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Ethnogenesis in Davos

Ethnogenesis in Davos

No. 3, Jan.-Feb. 2017 » BUSINESSance

The Davos World Economic Forum, established in 1971, is emblematic of our era for its courtship of notoriety, as opposed to the old Bilderberg Group’s more discrete operation, along with a calculated transparency regarding the power of those attending and the topics of high interest on a global level that are discussed (among some trivial diversions). If you are rich and affluent, then you will be present at Davos, and if you are present at Davos, then it is confirmed that you are rich and affluent. The fact that Davos is a phenomenon in itself, which transcends its components, is confirmed by the emergence of numerous events that imitate the Davos style or that take place simultaneously, just three streets away, in the ghetto of the millionaires in the alpine resort, so that the striving classes can also experience a counterfeit Davos for signalling their social status. When the famous Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington were silently confronting each other, the former with the theory of “the end of history” and the latter arguing for “an end of the beginning” (in Winston Churchill’s words) through the clash of civilizations, Huntington was the one proven right by history, not only through the rise of militant Islamism, but also after inventing the atavistic formula of the “Davos Man”. This subspecies of Homo sapiens sapiens has no national loyalties; he is able to consider himself a citizen of the world and to be inclined towards thinking globally and acting in this direction.

The elite of Davos does not represent a new class, but the elite of “the new class”, which American public intellectual Walter Russell Mead called “the Davoisie”.

The descriptions of the event in Davos emphasize the individual power of the participants and designated them (often disparagingly) into a class of their own, with their own tastes, habits, priorities that do not always match those of the “99%”. Some ideologues would also highlight the government connections that allowed them to reach their elite status, to suggest the lack of meritocracy and set up a contrast with certain desirable elite categories, such as individual entrepreneurs and so on. This article, however, will argue, based on James Burnham’s theories regarding the “managerial revolution”, that Davos represents just the tip of the internationalist spear of a transformation that is taking place throughout the advanced or emerging societies. The elite of Davos does not represent a new class, but the elite of “the new class”, which American public intellectual Walter Russell Mead called “the Davoisie”. This is an elite that sees the traditional arrangements based on sovereignty, traditional and representative institutions, as well as the primacy of their own citizens, regardless of class, as obstacles in the way of a better future for all, in spite of the sacrifices, losses and unpleasantness along the way. In this sense, Burnham’s managerialism is relevant to the ethnogenesis process currently underway in Davos also from a historical perspective, paralleling the socialist road towards communism, which would inevitably go through periods of setbacks, hardship and instability with a happy ending for everyone. This instrumental approach is not an accident for James Burnham, considering that, before his conversion to American conservatism, he was a Trotskyist disillusioned by the totalitarianism displayed by the Soviet experiment and by the insistence of his ideological colleagues that Stalinism is a fallacy that would correct itself. 

Opposing paradigms 

Before we describe the applicability of Burnham’s theories, we need to remember the fact that there is not just Davos in the picture, but also Bilderberg Group, founded in 1954 and much more secretive, though the guest list overlaps to a certain degree. Along with them, we have plenty of discrete groups and not-so-discrete, national and international, from the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Club of Rome, to more obscure groups like The Gracques in France, its notoriety recently enhanced by having French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron as a member (a 2014 Bilderberg participant as well).

The Davos Forum captured the “zeitgeist” better, rejecting the paranoia inducing secrecy of the Bilderberg Group in favour of total transparency and an almost comical inclination towards publicity and trends.

