“To keep indefinitely walking on, along a zigzag course of change, is negative and barren. A mere procession of notes does not make music; it is only when we have in the heart of the march of sounds some musical idea that it creates song. Our faith in the infinite reality of Perfection is that musical idea, and there is that one great creative force in our civilisation. When it wakens not, then our faith in money, in material power, takes its place; it fights and destroys, and in a brilliant fireworks of star-mimicry suddenly exhausts itself and dies in ashes and smoke.”
– Rabindranath Tagore in Creative Unity, 1922
‘Development’ is dominantly perceived in the world today as modern technological advancement that creates greater material comforts and ‘quick fixes’ to take us away from an earlier era portrayed as ‘backwardness’. This backwardness of largely the ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘developing’ countries by this definition is marked by poverty, destitution, starvation, deprivation, hunger and mal-nutrition, illiteracy and social evils, disease and large-scale unemployment. In this way, ‘development’ has been heralded as a lofty ideal, where the ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘developing’ countries should catch up with the ‘developed’ countries and the later should keep developing further. In an era in which globalisation has made deep inroads, one of its remarkable successes has been to unite the world with a sweeping consensus it has manufactured across diverse regions on this dominant perception of development. Travesty refers to something that fails to represent the values and qualities that it is intended to represent, in a way that is shocking or offensive.
Like the ‘Covid vaccines’ that are supposed to protect us from a ‘highly dangerous and mutating virus’ that would otherwise cause untold misery of dangerous disease and wipe out the human population, the ‘side-effects’ of the ‘development idea’ have also been widely deliberated. But the benefits of the ‘development idea’ ranging from its purported saving from drudgery of physical labour, savings in time and many other benefits such as greater connectivity, we have been told, far outweigh the ‘side-effects’ just as it has been claimed for the ‘Covid vaccine’.
Just like the ‘Covid vaccine’, ‘development’ in the aftermath of the Second World War was presented as a panacea for many a ills plaguing the human society, especially for the erstwhile ‘savages’ of the Enlightenment era or the ‘subjects and slaves’ of the Colonial era. They now had a more benign classification as ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘developing’ countries, also clubbed together as Third World and Global South. So wide and popular was its appeal that very soon development was elevated to the status of a new religion and it was made mandatory for every political regime around the world, or they would face the wrath of the newly anointed gods of development and its clergymen. Its adherents traversed diverse ideologies and in most parts of the world, human suffering was equated to lack of this kind of development. To the extent that even more of newer advances of ‘development’ was also considered as the antidote for the ‘side-effects’ even as they kept growing and getting out of control.
The disastrous social and ecological impacts of modern materialistic development of comforts and material possessions, for instance have been widely acknowledged for a very long time.These have however, been brushed aside under the carpet as ‘negative externalities’ and the environmentalists demonised, witch-hunted and several killed for being ‘anti-development’ by its loyal adherents. Even when the unbilled costs of these ‘negative externalities’ were acknowledged, it was covered up with a salacious promise that newer technological advancements will bring greater efficiencies and even repair the earlier ecological damage. The scientific warnings that have been issued for at least over 50 years since the Limits to Growth published by the Club of Rome in 1972 have been ridiculed as alarmist and conveniently sidelined under one pretext or another.
Like a Ponzi bubble that would pass on the liabilities to newer recruits till it hits a dead-end, a large number of people in ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘developing’ countries around the world were hoodwinked and addicted to ecologically destructive energy guzzling and polluting ways of life, through a massive propaganda funded and executed through government machineries in cahoots with an intricate web of multilateral institutions – United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisations, among others and Multinational Corporations – in an accelerated manner over the past several decades.
By the beginning of the 21st century, their scandalous claims had busted, leaving humanity in a deep trap of climate and ecological emergency and treacherously pushed to the brink of extinction. The materialistic developmentalists now started blaming the large and growing human population for the climate and ecological crises, even as the data clearly showed that it was the greed and apathy of a small section of pathologically addicted consumers who also wielded considerable influence on policy making that were driving this crisis to the edge of human extinction.
