DAVOS SHMAVOS, what power does Klaus Schwab actually have?
I have just had the displeasure of reading Klaus Schwab’s last three books. A self-inflicted displeasure, I concede. One inspired, as you might have guessed, by the annual World Economic Forum conference last week in Switzerland, the forum Schwab founded and hosts. I wanted to understand for myself what Davos Man Herr-self was all about.
Conspiracies swarm the imaginations of the many who were not invited. What are our puppet-masters up to? Simultaneously another horde brush off the W.E.F. as an alpine nothing burger. A distraction. How much power does Schwab actually have? What does he believe? I think there is something all sides are missing.
‘The long march through the institutions’ is a theory often cited to explain how our schools, universities, media, civil service and other industries were ideologically captured. A strategy to change the West as described by socialist activist Rudi Dutschke, communist philosopher Antonio Gramsci and KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov.
Whether you accept the theory or not a package of postmodernist ideas have captured the hearts and minds of Gen X through Gen Alpha. Cancerous ideas which have slowly metastasised through the West’s prone body. These ideas, unchecked and insidious, undermine Judaeo-Christian Liberal Enlightenment principles.
At the same time another set of ideas are poisoning us, but these ideas come from above. Since February 1971 corporate heads and world leaders, be they democratically elected or otherwise, have been ascending the Davos Mountains. Over the last five decades the chalet chinwagging festival, founded by non-entity German economist Klaus Schwab, has evolved to be the pre-eminent meeting place for global elites.
Such has been the W.E.F.’s success that some guests attend only for practical reasons. Tory cabinet member Kemi Badenoch described her attendance this year as such. That is despite her sympathy with those who see Davos as the "lizard people controlling all the politicians”.
“Most of my time was spent in negotiating meetings with other trade ministers and if I can fly an hour and a half to do all those meetings, rather than spend six months flying around the world, then, yeah, I'm gonna do that… I won't lie it was amazing”
If there is to be an annual conference of world leaders and heads of businesses, a concept in itself which I do not outright oppose, someone needs to organise it. Schwab, if only by accident, is the host of that confab. He is the curator. He directs discussion. He ist Die Kapellmeister. Herein lies his power.
Those who believe he has no power are half correct. He doesn’t have hard power. He cannot directly enact policy. He cannot make any of his powerful guests do anything. His power is in setting the agenda of discourse, shaping discussions and guiding his high-profile company.
One would hope such a role of director would be filled by a neutral, or at least someone who attempts, or purports, to be neutral. Certainly not by someone with an explicit idealogical agenda.
If this is starting to sound conspiratorial then read his books. His agenda is perfectly clear. But the tentacles of his soft power stretch deeper still. The W.E.F. Young Global Leaders program hosts and, dare I say, indoctrinates hundreds of individuals every year. The program boasts an astonishing alumni who have gone on to be members of parliaments, governments and leaders of political parties. Not to mention business executives and corporate heads.
They include Tony Blair, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin.
Global leaders, to varying degrees, have been marinated in Schwabism just as our children are marinated in postmodernism in schools. Global leaders old and new are partaking in discussions framed within the Schwabist Weltanschauung.
And here I will address the paedo-lizard conspiracy theorists: you need not waste your time fantasising about clandestine meetings of conniving elites. Schwab’s bottomless pit of bad ideas are in the public domain. He has published at least 8 books. Read them. Contend with them. They need to be contended with because they are being taken seriously by those with actual power.
So what is Schwabism?
I’m not teutonophobic (some of my best friends are German). But few sounds irk the ears of an Englishman quite like a German deliberating a New World Order. All the more shudder-inducing when it drips from the lips of a man who looks like a pastiche Bond villain. Glistening bald head, flappy jowls. He need only cradle a cat to complete the caricature.
This may be a tad ad hominem but a dire lack of self-awareness seems to cloak every aspect of Herr Schwab. Not least his writing. A new world order is exactly what Schwab is advocating for. Slogans such as “Build Back Better” and “The Great Reset” are its euphemisms. And the new order has a name. It is Stakeholder Capitalism.
But before I get to that, what is Schwabism?
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Schwab’s books THE GREAT NARRATIVE (2022) and THE GREAT RESET (2020), co-written with Thierry Malleret are, to be kind, bumf. Cheap tat to stack the merch stalls of a Davos convention centre. Careless crapola, painful pabulum. They are inconsistent, self-contradictory and peppered with typos and factual inaccuracies. I’d be surprised if they were read by an editor, let alone anyone else. At least Stakeholder Capitalism (2021), written with Peter Vanham, has the decency to take itself (and by extension the reader) seriously.
Nevertheless I have gleaned a fairly clear view of Schwabism. First and foremost it is globalist.