Only recently did the Bilderberg Group create a site and began publishing limited lists of attendance. The Davos Forum captured the “zeitgeist” better, rejecting the paranoia inducing secrecy of the Bilderberg Group in favour of total transparency and an almost comical inclination towards publicity and trends. It can be noted even in the titles of the conferences. The Davos Forum uses baroque conference titles, such as “The creative imperative”(2006), “The Shifting Power Equation”(2008), “Shared Norms for the New Reality”(2011), “Resilient Dynamism” (2013). The Bilderberg Group has no reason to name its conferences, and the titles of the discussion panels are trivial – in June 2015, at Tels-Buchen, the topics of discussion were Greece, globalization, cybersecurity, terrorism, Russia, NATO, the Middle East. As the American political commentator Steve Sailer noted, those from the Bilderberg Group at least have the decency to deny that they rule the world, while the Davos participants have a public relations machine whose purpose is letting the world know this fact. It is certain that, if there is inclination towards conspiracy, the dim corners of Davos can serve as good a place for discussions as any ritual chamber imagined by Dan Brown, the 2,500 participants being as efficient as a guarantee of camouflage as the secrecy and low numbers of the Bilderberg Group. Those that look at the whole event as a conspiracy between the thousands of participants perhaps ask themselves where are the journalists and why are they not investigating the annual meetings in Davos of the rich and powerful, in which heads of companies discuss with heads of government and institution directors from all around the world. Well, journalists are also invited, often as speakers, and constitute almost 15% of the participants in the last few years. As recent events have shown, journalists are no longer a check on power, as much as a power unto themselves, especially if the individual journalist has the accumulated good will and renown of a famous media brand behind him. From the famous publication The Economist, for example, around four journalists have participated in every recent edition, The Economist being a publication which, in spite of scrupulous contrarianism and adherence to classical liberalism, still lobbies for the most important globalist excesses, especially those in immigration.

At the same time, the Forum would not be so useful to those outside it if we had to distinguish a meaning from the cacophony of the thousands of voices, instances of social posturing or virtue signalling. WEF also has a rich research and publishing activity, based not only on collecting the opinions of its contacts and networks, but also on original research that informs the discussions and constitutes an added value to the global narrative. From the annual publications, notable mentions are the Global Risks Report and the Global Competitiveness Index, but WEF publishes many unique reports on certain subjects, some resulting from the discussions at Davos. A common subject of these reports is sustainability, which is a WEF mantra, and its founder, Klaus Schwab, is known as a pioneer of the concept, introducing it in the very first annual analysis of the global competitiveness.

The elites persist in using GDP to argue in favour of intellectually bankrupt public policies, such as the demographic economic determinism (right in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution), the replaceability of people as economic resources and distorted policies in the economic and financial environment.

In the same way that economic thinking was revolutionized through the inclusion of sustainability and durability in particular assessments, 2016 and 2017 look like the beginning of a consensus on the decline of GDP as a preferred indicator for economic activity, including for the communication with the greater public. The GDP cult had reached a “golden calf” level, even though its creator, Nobel Price laureate Simon Kuznets, had warned of its inability to distinguish between useful and damaging economic activity. Any initiative of replacement with something more representative is welcome, though the elites persist in using GDP to argue in favour of intellectually bankrupt public policies, such as the demographic economic determinism (right in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution), the replaceability of people as economic resources and distorted policies in the economic and financial environment.

Last, but not least, Klaus Schwab uses the WEF to throw in the public arena, for posterity, extraordinary ideas – in 2016, he argued that we could see a billion refugees coming from areas with an extractive economy dependent on natural resources affected by the fall in commodity prices. It is certain that we will still hear people stating that we could have never foreseen these numbers of refugees. Unfortunately, his technocratic objectivity is not enough to allow him to deviate from the globalist orthodoxy in the migration area to which he himself contributed. Every year, with almost no exception, there is a special panel, talk or report on the WEF website regarding the positive effects of immigration or of refugees on the European labour market, in parallel with a different panel in which a WEF report is presented that suggests that on average over 5 million jobs will be lost (7 million lost, 2 created) due to automation until 2020 in 15 western states (other reports suggest that 50% of the jobs could be automated in the next two decades). More information on the subject can be read in TMFI’s published article “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed”. What the playwright Max Frisch called the error of “importing workers only to discover that you imported people” seems to be repeated in the attitude of the elites on the immigration phenomenon, of which they are socially isolated (though some light proposals were made for a few buses filled with refugees to be sent to Davos), which reminds of the fatalism presented in the face of a natural phenomenon. Mass migrations of people, in this sense, resemble more a hurricane and not a phenomenon that could have taken place at any point in the past decades and was hurried only now by signalling the western societies’ fundamental weakness in front of moral and cultural relativism, as well as the GDP cult. 

The Managerial Revolution 

The social capital of the Davos Forum allows it to establish a global agenda, to influence important decision factors, to mediate the discussion between them and to have something to offer in exchange for its influence.

