The Evolution of the Davos Man

José Moisés Martín

4 mins - 18 de Enero de 2023, 07:00

As is becoming customary, the World Economic Forum is holding its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where businessmen, entrepreneurs, millionaires, opinion leaders, politicians and analysts gather to take the temperature of the global economy and reflect on their solutions and proposals. The World Economic Forum has become, over the years, the most concentrated expression of the power of the global capitalist elites since its founder, Klaus M. Schwab, launched it in 1971. Through these annual meetings, we have seen ideas such as the celebration of globalisation, fear of economic crises, concern about the rise of populism, and the agenda of liberalisation and deregulation. Its symbolic power has given rise to an archetype, 'Davos Man', a term coined by Samuel Huntington, as a stereotype of an elite group of liberal, cosmopolitan businessmen - almost always men - with access to international networks of influence and comfortably situated in the process of financial globalisation that has dominated the economy for decades.

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Today the ecosystem in which the 'Davos man' grows and multiplies has changed notably and where once there was celebration of financial globalisation and free trade, today there is a return to geopolitics and borders, protectionism, and dismay with the course the global economy has taken. Thus, the nature of the Davos meetings has changed remarkably: in 2020, the Forum proclaimed the era of 'stakeholder capitalism', updating its manifesto and looking for ways to build more inclusive economic institutions, where social responsibility and sustainability are embedded in the purpose of business. In 2021, although that year the forum was not held as usual, in person, the World Economic Forum began to shape the New Reset, an agenda of transformations geared towards innovation and sustainability that has been the target of much of the conspiracy theories that include Davos, billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates and George Soros, and the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the same bag.

Although the World Economic Forum has become a permanent space for generating ideas regarding global challenges, Davos, as such, does not produce a final declaration. The annual meeting is an open space for reflection: people attend seminars, hold bilateral meetings and network in the corridors, and enjoy the presence of the celebrities who attend the meeting. It also serves as a showcase for countries, sometimes with bad results: in 2010, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero went to Davos to participate in a round table meeting on countries in crisis, thus committing a grave reputational mistake that did not help to improve Spain's situation. Rajoy dodged his participation given the bad experience of his predecessor, although Luis de Guindos was a regular in its corridors. Pedro Sánchez attends regularly and this year he did so again, explaining the resilience of the Spanish economy in the face of the multiple crises he has had to manage. He goes to Davos to be seen among investors, to do business, and to send messages, such as those launched by the president of the European Commission in her speech, against the new protectionist policy of the United States under the pretext of climate transition. Also, of course, to participate, if it is interesting or if the script requires it, in one of the many round tables that are organised, something that can also be done online if you do not attend the meeting or if you are a digital member of the forum.

In 2023, with the slogan 'Cooperation in a fragmented world', Davos has sought to deepen this new orientation in a complex context with numerous risk factors, such as the persistence of pandemic outbreaks, the delay in the fight against climate change, the turbulence generated by the energy crisis, and the war in Ukraine - a scenario in which finding solutions has become complicated. Thus, the agenda of seminars - with more than 360 scheduled sessions - has been organised around the cornerstones of the food, climate and energy crises, the economic situation of high inflation and low growth, the industrial technological challenges, social vulnerability, and the geopolitical panorama. The list of seminars developed under this umbrella is diverse, but there is a common thread: the interest in reformulating an inclusive and sustainable model of globalisation, the reinforcement of liberal and cosmopolitan values, and the commitment to innovation and technology as a lever for solving global problems. It is a proposal that deepens the reframing of the meeting in recent years, which has changed not only its orientation but also its nature. The Davos Man is evolving. 

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