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The Death of Davos?

Gone are the glory days when the World Economic Forum's annual conference in the Swiss Alps perfectly captured the optimism and hype of the post-Cold War era of globalization. Today, the mood is decidedly darker, requiring a more clear-eyed perspective on what, if anything, can be salvaged from the recent past.

DAVOS – Now that we have entered a new period of geopolitical conflict, protectionism, and regionalism, one wonders whether the cosmopolitan, globalized world of Davos is gone forever. Returning after a two-year pandemic hiatus, this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in the Swiss Alps was a shadow of its former self.

In previous decades, the event was brimming with optimism. New peace agreements were forged, emerging markets were propelling themselves toward prosperity, and democracy was on the march. As the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman famously put it, the world seemed increasingly “flat,” with all the old hurdles to international interconnectivity disappearing.

It was all somewhat hyped, as was typical of that era. Few really believed that an earthly paradise was around the corner, or that history had really ended. But there was no denying that things were looking up, and that Davos was the place to go to pay homage to the spirit of the time.