After underlining these things, a very good and relevant question for the topic of the article arises – who is Klaus Schwab and why do we care about what he has to say? This person, basically unknown outside of certain specialized circles and whose presence would be ignored by the general public anyway as being as insignificant as that of the waiter at the gathering of important people, ended up having more power, indirectly, that many heads of government. The social capital of the Davos Forum allows it to establish a global agenda, to influence important decision factors, to mediate the discussion between them and to have something to offer in exchange for its influence. Regardless, he is not a royal offspring or a former head of state, entrepreneur, CEO which decided to become a NGO worker to exploit the political capital already accumulated. He founded the WEF when he was a Business Policy professor at the University of Geneva in 1971. He was 33 years old. In the first year, 400 heads of European companies attended. Three years later, heads of state started to participate. Ten years later, African and Middle Eastern peace processes were being mediated during the event. Certainly, he is an important thinker that brought numerous contributions and innovations along the years, and as a professor in Geneva, he had more social capital than someone from the Bucharest University of Economic Studies. However, his rise is abnormal from the classic perspective of generating non-hereditary elites and emblematic for what James Burnham called “the new class”. The classic paradigm, still applicable, is that intelligence gives you a chance, but no one gives you an IQ test when he sets you in an important position; seniority counts just as much and you need to carry many briefcases and many coffees before you get a turn under the spotlight, often passing through a classic and hierarchical process of selection and validation of the elites – political rise in the party, rise in the public administration, in the army, in the clerical or academic hierarchy. Klaus Schwab, though still very much an exception, was actually an idea whose time had arrived, the idea that skills, talents and special knowledge made him, from the start, indispensable for the new order that is manifesting. 

On managerialism 

Managerialism diverges from both capitalism and communism to become a new middle ground, with its own merits and sins.

The most relevant books written by Burnham on the matter were “The Managerial Revolution” in 1941 and “The Machiavellians” in 1943, to which we can add “Suicide of the West” in 1964. He started from a study, replicated several times over the years, which showed the lowering of the influence of the entrepreneurs in the companies they created and the takeover of their functions by specialized managers that act in the name of owners that are absent, diverse, institutional and so on. For James Burnham, this transformation was not a trivial one, but fundamental for the behaviour of the company and can be extended to the institutions and governments of complex societies, in which citizens are farther and farther away from the daily governance of their country. Instead of an evolution of capitalism, managerialism diverges from both capitalism and communism to become a new middle ground, with its own merits and sins. Writing in 1941, he told of how the economic complexity of the advanced industrial societies imposes on their managers the need to have certain knowledge, talents, characteristics, and that, automatically, they will take over more and more power from the final beneficiaries, especially those that are being managed. The economic interdependencies will lead to a relative uniformity of the manager, regardless if he works in industry, for the government, for a political organization or a bureaucracy. It will be shaped as a “new class”, distinct from the proletariat, bourgeoisie, capitalist or clerical classes, with its own aspirations, attitudes, esthetics, cultural recognition markers (language, views, spending that highlights social status, for clothing or entertainment). Due to the abilities that only he possesses, as an element of a technocratic class, he becomes indispensable for the proper functioning of the society, which will bring him also political power without any democratic elements. James Burnham’s insights were predated by those of sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, “Political Parties”, where he stated the since famous “iron law of oligarchy” - the "tactical and technical necessities" of pursuing the aims of any democratic organization necessitates an elite or a leadership class that invariably ends up dominating the power structures and exercising full authority, thereby becoming an oligarchy. As Michels wrote: “Who says organization, says oligarchy. […] Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy”.

Due to the abilities that only the manager possesses, as an element of a technocratic class, he becomes indispensable for the proper functioning of the society, which will bring him also political power without any democratic elements.

The process shaped by James Burnham is more and more relevant today, especially in the context of professional fluidity and the much maligned “revolving door” – government bureaucrats that aim to raise efficiency after the private sector models, the military-industrial sector that recycles military leaders into business leaders, the incest between private employers and regulators, especially in the financial sector, but also in the real economy, the “financialization” of the real economy, the bidirectional ideological predisposition for state intervention in the economy (saving the American and European private banking sector with public money in 2008 in the sovereign debt crisis), mixed market models, not in terms of actor diversification, but in terms of collaboration between state and private sector inside the same entity, “financialization” of religious cults (from the Bank of the Vatican to the American mega-churches led as businesses), the trend to award power over the society and economy to authorities and independent regulation mechanisms (perhaps supranational) (central banks, international organizations, certain international regimes) and so on and so forth. As mentioned before, at a higher level (in the West, but also in other managerial states like China and Japan), there is a constant recycling of state bureaucracies, “private” companies (at least from the ownership perspective, though exactly this fundamental characteristic is becoming less relevant), state companies, the university environment, Think Tanks, specialized areas such as the army, scientific institutions and so on. Even at a legislative level, the rising complexity of the world (often by intentional design) leads to situations in which the cognitive capacity of the legislature is exceeded, and the lobbyists and specialists of the entities targeted by the new legislation end up drafting the new legislation that, in some cases, is not even completely read before being passed (the famous case of Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi). Again, the rising complexity of the world justifies the involvement of the technocratic factor, but the element of accountability to the citizen and the individual political autonomy in the political process are minimized. 

