‘Davos Man’ is on that magic mountain again

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 17, 2024

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The Big Story:

It’s Davos time. The Swiss village hosts the global business and political elite every January at a schmooze fest formally called the World Economic Forum (WEF).

  • The Alpine hothouse has long served as a celebration of globalisation. But in 2024, self-interested nationalism, anti-democratic factionalism and hot wars threaten to undo the march toward a liberal, borderless world economy.
  • Even so, the roll call of this year’s Davos attendees is high-powered. It includes more than 60 heads of state and government; scores of foreign and finance ministers; some 1,600 business bigwigs such as the bosses of JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Pfizer and Open AI; global economy leaders such as the heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the World Trade Organization, as well as the chiefs of Nato, the UN and the WHO.
  • #WEF24 will ponder geopolitical issues not least the Middle East crisis and disruption of global supply chainsclimate change and the economic potential – and threat – of generative artificial intelligence.
  • The official theme of Davos 2024 is Rebuilding Trust but in who or how is not entirely clear.

The Backstory:

  • The WEF, a non-profit, was founded in 1971 by economist Klaus Schwab to promote global cooperation on political, social and economic issues.
  • In the years since, Davos has become shorthand for an uber-privileged talking shop of the world’s 1 per cent. Famously, the only thing Bono, Donald Trump, Nelson Mandela and Greta Thunberg have in common is they’ve all been to Davos.
  • In 2004, political scientist Samuel Huntington identified a faithless, self-seeking species he called “Davos Man”. Routinely derided as rich and out of touch, some academics argue Davos Man has become more inclusive.
  • In an earlier, more innocent time, Davos was known for little more than its rarefied mountain air and tuberculosis sanatorium and became the setting for German author Thomas Mann’s 1924 classic The Magic Mountain. The novel, which looks at pre-World War I Europe and its discontents, feels uncomfortably relevant today.

    This Week, Those Books:

    • An excoriating take on the dross beneath the gold-plated Davos game.
    • An uplifting template for a kinder, gentler capitalism.
    • Click here to read on
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