Klaus gets lost in the weeds attempting to define “globalization” which he at times wrongly conflates with free trade. The Schwabist conception of globalisation goes hand-in-hand with ‘global governance’.
He credits globalisation for lifting millions out of poverty when in fact it was free trade and capitalist enterprise which did so. Free trade without the free movement of people and without a system of ‘global governance’ seems beyond Schwab’s imagination.
Where his argument for globalisation becomes particularly worrisome is in THE GREAT RESET. He argues globalisation is incompatible with democracy and sovereignty in what he calls the ‘Trilemma’. Only two of the three are compatible at any one time, he thinks. He then launches into a defence of globalisation, but not of democracy nor of sovereignty.
The next pillar in the edifice of Schwabism is climate catastrophe.
Despite an introduction to THE GREAT NARRATIVE promising “a hopeful book that categorically rejects the doomsday mindset consigning humanity to a future of oblivion”, Schwab thunders through chapter after chapter, sentence after sentence, and by the end, word after word in a crescendo of hellfire.
“Climate catastrophe”; “climate crisis”; “point of no return”; “catastrophic effects of climate change in our lifetime”; “existential threat facing humanity”; “weather disasters”; “We stand on the brink of not just abrupt and violent change but disaster, as we’ve reached the point of no return”; “existential crisis”; “destabilizing the entire planet”; “we’ve entered the decisive decade for humanity’s future on Earth”; “last chance”; “irreversible change”; “catastrophic risk”; “planetary emergency”; “there’s no more ocean or atmosphere we can exploit”; “emergency”; “saturation point”; “fight against climate change”; “climate emergency”; “cataclysmic future”.
“We have reached a point which the alternative to rising above our limitations is catastrophe”; “catastrophe imperilling the planet”; “humanity faces a stark and urgent choice: breakdown or breakthrough”; “we’ve been destabalizing the world”; “climate related risks”; “climate change and environmental degradation”; “as the climate crisis gets dramatically worse”; “edge of a precipice”; “without taking care of the complex ecosystems that ensure that the temperatures remain tolerable, the air breathable and the water drinkable, we simply cannot function as societies”; “climate and environmental crisis and the degradation of nature generating existential fear about the future”; “we’re rushing towards a catastrophe”; “environmental degradation and climate change”; “climate breakdown”; “climate crisis”; “we are in an emergency”.
Thus spake Davos Man.
Uplifting, I am sure you’ll agree. Good job categorically rejecting the doomsday mindset Schwab-o.
Climate Apocalypse is the metaphysic he needs to moor his new religion. In THE GREAT NARRATIVE there is an entire chapter dedicated to building a new “Morality and Values” structure for the world. A structure erected at the feet of The Almighty Climate Crisis.
“When value sets diverge, as they surely do, a possible remedy is to identify and concentrate on those particular values that coalesce around issues of vital interest to humanity as a whole, irrespective of culture, nationality and social norms. Environmental degradation and climate change, because they are truly global and represent such a massive threat to us all, could be the source of such a shared focal point”
A good-faith interpretation of Schwab’s thinking here is that he is trying to find a common ground so that humanity may cooperate together for the common good. The issue is that he exalts a mythical problem which he himself declares cannot be solved by individuals but by governments and business leaders. “A redefinition of the role of government” is ominously suggested.
The other great evil of the world according to Schwab, is inequality. Inequality rather than poverty because inequality, like climate apocalypse, is a problem which can not be solved on an individual level. It is again a problem that needs the intervention of the experts, the technocrats.
And technocracy is the third pillar of Schwabism. The rule of the experts. He quotes Chandran Nair defending the need for… “draconian rules. And the rules won’t be provided by markets, but only by institutions of society, call it the state”.
By exalting problems which can only be solved by experts and elites, Schwab is able to proffer a political structure very much in keeping with a Mitteleuropean tradition of supra-socialism. Good old fashioned authoritarianism.
To be clear, Schwabism is not postmodernist. Rather, it is the apex of secular rationalist thought. “Follow the science” as the popular rationalist turn of phrase goes.
By constructing a new religious order with a metaphysic - climate catastrophe - at its core, Schwab is filling a God-shaped void. His new religion, with its own “morality and values”, is a surrogate religion. Schwab is compensating for the perennial problem besetting rationalists: science does not tell us how to act.
God-fearing people of the world, in their billions, whose focus is lifting themselves and their families out of poverty and towards prosperity, will have no time for Santa Klaus and his new pagan deity. Their narrative will never be stolen by the suits and ties of the Swiss Alps.
So what is Schwabism in practice? Stakeholder Capitalism and ESG.
Stakeholder Capitalism is a form of business ethics pioneered by Schwab. It is the antithesis to Milton Friedman’s Shareholder Capitalism which holds that the sole social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits.
