DAVOS, Switzerland — A decade ago, political power brokers and corporate bigwigs gathered here in the Swiss Alps under an upbeat theme. It was a time for “resilient dynamism,” declared the organizers of the 2013 meeting of the World Economic Forum. After the travails of the global financial crisis, they explained, the world was now in a “post-crisis” stage. It was incumbent on the elites convened at Davos to usher in further reforms in the service of economic “sustainability” and “competitiveness,” perennial WEF watchwords that tap into the liberal dogma that long underlay its proceedings, where the desire to do good need not interfere with profit margins.
Ten years on, there seems to be less optimism. Instead of a “post-crisis” moment, it’s more common to talk of a “permacrisis,” of a world buckling under a never-ending cascade of calamity — war, climate catastrophe, energy price chaos, inflation, epidemics of hunger and disease, political instability and widening economic inequity. This year’s WEF theme, a plaintive appeal to find “cooperation in a fragmented world,” seems more possessed by the ruptures that have already taken place. In a press call with reporters last week, WEF President Borge Brende said the meeting “will happen against the most complex geopolitical and geoeconomic backdrop in decades.”