The Age of Development: An Obituary
Wolfgang Sachs is a researcher, writer and university teacher in the field of environment, development, and globalisation. Sachs is the principal author of Fair Future: Resource Conflicts, Security and Global Justice and Sustainable Germany in a Globalized World, both major studies produced by the Wuppertal Institute. Sachs is also a member of the Club of Rome, a lecturer at Schumacher College and an honorary professor at the University of Kassel, Germany.
In 1992, Sachs wrote a seminal series of essays for the New Internationalist called ‘Development: A Guide to the Ruins’. In this he describes the ‘development idea like a ruin in the intellectual landscape’ and uncovers the foundations of this ‘towering conceit’ to see it for what it is: ‘the outdated monument to an immodest era’.
Just about when the Covid Pandemic was ‘officially’ discovered, in February of 2020, he wrote an obituary of the ‘development idea’ that he has been researching over several decades. Over a billion vials of the ‘Covid vaccine’ have been injected into the bloodstreams since, in order to stop a ‘dangerous and mutating virus’ that seems so strikingly similar to what Sachs describes as the mutations of the ‘development idea’.
The concept of development, in his opinion, lives on – and takes on new shapes as it is reframed by the United Nations, reinterpreted by the Vatican or hijacked by authoritarian populists to serve their own nationalist agenda. But, he argues now, we need to move beyond its misguided assumptions into a new ‘post-development era’ based on ‘eco-solidarity’.
A brilliant writer, Sachs shares valuable insights that piece together thread by thread, ‘development’ as the final and the most treacherous stage of ‘colonialism’ that has spread its tentacles to far corners of the world. It is safe to conclude by now that ‘development’ has been the greatest and one of the long-lasting ‘con’ in the entire human history.
Faustian Civilisation in its death throes
Before we delve deeper into Sachs’ commentary on the ‘development idea, we need to take a deeper look into the works of two thinkers spanning over a century – Oswald Spengler and Mattias Desmet – that give us vital clues of how such an elaborate ‘con’ has been possible with the collusion of so many influential people across diverse countries over such a long period of time.
German philosopher-historian Oswald Spengler wrote about the ‘Faustian’ civilization, a century back in the early Twentieth Century in his two volumes of ‘Decline of the West’ (German: Der Untergang des Abendlandes; more literally, The Downfall of the Occident). The first volume, subtitled ‘Form and Actuality’, was published in the summer of 1918. The second volume, subtitled ‘Perspectives of World History’, was published in 1922. The definitive edition of both volumes was published in 1923.
Spengler introduced his book as a “Copernican overturning”—a specific metaphor of societal collapse—involving the rejection of the Eurocentric view of history, especially the division of history into the linear “ancient-mediaeval-modern” rubric. According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms.
In his framework, the terms “culture” and “civilization” were given non-standard definitions and cultures are described as having lifespans of about a thousand years of flourishing, and a thousand years of decline. To Spengler, the natural lifespan of these groupings was to start as a “race”; became a “culture” as it flourished and produced new insights; and then become a “civilization”. Spengler differed from others in not seeing the final civilization stage as necessarily “better” than the earlier stages; rather, the military expansion and self-assured confidence that accompanied the beginning of such a phase was a sign that the civilization had arrogantly decided it had already understood the world and would stop creating bold new ideas, which would eventually lead to a decline.
For example, to Spengler, the Classical world’s culture stage was in Greek and early Roman thought; the expansion of the Roman Empire was its civilization phase; and the collapse of the Roman and Byzantine Empires their decline. He believed that the West was in its “evening”, similar to the late Roman Empire, and approaching its eventual decline despite its seeming power.
Spengler recognized at least eight high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mesoamerican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greek/Roman, “Apollonian”), the non-Babylonian Middle East (“Magian”), and Western or European (“Faustian”). Spengler combined a number of groups under the “Magian” label; “Semitic”, Arabian, Persian, and the Abrahamic religions in general as originating from them (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Similarly, he combined various Mediterranean cultures of antiquity including both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome as “Apollonian”, and modern Westerners as “Faustian”, which literally means someone who has sold his soul to the devil..
