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Monday, 04 July 2022 12:30 GMT

How 'Davos Man' Hijacked Capitalism

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) The term“Davos Man” was coined by political scientist Samuel Huntington who first used it in a 2004 essay in which he described people so enriched by globalisation that they were effectively living without loyalty to any particular nation. Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

The global elite are gathering in the Alps this week for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. Journalist Peter Goodman, author of Davos Man, argues that these billionaires are a“separate species” who have become so powerful that they're writing the rules for the rest of us.

This content was published on May 24, 2022 - 09:00 May 24, 2022 - 09:00

Jessica covers the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to big global companies and their impact in Switzerland and abroad. She's always looking for a Swiss connection with her native San Francisco and will happily discuss why her hometown has produced some of the greatest innovations but can't seem to solve its housing crisis.

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The term“Davos Man” was coined by political scientist Samuel Huntington who first used it in a 2004 essay in which he described people so enriched by globalisation that they were effectively living without loyalty to any particular nation. He was referring directly to anyone who regularly made the journey to Davos to attend the annual World Economic Forum, more generally known as WEF.

The term has since grown into a catchall used by journalists like Goodman to refer to those occupying the“stratosphere of the globe-trotting class” of billionaires.

We spoke with Goodman about the bookExternal link , the Ukraine war and why, despite all its flaws, Davos is still worth the trip. 

Peter S. Goodman is a global economics correspondent for The New York Times, based in New York. He was previously European economics correspondent, based in London and an Asian economics correspondent for the Washington Post, based in Shanghai. He is the author of“Past Due: The End of Easy Money and the Renewal of the American Economy,” published in 2009, and 'Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World,' published in 2022. ©andrew Testa

SWI: You've been to WEF ten times. What keeps you going back?

Peter Goodman: It's actually a really interesting experience if you remind yourself that you're a journalist and you don't have to play by the socially imposed rules. You can observe people up close in a way in which you normally can't with people so powerful and wealthy. The part that's hard to take is the packaging that 'they are committed to improving the state of the world' as if a gathering of the ultimate beneficiaries of the status quo is somehow going to lead to this.

SWI: What has the WEF accomplished?

P.G.: I think the WEF's primary achievement is that it's given billionaires, who are continuing to pursue an agenda of tax cutting, deregulation and public relations management, a way to signal to the world that they get it, that they get the problems of economic inequality and climate change. And they're really dedicated to doing something about it.

There are an awful lot of highly intelligent, thoughtful, accomplished people who work for the WEF. They put out reports that are significant. A lot of the panel discussions themselves tee up issues of importance. But let's not kid ourselves. It's ultimately under the guise of a non-profit, a highly successful business run by Klaus and Hilda Schwab. We don't know where the money goes.

SWI: In your book, you blame billionaires for a lot of our problems. Is it really just a few bad apples or is it a more systemic problem?

P.G.: It's a systemic problem. I could have written this book by picking 20 other characters. I picked the five who I thought were the most compelling. These are big players. It's not like I've just cherry picked some bad offenders. Steve Schwarzman is the world's largest private equity magnate and owns astonishing amounts of real estate around the world. Larry Fink is the world's largest asset manager. His company, BlackRock, manages $10 trillion worth of investments. The impact is enormous. Jeff Bezos requires no introduction.

Marc Benioff is a very significant Silicon Valley tech player and is the most vocal on stakeholder capitalism. I think he is dedicated to philanthropy and a believer in the ethos of the Forum. And yet, despite presenting himself as an agent of human progress, he's ultimately an enabler of the status quo, which is exactly what the Forum is. It's an enabler of the status quo under the guise of a change agent.



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