Now that we are settling in for secondary and tertiary pandemic pulses,
some of our best minds are turning to the
that awaits us on the other side of the plague.
And who better to light the way than Klaus Schwab, Chairman,
World Economic Forum,
bringing us The Great Reset!
Schwab is one of the great cheerleaders for globalization and its neoliberal underpinning. His spew of corporate-speak is dulling to read but it offers insight into the mind of the master class, and hints of the dark future in store for the rest of us. We are blessed to have an excellent survey across the writings of Chairman Klaus by Winteroak. (Thanks to C. J. Hopkins.) Even without the fascist innuendo, the message is chilling. Mostly Klaus does the talking:
. . . the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a new chapter in human development, on a par with the first, second and third Industrial Revolutions, . . . Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are truly disruptive— they upend existing ways of sensing, calculating, organizing, acting and delivering. They represent entirely new ways of creating value for organizations and citizens. . . . Drones represent a new type of cost-cutting employee working among us and performing jobs that once involved real people . . . the use of ever-smarter algorithms is rapidly extending employee productivity— for example, in the use of chat bots to augment (and, increasingly, replace)live chatsupport for customer interactions . . . Sooner than most anticipate, the work of professions as different as lawyers, financial analysts, doctors, journalists, accountants, insurance underwriters or librarians may be partly or completely automated . . . . . . Citizen concerns over privacy and establishing accountability in business and legal structures will require adjustments in thinking . . .
Pay close attention to the terms of art upon which Klaus relies.
Stakeholder capitalism reads as a substitute for democracy
in which governments are reconfigured
in the service of sovereign corporations.
Sustainablility is deployed as a cover
for highly profitable schemes to financialize pollution.
We will certainly need
to preclude the possibilty of formerly sovereign nations
from departing from the inevitabilty of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Systems leadership will replace slow, unwieldy, inefficient
democracy with the cultivation of a
shared vision for change.
And to bring it all off,
we will need the services of narrative:
[Klaus] is clearly worried by the possibility ofsocietal resistanceand how to advanceif technologies receive a great deal of resistance from the public.. . . [H]e is well aware of the possibility of renewed and perhaps broader opposition to his project, with the risk ofresentment, fear and political backlash.. . . So how is an honest technocrat supposed to roll out his preferred future for the world without the agreement of the global public? How can Schwab and his billionaire friends impose their favoured society on the rest of us? One answer is relentless brainwashing propaganda churned out by the mass media and academia owned by the 1% elite – what they like to calla narrative. For Schwab, the reluctance of the majority of humankind to leap aboard his 4IR express reflects the tragedy thatthe world lacks a consistent, positive and common narrative that outlines the opportunities and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, a narrative that is essential if we are to empower a diverse set of individuals and communities and avoid a popular backlash against the fundamental changes under way.
So, just what is this Great Reset? Here's the WEF itself:
As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum's communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.
Dignity for every human being? Doubt it. Much more useful is Lambert at Naked Capitalism, cited above. And likewise useful, Tessa Lena:
What isthe Great Reset? The Great Reset is a massively funded, desperately ambitious, internationally coordinated project led by some of the biggest multinational corporations and financial players on the planet and carried out by cooperating state bodies and NGOs. Its soul is a combination of early 20th century science fiction, idyllic Soviet posters, the obsessiveness of a deranged accountant with a gambling addiction . . .
Tessa assesses The Great Reset goals and strategy:
[T]he desired end result is a giant, joyless, highly controlled global conveyor of everything and everybody where privacy is tremendously expensive, dissent is unthinkable, and spiritual submission is mandatory. It's like a 24/7 medicated reality, except the medications are both chemical and digital, and they are reporting you back to the mothership, which can then punish you for bad behavior by, say, blocking your access to certain places or by putting a hold on your digital bank account—perhaps without any human intervention at all. Thus, on a sensory level—as it relates to money and power—this conveyor is an attempt of the super wealthy to organize and monetize theirassets,including people—more efficiently than ever before. On a theological level, the initiative is shaped by transhumanism, a formal belief system rooted in a pathological feeling of being repelled by all things natural—and a resulting view of biological forms as defective robots, which are made perfect, serial killer perfect, by merging with machines in a way that redefines the meaning of being alive and defies death itself.
A theology of greed and the capability of employing a priesthood.
What we are looking at here is a new religion—and as much as I want to believe in the general cleanliness and rationality of the system—on the higher level, we are not dealing with a rational, scientific, honest, benevolent—or even misguided—attempt to make things better. When it comes to the masterminds of the Great Reset, we are dealing with a combination of standard greed—and the emotional pathology of restless, rotting madmen who are freaking out over the maintenance of their property in this new era, and who resent their biological nature as such and want to be gods. Sadly, the crazies are rich and well-connected, and they can hire a million underlings to put on a convincing, feel-good, rational external-facing presentation about their new religion. And to bribe the media. And politicians. And academics. And campaign organizers. And non-profits. And let's not forget my brethren, the artists, who, out of starvation and indignity, will then create beautiful, artful, moving ads for anything that pays. And by the time the circle is complete, we have a brand new public opinion and technically, still ademocracy!
But not a new religion; neoliberalism as a religion has a history. Its theological innovation is the division of humans to inside and outside, and the religion offers a different face in each direction. Philip Mirowski tells us:
What I shall refer to here is the proposition that an intellectual thought collective might actually concede that, as a corollary of its developed understanding of politics, it would be necessary to maintain an exoteric version of its doctrine for the masses—because that would be safer for the world and more beneficial for ordinary society—but simultaneously hold fast to esoteric doctrine for a small closed elite, envisioned as the keepers of the flame of the collective's wisdom. Furthermore, whereas both exoteric and esoteric versions would deal with many similar themes and issues, the exoteric version might appear on its face to contradict the esoteric version in various particulars. (p. 68)
I will emphasize the potential utility of thinking about neoliberalism as a religion, of which the WEF is one of the priesthoods. When it's working right, a religion is mostly invisible but it fills every available space of mind. Especially when it's vigorously promoted with compelling media and social pressure. The Great God is Glob and Klaus is his Prophet. Submit, petty mortals, before the inexorable Glob, for He bringeth forth Value. Put Glob before all. Glob first and mightiest.
Well Glob certainly needs His priesthood. For priestly minions the narrative is a jobs act:
[B]y now, the top power holders in the West have figured out that it's more cost-effective and less labor-consuming for them to just bribe the mediaof record,the scientists, the academics, the politicians, and even thecontrolled opposition—and have them convince the peasants—than to police everything and everyone by force. And by the way, while the pinnacle of this tower is a conspiracy in earnest, in a sense of it being a coordinated effort where the masterminds are acting in general alignment with each other, without disclosing their true long-term goals to the peasants—the rest of the tower is probably the usual human stuff, multiplied by the lack of the old-fashioned, moral sense of responsibility. The usual human stuff is a medley of ambition, hustling, greed, carelessness, arrogance, and even good intentions. The closer to the bottom, the more ignorance and the better the intentions—because most people do believe that they are doing good—but it doesn't change the tragic trajectory of theresettingcavalcade.
The Great Reset is a leap into dystopia. Can it be averted? Naaah, it's baked in. To get to the other side, we'll have to provide new social institutions dedicated to public service not profit. All the while subject to the endless blast of narrative, and the staggering indignity of deflation. Start a garden?