According to Spengler, the Western world was ending and the final season, the “winter” of Faustian Civilization, was being witnessed. In Spengler’s depiction, Western Man was a proud but tragic figure because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached. The elaborate ‘con’ in this regard is the desperate last flutter of this Faustian Civilization in its death throes.
Mattias Desmet is a Belgian clinical psychologist and professor in clinical psychology at Ghent University. He has a Doctor of Philosophy Psychological Sciences and has a master’s degree in statistics. He has recently authored The Psychology of Totalitarianism.
Desmet argues that society had become individualistic prior to the pandemic, and that there was a lot of “free floating” fear and discontent. He points out, for instance, that huge amounts of antidepressants were prescribed at the time and he refers to the so-called “Bullshit Jobs” – that refers to a book by the same title by anthropologist David Graeber.
This was an ideal breeding ground for Mass Formation psychosis. When the Covid crisis arrived, not only an object of fear (“the virus”) was pointed out by governments and the media, but also a strategy for dealing with this object of fear: “the corona measures”, such as masks, vaccination and social distancing. A “new social bond” was established by the people who came to wage a “war on COVID”. This battle fulfilled their needs for meaningfulness and connection. However, as a result, not only the virus became the common enemy of this new social bond, but also those who did not join in the “war on COVID” or who questioned the government strategy for fighting this war. This is, according to Desmet, because people who ask critical question about the virus and the corona measures, pose a threat to the continuity of this new social bond.
Desmet argues that mass formation is known to have a huge impact on individual’s cognitive functioning; it has similarities with the state of hypnosis He also refers to Hannah Arendt, who described the role of the masses in totalitarianism. For Desmet, this theory is the only explanation why even highly intelligent people don’t question the narrative and the numbers that were in many respects utterly absurd.
In The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Desmet deconstructs the societal conditions that allow this collective psychosis to take hold. By looking at our current situation and identifying the phenomenon of “mass formation”—a type of collective hypnosis—he clearly illustrates how close we are to surrendering to totalitarian regimes. With detailed analyses, examples, and results from years of research, Desmet lays out the steps that lead toward mass formation, including:
- An overall sense of loneliness and lack of social connections and bonds
- A lack of meaning—unsatisfying “bullshit jobs” that don’t offer purpose
- Free-floating anxiety and discontent that arise from loneliness and lack of meaning
- Manifestation of frustration and aggression from anxiety
- Emergence of a consistent narrative from government officials, mass media, etc., that exploits and channels frustration and anxiety
In addition to clear psychological analysis—and building on Hannah Arendt’s essential work on totalitarianism, The Origins of Totalitarianism—Desmet offers a sharp critique of the cultural “groupthink” that existed prior to the pandemic and advanced during the COVID crisis. He cautions against the dangers of our current societal landscape, media consumption, and reliance on manipulative technologies and then offers simple solutions—both individual and collective—to prevent the willing sacrifice of our freedoms.
Connecting the ‘dots’
Connecting the ‘dots’ between Spengler’s Faustian civilisation and Desmet’ s Mass Formation Psychosis, Wolfgang Sachs in February 2020 fills in the blanks with this masterpiece published in the February 2020 issue of New Internationalist titled ‘The Age of Development: An Obituary’, just when the Mass Formation Psychosis around the Covid virus was being manufactured as the last desperate act of the Faustian civilisation in its death throes. Hannah Arendt was prophetic in her proclamation of Totalitarianism as dissipative and self-destructive. Eric Wolff connects the remaining ‘dots’ and traces it back to the venerated Harvard University through its handiwork the World Economic Forum.
‘Development’ is one of those zombie categories that have long since decayed, but still wander around resembling a worn-out utopia. Apparently buried long ago, the concept’s ghost is still haunting world politics. Despite the huge upheavals in world affairs recently, all of a sudden development appears to have made a comeback.
