The world’s rich and powerful meet this week in the Swiss town of Davos, as they do every year, under the banner of the World Economic Forum. World leaders, NGO bigwigs, business leaders and celebrity activists will discuss the pressing issues of our time.
The bland homogeneity of thought among the elite attendees is often mocked. Samuel Huntington famously coined the term ‘Davos Man’ to describe these disconnected global elitists.
Most of the panels are full of people uttering the same platitudes about ‘global challenges’ and ‘connectivity’ over and over. One panellist will point out that, while great strides have been made in one area or another, more must be done about this or that. A fellow panellist will concur, and another will sagely point out that whatever is being discussed creates both ‘challenges and opportunities’.
The political upsets of 2016, however, have forced the Davos attendees to realise that their view of the world may be slightly out of kilter with that of the public. Well, sort of. The headline theme of this year’s conference is ‘responsive and responsible leadership’.
It’s an odd phrase: responsive and responsible leadership. It sounds like a bad business book, on par with Business Secrets of the Pharaohs. This anodyne term suggests the real, radical impact of 2016 still hasn’t been reckoned with by the global elites, even if they seem to recognise that the aloof, technocratic politics they stand for is currently on the back foot.