From democracy to oligarchy 

The façade will crack because formal and informal traditional institutions will be undermined which empower the population to live in a certain, perhaps ancestral, manner.

James Burnham emphasized something that became apparent today as well, that the democratic level and its evolution over time in the society are irrelevant as long as the “democratic façade” is maintained along with the usual rhythm of life. Parties will continue to exist, with cosmetic and rhetorical differences, sometimes intensely polarizing for society, but which always seem to be in accord on crucial details (some existential, such as the cultural character of the country). This is presented publicly as “bipartisanism” and “national consensus”, and examples include the current immigration drive or favouring some sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants in the USA. The Managerial Revolution does not need to announce its complete victory, as communism did, because it can be insinuate automatically in a society under a true rhetoric of necessity, by presenting the transformations as part of necessary and historical progress. Lastly, the façade will crack because formal and informal traditional institutions will be undermined which empower the population to live in a certain, perhaps ancestral, manner. Here, James Burnham was thinking of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of social and political autonomy, a high degree of political involvement and tolerance for free speech, but expanded the concept to notions of community, family, organized religion etc. Managerialism must be fluid (diverse in its manifestations and rhythm of evolution) because it develops organically, from the existing premises of the economy and society, not ideologically, violently or in a revolutionary manner.

The relative failure of modernization of Romania, compared to its neighbours from the former Warsaw Pact, is also a result of the Romanian inability to generate an effective managerial class at society’s general level.

Neither American capitalists nor socialists were happy with Burnham’s descriptions – capitalists and entrepreneurs were presented as antiquated, a situation only reversed by the digital sector boom that was rapidly integrated in state superstructures where needed (the collaboration of Google, Facebook and others with intelligence agencies in the US for national security, with the German authorities for censoring the negative comments of its citizens on refugees and so on); the socialists were painted as increasingly totalitarian, capable of falling into tyranny as soon as they would get enough power. In his turn, James Burnham was criticized because, in spite of his effort at being objective and describing in detail the negative consequences of the transformations, from his writings one detects an admiration, even identification with managerialism and managerial elites. He considered that advancing to the next level of the standards of living and economic performance can only be achieved through managerialism, and that political and social side effects are serious, but can be somewhat mitigated by national ideologies. Indeed, we could even say that the relative failure of modernization of Romania, compared to its neighbours from the former Warsaw Pact such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, is also a result of the Romanian inability to generate an effective managerial class at society’s general level. We cannot even say that we had a bucolic and semi-pastoral state that we maintained by avoiding a dehumanizing and undemocratic managerialism, since we experienced communism. Afterwards, the managerial class of the communist period was scattered to the winds along with the economic structures that it was operating, being incapable of performing efficiently under new conditions or lacking the chance of adaptation and conversion partially by a healthy mentality at the society and leadership levels.

Romania especially, as a vulnerable country with a small population, would potentially benefit from a loyal managerialism, which is being demanded by the population without being able to articulate exactly what it wants. In a world in which “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”, Romania’s chance for competitiveness and maintaining the national unity, solidarity and identity under conditions of material prosperity and civilization could reside precisely in a managerialism that would allow the capacity of collective action of a small-sized people with low capitals of accumulated capital and wealth. An example of this type of state is Israel and, to a lesser extent, Poland. 

The pitfall 

While the proletariat was the class oppressed by capitalism, the class oppressed by managerialism is the “precariat”.