The new breed of authoritarian leaders are now enthusiastic about development, for example. Yet, with the rise of national populism, the idea of development no longer plays an inspiring, forward-looking role, as it did in the days when nation-states were being decolonized and even at the time of deregulation of global markets. The Trumps and the Bolsonaros, the Erdoğans and Modis of this world still believe in development, in so far as that means large projects, mass purchasing power and unregulated movements for corporations. But, besides being authoritarian and xenophobic, they are declared enemies of the environment.
They promise their followers a roll-back of environmental politics; in fact, they are great fans of the brown economy, rejecting a green alternative. Their image of development is shaped by fossil energy and, more generally, extractivism of natural resources. National populists are nostalgic for the Industrial Age; they are not orientated to the future, but rather to the past.
However, there is a crucial discontinuity in the development agenda of national populists: they are ethnocentric and selfish. From the Second World War until very recently, development, for better or worse, was always conceived as being within the framework of multilateralism. But with the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, the wind has turned. ‘America First’ is the battle cry of unilateralism. The interests of one’s nation are of primary importance, while those of others are negligible. Trump’s echo resounds, for example, through Matteo Salvini, recently the strong man of Italy: ‘Primi gli italiani’ (First, the Italians) justified his denying entry for refugees in distress at sea.
In other words, far from the Age of Development having long since come to an inglorious end, as people like me once claimed, the zombie term development continues to make all kinds of mischief. And yet it is true that efforts are being made all around the world to base technology more on nature, the economy on the common good, and culture on civilizational diversity; all of which are objectives that can be understood in post-development terms.
A CLAIM TOO FAR
We were naive and a little pompous to proclaim the ‘end of the development age’. In the fall of 1988 at Pennsylvania State University, in the house of Barbara Duden, our group of friends began to draw up the outline of what became the Development Dictionary – the key points of which I outlined in a theme issue of New Internationalist in 1992 called ‘Development: a guide to the ruins’. On the track of Ivan Illich, who once had the plan to write an ‘archaeology of modern certainties’, we wanted to explore the key concept of development, which, as we said then, stood as a ruin in the intellectual landscape.
Let’s remember: in the second half of the 20th century the notion of development stood like a mighty ruler over the nations of the southern hemisphere. It was the rallying cry of the postcolonial era. The concept seemed to be innocent, but in the long run it turned out to be detrimental; as a kind of mental infrastructure, it paved the way for the imperial power of the West over the world. As things were in the West, so also should they be on Earth: that was, in short, the message of development.
When did the development age begin? In our Development Dictionary, we focused on President Harry S Truman’s inaugural address to the US Congress on 20 January 1949, in which he labelled the homes of more than half of the world’s population as ‘underdeveloped areas’. The development age was opened with this speech – the period of world history that followed the colonial age of the European powers. The development age lasted about 40 years and was replaced by the era of globalisation. And presently there is another turning point: the rise of national populism.
What constitutes the idea of development? Consider four aspects. Chrono-politically, all nations seem to advance in the same direction. Imagine time is linear, moving only forwards or backwards; but the aim of technical and economic progress is forever fleeting. Geopolitically, the leaders of this path, the developed nations, show the straggling countries which way to go. The bewildering variety of peoples in the world is now ranked simplistically as rich and poor nations. Socio-politically, the development of a nation is measured through its economic performance, according to gross domestic product (GDP).
Societies that have just emerged from colonial rule are required to place themselves in the custody of ‘the economy’. And finally, the actors who push for development are mainly experts from governments, transnational banks and corporations. Previously, in Marx’s or Schumpeter’s time, ‘develop’ was used as an intransitive verb, like a flower that seeks maturity. Now the term is used transitively, as an active reordering of society that needs to be completed within decades, if not years.
What has become of this idea? To put it briefly, the notion took a direction that is not uncommon in the history of ideas: what once was a historical innovation became a convention over time, one that would end in general frustration. Nonetheless, 30 years ago it was premature to claim the end of the developmental age, because disenchantment with the development idea took place over decades – and is still not complete today.
