.)
Mainstream economics has tended to treat "conditions of scarcity" as materially determined, not least because it tends to operate on the assumption that people can usefully be characterised as bottomless sources of desire.
Elsewhere, however, people have given greater thought to the social and cultural factors within the function of scarcity - and, more recently, this has come into interaction with discussions of the "information economy" (where "information" is characterised as peculiarly non-scarce, in contrast to traditional economic goods), and more radical "post-scarcity" thinking which anticipates a future in which new technologies make the reproduction of material goods as simple as the reproduction of data. In all these cases, it is easy to get carried away.
This is the beginning of a reading list on scarcity and abundance:
Here are a few other books and articles still on my "to read" list:
Finally, to reground what may seem like theoretical discussions, I have found it helpful in many contexts to think of "scarcity" and "abundance" as attitudes, ways of looking at a situation. This is not to deny the force of material conditions, but it is to say that - most of the time - there is social and cultural room for manoeuvre.
This insight is embedded in practices such as Asset-Based Community Development, where attention is focused on the overlooked and undervalued skills, knowledge, experience and other assets already present within a situation, rather than defining it in terms of needs, wants, deprivation and deficits.