What must be avoided, however, is the sin which Karl Marx termed “economism”, the tendency to look at everything through an economic lens, which would justify replacing the local population with foreign labour or sacrificing the economic interests of the masses in favour of an arbitrary economic growth captured by special interests. While the proletariat was the class oppressed by capitalism, the class oppressed by managerialism is the “precariat” (from precarious, the term being invented to describe those that work in the new day labour and sharing economy, such as Uber), formed by individuals that, either nominally or in reality have a good standard of living (especially compared to the global level), but suffer from structural anxieties connected not only with the representation of their interests at a political level, but also with the problems that surpass their daily consumption needs – short or long term income volatility, ensuring the standard of living in old age or in case of health issues, the increasing cost of education, affordable family formation and especially the real estate costs necessary to start a family, ensuring one’s posterity, job security, the relevance of skills in the economy, the vulnerability to economic marginalization, political and economic risks of policies that devalue or waste their savings, uncertainty regarding the national sovereign debt and so on. For example, in the USA, as previously described in TMFI’s articles, the income in real terms has been stagnating since the 1970s, and the economic recovery since 2008 and until now has been captured, in terms of jobs, by immigrants and, in terms of wealth, by capital owners. Meanwhile, the number of citizens that retire permanently from the job market, even though they are able to work, is growing and has reached an all-time high. The long process of offshoring and outsourcing led to the elimination of middle class manufacturing jobs (many of which represented a prosperous proletariat, since they were workers with only high school education but with a middle class lifestyle). The lost jobs, that also included important benefits, were replaced with jobs with low added value, and implicitly, a low pay, in which cost reduction also targets benefit reductions that are not state guaranteed in the USA with the exception of an emergency. In Europe, the Germans are looked at with envy for their standards of living, while, from their inside perspective, the degree of social protection they benefit from is lower than that of their parents, the social services, as well as elements such as the number of police officers, have been in a continuous decline for a long time and their income level has stagnated for the past two decades as opposed to other, less productive, European populations. 

The internationalist option 

Even though the passage of time has invalidated several of James Brunham’s predictions (Manchuria as a world power), he managed to estimate the internationalist approach of the managerial state ever since 1941. As managerialism develops, defining elements of the national state end up being seen as obstacles in the path of economic and political expansion of the managerial elite’s interests – the quest for new markets, resources, cost reduction, political risk reduction, ensuring the sphere of influence. Thus, more and more managerial elites will end up being morally and ideologically invested in a process of globalization and internationalization which sets aside the traditional vehicles of legitimately expressing the popular will or of maintaining a historical society and population. The otherwise legitimate and necessary process of approaching collective global problems such as migration, the global financial system, wars, pollution, climate change, national externalities and so on, gives birth to treaties, regimes, international organizations that need increasingly larger specialized administrations and generate their own managerial elites which have a legitimate interest in perpetuating the existence of their institutional basis. These elites are outside any legitimate democratic system and centralize significant powers for themselves which transform them into global power brokers. On the economic side, transnational economies are generated without any national character, whose elites are truly uprooted. The process managerial elites go through is, slowly, transmitted hierarchically towards the lower managerial echelons. There are plenty of global companies that condition advancement at the middle level on a certain degree of international experience inside the company, even to occupy the position in your own country. Dedicated bureaucracies, such as the European Union’s civil service or of the United Nations, generate their own perspective on the world, having employees with a diverse group of friends, acquaintances and life partners, with enclaves in numerous countries with culturally and racially mixed populations that maintain the illusion that such a cohabitation is possible or desirable at the lower levels of societies.

Davos represents the tip of the spear of the managerial elites. Out of the 2,500 participants, 1,500 are CEOs and different corporate leaders that are, by definition, managerial elites. These are joined by academics, journalists, bureaucrats, government officials, international institution elites, and, finally, from the category of traditional elites, some national leaders or aristocrats. Like we mentioned, the digital entrepreneurs are also represented, even if their corporatization continues rapidly, but they were brought into the fold by the managerial collective through promises regarding the implementation of their benign vision on helping Africa, supporting social justice causes and so on. A defining trait for many of the managerial elites is the way in which, even after being excluded from the positions that made them, they manage to remain in this elite environment until they find a new position or emolument to which they can attach themselves, precisely on the grounds of the social capital and the network that they bring to the table. Also, the way in which they defend their collective interests as being derived from individual self-preservation suggests a class conscience. For instance, the obsession with cyber-security that does not admit the possibility of cyber disconnection or disintermediation as a means of avoiding threats shows that, just as in the case of the roads of the Roman Empire, the ubiquity of the Internet and that of the computational and communication capacity stand at the basis of the current and future global managerial class. This category encompasses also the insistence on continued immigration alongside the importance given to countering terrorism. Terrorism is a threat for the elites, but migration itself, even if it produces local terrorism, is something that the elites can isolate themselves from in geographical and social enclaves, as opposed to the lower classes of the societies of origin. 