Corporations spread out, and on every continent lifestyles aligned with one another: SUVs replaced rickshaws; cellphones superseded community gatherings; air-conditioning supplanted siestas
Ideas that become powerful in history do not disappear at once, but rather fade gradually as they become increasingly irrelevant to our understanding of the times. All the same, the tide has turned: even development experts are in a fog about the future, being mostly preoccupied with limiting the social and ecological catastrophes caused by the dominant development model. To impeach the development idea has become acceptable. But let us not jump ahead.
From the end of the Second World War, the discourse on development was framed in terms of the nation-state. Practically every young nation saw its raison d’être as lying in development. But in November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, the Cold War came to an end, and the era of globalisation began.
In the succeeding years the development idea received a further boost. The development mentality spread to the ends of the earth, involving entirely new players. However, the nation-state had become porous, like a container riddled with bullet holes from external forces. Nation-states had to submit to global powers, both economic and cultural. Goods, money, information, images and people poured across borders, creating a transnational social space where interactions take place over great distances, sometimes even in real time.
In this process, other actors, such as transnational corporations and media, played an increasingly important role in development, with the nation-state increasingly falling behind. For example, private foreign investment overtook official development assistance, television programmes marginalised home-grown narratives around the world, and global consumption replaced local craftwork. Development, hitherto a task of the state, was now de-territorialized.
Moreover, transnational value-chains appeared on the scene. With the end of the Cold War and the process of deregulation in full swing, there was no obstacle to laying out networks of production right across the world. Generally speaking, even in the most remote corners of the earth, the capitalist goods and service economy has replaced countless subsistence economies with their traditional markets. And capitalism had changed, as John Kenneth Galbraith had already analysed in the 1950s: from an economy dedicated to satisfying needs to one dedicated to instigating wants.
In such an economy, what counts is increasingly the symbolic power of goods and services. What matters is what goods say, rather than what they do – they are a means of communication. Goods are simultaneously rituals and religion. Corporations spread out, and on every continent lifestyles aligned with one another: SUVs replaced rickshaws; cellphones superseded community gatherings; air-conditioning supplanted siestas. One can understand the globalisation of the markets as development without nation-states.
From this process, the global middle class – whether in Europe, North America and Asia or, less numerous, in South America and Africa – has benefited the most. They shop in similar malls, buy identical high-tech electronics, watch the same movies and TV series. As tourists they freely dispose of the decisive medium of alignment: money. The middle class – now about three billion people with an income of more than $10 a day – is growing more rapidly thanks to fast economic growth in China, India and other Asian countries.
This is in itself a historical feat: it probably took 150 years from the start of the Industrial Revolution to around 1985 to create the first billion middle-class consumers; the second billion took 21 years to cross the threshold; and the third billion, just nine years. If the projections are correct, two billion more will be added to the middle class by 2028 – making a total of five billion people.3 On the lower rungs of the ladder one is able to afford a moped or a washing machine, while on the upper rungs one can invest in long-distance travel or real estate.
Roughly speaking, already by the year 2010, half of the global middle class lived in the Global North and the other half lived in the Global South. Indeed, the Western way of life has spread to other continents, spanning the entire globe. Without doubt this has been the terrific success of development – yet it is a failure waiting to happen.
SURVIVAL NOW, NOT PROGRESS
‘Development’ is a plastic word, an empty term with no positive meaning. Nevertheless, it has maintained its status of global perspective, because it has been inscribed in an international network of institutions from the United Nations to NGOs. After all, billions of people have made use of the ‘right to development’, as it was stated in a resolution of the 1986 UN General Assembly.
However, one can trace the remarkable transformation of the idea into our day. In 2015, for example, one could observe a thickening of the development discourse: the papal encyclical Laudato si’ in June, the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September and the Paris Agreement on climate change in December. Are these international statements still committed to development? Or can one, on the contrary, consider them as a proof of post-development thinking?
It probably took 150 years from the start of the Industrial Revolution to around 1985 to create the first billion middle-class consumers; the second billion took 21 years to cross the threshold; and the third billion, just nine years.