Schwab believes Shareholder Capitalism functions at the expense of both society and the environment. His alternative, Stakeholder Capitalism, incorporates all stakeholders. Everyone in anyway linked to the business - shareholders, partners, employees and clients - should be considered in decision making. By bringing in environmental considerations stakeholders theoretically include all humanity.
His diagnosis that shareholder capitalism has ethical shortcomings is half true.
A company operating just to create profit can in theory, and often in practice, lead to individuals working in total disregard of society and the environment. But this theory forgets three important factors.
Firstly Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand (which Schwab outright rejects). Employees, as well as shareholders, are trying to generate maximum profit for themselves. Clients are trying to get best value for money. It is in their interest to do so.
Secondly, most people are constrained by moral self-limitations. These are usually derived from religion or deeply held beliefs. There is a long tradition of duty, philanthropy and responsibility in Western nations.
This self-limitation is completely overlooked by Schwab. It is a blindspot emphasised by the Anglophobic jabs strewn through his books. “Strongly individualistic societies like the US” or “The US and the UK’s… obsession with finance”. An odd criticism to hear from an economist. Besides, Herr Schwab may be shocked to discover that at the time of writing the US had been the most generous nation in the world per capita for the preceding ten years.
(Schwab even tells us “[the USA’s] appeal as a global destination may be waning somehow”. Well Mr Schwab, 10 million illegal immigrants suggest otherwise.)
Thirdly, it is the responsibility of sovereign governments negotiating ever evolving social contracts to create the limitations for such behaviour. Governments accountable to those they represent.
The problem with Stakeholder Capitalism is that no company can actually, in practice, bring all stakeholders into the decision making process. Those included in that process will have to make assumptions about what stakeholders want, without knowing for sure.
Ultimately businesses will make decisions in the name of stakeholders, at the expense of shareholders, to the benefit of decision-makers. This was the case of Field Day music festival rescinding their offer for M.I.A. to perform, which I wrote about previously on my Substack.
ESG - Environmental, Social, and Governance, is in effect the codification of Stakeholder Capitalism. It is a model framework of business ethics which is becoming a standard across global industries. It imposes an ethical code on businesses from on high. It is to Stakeholder Capitalism what the Ten Commandments are to Jews and Christians.
Technocrats and experts believe that the ability for sovereign governments to decide and implement their own laws and codes is not enough. By creating their own code of ethics, using their oh so supreme intellect, at last, business will be conducted properly and morally. The obvious problem with this was well articulated recently by journalist Ashley Rindsberg: “ESG is a tool of the elite. After all, who gets to decide what makes for good environment, social and governance practices?”
Already the shortcomings of ESG are clear. Companies are accused of “greenwashing”, i.e. meeting ESG standards but burying environmentally unfriendly behaviour from view. It only goes to show how utterly pointless the scheme is. Furthermore, green policy enforced by governments inspired the Gilets Jaunes movement in France from 2018 and the Dutch and Sri Lankan farmer revolts in 2022.
Schwabist technocracy is at odds with the will of the people. What he deems to be in the interest of stakeholders, is not in the interest of stakeholders, as these protests portend.
Klaus Schwab has outlined his vision for a New World Order. Its name is Stakeholder Capitalism. The widespread adoption of ESG is evidence of Schwab’s soft power.
The influence of Schwabism on those with real power should alarm us all. It is a slow decadal indoctrination of our leaders. Schwabism exalts experts over people, authority over freedom, globalisation over sovereignty. Climate Crisis must be averted at all costs, and the only way to do so is to trust the self-anointed technocrats. Experts just like him.
In his literature he has created a whole new religion. He has divined a new “morality and values” structure. Davos is his Jerusalem. ESG is his Sinai Tablets. THE GREAT NARRATIVE is his holy scripture. Climate catastrophe is his metaphysic. “Experts” are his Pharisees. He is the prophet.
Ordinary people like you and I may not take his faith seriously. But next time you hear the words “build back better” remember what they really mean.
Just as ideas have rotted the brains of our youth, another set of ideas are rotting the brains of our leaders.
Schwabism has more power than you think.
The Great Reset must face a Greater Resistance.
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Another brilliant piece. Superb comparison as to the guise of “Stakeholder interests” with M.I.A’s censorship. It is deeply concerning how structural changes in power (as a means to solve issues which are described using hyperbole) are deployed to shift from freedom to authoritarianism, i.e. the need to solve a ‘crisis’. Is the individual now redundant or seen as a mere tool? Adam.
Unfortunately here in Australia our bureaucrats will roll out and use as a blueprint such suggestions by these so called elites who dress the impending surveillance style authoritarian measures as being for the good of all. Our current PM is already virtue signalling and globe trotting on those very issues Schwab puts forth. Luckily there are many here awake and pushing back. Great read!!