The Spectre that haunts Davos 

Trump’s spectre and that of other nationalist politicians haunts Davos, adding an undercurrent of anxiety to the discussions among the powerful.

An interesting perspective on the World Economic Forum comes from the paleo-conservative American politician Pat Buchanan, Nixon and Reagan’s advisor, who ran a credible campaign for the Republican nomination to the US presidency in 1992 and 1996 on a platform similar to Trump’s, though less populist. He quoted Joe Biden who warned in Davos that the decay of the middle class in Europe and the US “provided fertile terrain for reactionary politicians, demagogues peddling xenophobia, anti-immigration, nationalist, isolationist views”, revealing what the priorities of the global elites are for their self-preservation. Pat Buchanan advanced the idea that Trump’s spectre and that of other nationalist politicians haunts Davos, adding an undercurrent of anxiety to the discussions among the powerful and drawing a parallel with the famous Communist Manifesto that announced, having future history on its side, that the spectre that haunts Europe is communism. If we look at any culture, including the political one, from Philip Rieff’s perspective, as being characterized especially by its control and restraint mechanisms, then we can explain the trembling of the elites in front of Trump’s success. The possibility of withdrawing the media coverage of a political candidate does not work if that candidate is famous enough to create ratings by himself and force every media outlet to report on his latest outrage. The possibility of refusing campaign finance does not work if said person is already financially independent and able to absorb risks to his current economic interests. Not lastly, the possibility of being co-interested by the existing ideological regime does not work if said person was already an “insider” whose megalomania cannot be satisfied otherwise than with an electoral victory and a place in history.

Pat Buchanan is a proto-Trump who was indicted for having lost the elections due to his loyalty to the Republican Party and his attempt to reform the system from within, thereby not completing the revolt against the American bipartisan political structures. He quotes all the events that are currently taking place as a validation of the predictions made by the ideologist of his electoral campaigns, the political scientist Sam Francis, who wrote, in a post-mortem analysis of his campaigns from 1996 that as the globalist elites seek to drag the country into conflicts and global commitments, preside over the economic pastoralization of the United States, manage the delegitimization of our own culture, and the dispossession of our people, and disregard or diminish our national interest and national sovereignty, a nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives”.

This reaction arrived under the form of Trump. This type of revolt also threatens the vision of the European project as an unfinished construction, with a supranational destiny, compared to the purely instrumental vision that the Eurosceptics would impose. In his role as preeminent scholar of James Burnham’s vision, Sam Francis was aware of the implications of managerial revolutions and their internationalist trends and incorporated said mentality into a reactionary ideology of “Middle Americans Radicals” (MARs). Though a Schadenfreude of the anti-elite elites, such as Buchanan, the Le Pen dynasty and others, would be justifiable, it is too early, because the nature of the managerial revolution itself makes the new (anti-establishment) class, once formed, indispensable for the internal and international processes. The global elites will adapt to an eventual new order, under a diminished form or not, because Burnham described the formation of a social elite as an inevitable and natural process, and no reactionary wave (maybe the Islamic one?) will be strong enough to reverse the elements of globalization that are the results of 300 years of evolution. More likely, we will witness a new equilibrium on the nationalism-internationalism spectrum which will prevent the complete embedding of the global elites as individuals and as dynasties in the system, along with their power.

In a way, the coexistence of the national reactionary current with the paradigm of the transparency of the actions of the elites represents a sort of apocalypse, not in the destruction sense, but in the classic sense of revelation. All the cards are on the table and we can see not just the assembly of factors that determine the formation and pursuit of interests of the elites, but also the point of divergence from the interests of the masses, as well as the fact that individuals like Trump tap into an extensive pre-existing vein of dissatisfaction. Political ideologies that used to organize masses and which elites support in order to serve their interests up to the point in which they end up identifying with them, can no longer have electoral success once the classes and social movements that created them and maintained them have disappeared or become irrelevant. The Republicanism of small businesses and limited government was the bourgeois manifestation of small town capitalism, independent from others and jealous of personal and national freedom and sovereignty, not of transnational corporations that rival some governments in power. With its disappearance, the votes in question also disappeared, transferred more likely on the centrist American radicalism (socially conservative and leftist economically) that is being awakened by Trump, and the illusion of a current ideology is maintained by the managerial contingent of the Republican Party and of the associated press and other organs. 