The erosion of the development idea is now obvious in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Long gone is the time when development meant ‘promise’. Back then, the talk was of young, aspiring nations moving along a path of progress. Indeed, the discourse of development held a monumental historical promise: that in the end, all societies would close the gap with the rich and partake in the fruits of industrial civilization.
That era is over: development is more often about survival now, not progress. The SDGs are designed to guarantee the minimum level of human rights and environmental conditions. No more and no less, but the sky-storming belief in progress has given way to the need for survival. The papal letter Laudato si’ disregards the keywords ‘development’ and ‘progress’, whereas the Paris climate deal is meant to avoid catastrophes and wars.
Moreover, while the politics of fighting poverty has been successful in some places, it has been bought at the price of even larger inequalities elsewhere; and at the price of irreparable environmental damage. The World Inequality Report 2018 confirmed that, since 1980, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent has increased rapidly in North America, China, India and Russia, and more moderately in Europe – 40 years’ worth of gold rush!
In addition, the use of the Earth is drastically overstretched: according to the calculations of the Global Footprint Network, humanity consumes the biosphere 1.7 times over every year. Plastic pollution in the oceans, mass extinction of insects and the melting of the Arctic ice shield are cases in point.
Climate chaos as well as the slow demise of plant and animal life have cast doubt on the faith that developed nations represent the pinnacle of social evolution. On the contrary, progress has turned out to be regress, as the capitalist logic of the Global North cannot but exploit nature. From Limits to Growth in 1972 to Planetary Boundaries in 2009 the analysis is clear: development-as-growth renders Planet Earth inhospitable for humans. The SDGs – which carrying development in their very title – are a semantic deception. The Sustainable Development Goals should really be called SSGs – Sustainable Survival Goals.
The geopolitics of development has also imploded. At the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000, the pattern of the last 50 years was reproduced: the world neatly divided into North and South, where donors hand down capital, growth and social policies to beneficiary countries so as to recondition them for the global race. This pattern is a familiar sediment of colonial history and was, just like the catch-up imperative, omnipresent in the post-War years.
But by the time we reached the SDGs, what had happened to the idea of developing countries catching up with rich nations, this notion that was once so fundamental to the idea of development?
It is worth quoting a passage in the document that proclaimed the SDGs: ‘This is an agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. These are universal goals and goals which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike.’ The SDGs claim to be global and universal, and the Paris Agreement followed suit.
You cannot express the mind shift more clearly: the geopolitics of development, according to which industrial nations would be the shining example for poorer countries, have been disposed of. All the planning and passion, the amount of resources and romance that went into realising the dream of catching up! All gone.
BURYING THE CATCH-UP MYTH
Just as the Cold War era ended in 1989, the myth of catching up evaporated in 2015. Rarely has a myth been buried so quietly. What point is there in development, if there is no country that can be called ‘sustainably developed?’ In addition to that, the economic geography of the world has changed. Geopolitically speaking, the rapid ascension of China as the largest economic power on earth has been spectacular. The seven most important newly industrialised countries are now economically stronger than the traditional industrial states, although the G7 still pretends to be the hegemon. Globalisation has almost dissolved the established North-South scheme.
The internet provides one example. In 2016, 3.4 billion people, half the world’s population, used the internet. Private individuals surf the web with computers, tablets or smartphones, companies have huge IT departments, and billions of people are online every day in social networks. The internet has become the ‘central nervous system’ of world society. Incidentally, the digital infrastructure with its data centres requires a tremendous amount of power – it accounts for about seven per cent of electricity consumed globally.5 This corresponds to the annual electricity consumption of the UK.
What is the geographic distribution of internet users? Most live in East Asia (867 million) and South Asia (480 million); Western Europe (345 million) and North America (341 million) are in midtable.6 Since the electricity comes mostly from coal, gas and oil power plants, the carbon footprint of all this internet activity is enormous.
In short, in terms of resource consumption, the upper classes in China, India, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have already caught up with the US and European middle classes. By the way, in the international climate negotiations, the upper classes of the newly industrialized countries are relatively unscathed because they can hide behind the poor of their own nations.
