Schmooze Operators

Inside the World Economic Forum

Scheduled events include "The Paradigm for the Future" (the Huntington vs. Fukuyama cage match); "Rethinking the IMF and the World Bank: More Reform or Complete Redesign?"; "The Role of Islam in the Modern State"; "Bioterrorism: Too Small To Beat?"; and a nightcap about robots and wizards with Paulo Coelho and Bruce Sterling. But the sessions are only half the point, good or bad. Access is the commodity here, with the advantage going to the many smaller players.

"To their credit, Schwab and the WEF have moved considerably from where they started," Rifkin opines. "I think their intentions maybe are to do the right thing but they are too frightened of losing the support of the business leaders by going too far, because then [the annual meeting] would have turned into something that wasn't just cocktail conversation."

Rifkin's foundation is throwing its support behind the second annual meeting of the World Social Forum, which meets in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at exactly the same time as the WEF meeting.

Protests in NYC this week may represent the democratic act of public disagreement, a social "No!" that rejects the accumulation of power and capital represented by the WEF. Both that "No!" and a more substantive dialogue among civil society, business, and government are more necessary than ever. But memories of the water cannons in Davos and the specter of New York held hostage by moneyed elites makes the World Economic Forum look like a dinosaur from a bubbly time recently, but quite permanently, ended.


Related Stories:

"Keepers of the Flame: As Moderate Groups Turn Down the Heat, Anarchists Light a New Way for Dissent" by Esther Kaplan

"Law of the Fist: New York Cops Vow to Crush Violent Protest at World Economic Forum" by Richard Esposito

"A Field Guide to Anti-WEF Protest in New York City" by Ariston-Lizabeth Anderson

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