To sum up 

The global elites also look on transformations over which they have no control, fall prey to the same logical fallacies and (self)deceptions as mere mortals and search for, primarily, a stability to preserve their position.

With all of these social considerations, rendering verdict on Davos and Bilderberg as benign or malignant conspiracies is a step too far. What is often revealed from post-event reports (in Davos’ case, which are published) is that, far from the omnipotence that is being attributed to them, the global elites also look on transformations over which they have no control, fall prey to the same logical fallacies and (self)deceptions as mere mortals and search for, primarily, a stability to preserve their position. In essence, the Davos paradigm is a reactionary one, not proactive, while the classic conspiracy vision of the shadow government led by bankers or aliens suggests a clear agenda, followed through with forethought and competence. The thought of an intentional design of the global business is more soothing compared to the chaotic movements that seem to be taking place normally, reminding of Voltaire’s idea of God as a dream of good government. Even the most important literary sources for defining our inclination towards conspiracies fall into the habit of proscribing a clockmaker where there is none. From Hari Seldon’s psychohistory in Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” cycle to the eternally relevant “1984” and “Brave New World”, we expect someone to pull the curtain back and explain to us how the elites dictate the flow of the world for their own purposes, positive or not – O’Brien from “1984” explains to Winston the philosophy of the Inner Party based on obedience through suffering, and the physician transformed into a covert global administrator, Mustapha Mond, explains to the maladjusted Bernard Marx the elimination of freedom through individual conditioning towards hedonism in “Brave New World”. In all these cases, the path was always clear – someone had to walk out from behind the scene to explain everything to the characters that stand in for the readers.

The Davos World Economic Forum is a phenomenon with two faces. On one side, it represents a good opportunity for the popularization of certain elements of economic, technologic and technical development and policy proposals and the creation of a platform between interdependent distinct occupational categories. On the other hand, Davos and the more discreet event of the Bilderberg Group represent an exercise of constructing a consensus and a class consciousness in the national and international elites that have a transnational impact, elites whose authority and influence are increasingly drawn from controlling collective (re)sources without any direct sanction of this control. Elected politicians, entrepreneurs, even actors are in a distinct minority compared to the number of CEOs, executive directors, academics, government and international bureaucrats, journalists and so on, though the link between these groups is more and more often one of equality and collegiality, even if on a superficial level, not a hierarchical one. An editor-in-chief of the Economist could be a speaker or panel moderator for a discussion involving a minister, a CEO and a leader of an international organization and he is interested in identifying himself with said elites. Technocrats such as Klaus Schwab, the founder of Davos, might be great unknowns, but they occupy positions that may not be significant at a formal level but offer social capital, access and notoriety that translates into power. Like Ayn Rand’s character Ellsworth Toohey, they direct an extensive movement that influences, stabilizes and homogenizes certain elements of an emerging consensus within global elites, thereby advancing a particular agenda with nominally beneficial purposes, but with a subtext of ensuring the continuity of the current system, of its spoils and of the class that created it, even to the detriment of the individual nations.

Lastly, James Burnham concludes his theories on the potential emergence of a global ruling class, writing that:

“In real life, men are joined on a much less than universal scale into a variety of groupings — family, community, church, business, club, party, etc. — which, on the political scale, reach the maximum significant limit in the nation. Since there is at present time no Humanity or Mankind (socially and historically speaking), there cannot be a World Government – though conceivably there could be a world empire.”

The distinction between the two is significant – the global government, even in the conspiracy scenario that eschews democratic outcomes, maintains a representative republican façade with appropriate levels of subsidiarity. This is averted by the global empire in favour of the political, social and cultural repression necessary for maintaining the coherence of an entity subjected to the centrifugal force of divergent interests (ethnic, cultural, religious).



The Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (RAFPEC)
Amfiteatru Economic

OEconomica No. 1, 2016