Furthermore, development has always been a statistical construct. Without the magic number, GDP, it was impossible to come up with a ranking for nations of the world. Comparing income was the point of development thinking. Only in this way could the relative poverty or wealth of a country be determined. Since the 1970s, however, a dichotomy has emerged in the discourse of development, juxtaposing the idea of development-as-growth with the idea of development-as-social-policy.
Institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO continued to bow to the idea of development-as-growth, while the UN Development Programme, UN Environment Programme and most NGOs emphasized the idea of development-as-social policy. Thus the term ‘development’ became an all-purpose glue, which could refer to the building of airports just as much as to the drilling of waterholes. The Millennium Development Goals as well as the SDGs that succeeded them were rooted in this legacy.
Over and over again, the relationship between social indicators and economic growth has revealed itself to be a thorny issue. On the one hand, Agenda 2030 (the governing statement of the SDGs) recognizes the decline of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the increase in social inequality; but on the other hand, it calls for economic growth for the poorer countries of least seven per cent a year. The contradiction between growth and sustainability is said to be overcome by the new concepts of ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘green growth’.
But it is now common knowledge that inclusive growth, driven by the financial markets, is an impossibility because it constantly reproduces inequality. Typically, a decline in poverty goes hand in hand with spreading inequality. Since 1990, the emerging economies of Russia, China, India and South Africa have experienced a sharp rise in inequality, while in Brazil it has fallen slightly, albeit from a very high level.
The same applies to the slogan of green growth. Even at the highest echelons of the G7 Summits, the fact that fossil-fuelled economic growth is not feasible in the medium term has done the rounds. In 2015, the industrialised countries envisaged the decarbonization of the global economy by the end of the century. However, all recipes for green growth rely on decoupling environmental degradation from growth, even though absolute decoupling (increasing growth while decreasing environmental degradation) has never been achieved in history.
In short, development-as-growth has historically become obsolete, even life-threatening. Nevertheless, Agenda 2030 fails to speak about prosperity without growth, not even for the old industrialised countries. Reducing the compulsion for growth is apparently taboo: that would mean giving priority to sufficiency instead of efficiency in the economy. In an economy where the efficiency principle dominates, ever more things are produced with ever fewer resources.
In a sufficiency economy, however, enough things are produced with a smart use of resources. Some sectors of the economy would shrink while others would grow. This design of the economy would imply a readiness for downscaling the present industrial system. Compared with Agenda 2030, Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato si’ is more forward-looking, given that he advocates degrowth for the wealthy zones of the Earth.
THE UNBRIDGEABLE CONTRADICTION
Mohandas Gandhi, who led India to independence, was a post-developmentalist long before the term was invented. He left to posterity a well-known quotation, which summarized his thinking about development succinctly: ‘The Earth has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.’
If you look at the quote more closely, its subversive trait becomes clear. No wonder that in present-day India, Gandhi is viewed as a patron saint in disregard, only brought out on ceremonial occasions. Gandhi believes that the resources of the Earth are not scarce, contrary to economic orthodoxy, but rather abundant, certainly enough to satisfy the needs of human society. He assumes that the needs are culturally shaped and more or less circumscribed, another contrast to received economic wisdom. This allows him to put avarice in the dock because systemic greed undermines the needs of the majority of people. Greed is the variable that decides if people have enough to live on or not.
If the authors of the report of the Brundtland Commission, in 1987, had read their Gandhi accurately, they would not have come up with the classic definition of sustainable development: ‘The development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Gandhi would have insisted that not all needs are equally valid, that the needs of the well-to-do would be different from those of the underprivileged. Thus, in the aftermath, the lack of distinction between survival needs and luxury needs has become a pitfall of the debate on sustainability.
Fortress thinking expressed through national populism revives the glorious past of an imagined people. Authoritarian leaders bring back pride, while others are scapegoated – from Muslims to the United Nations.
In fact, lumping together human rights and consumer rights is the legacy of the concept of development, which is blind to class relations. How can one treat the basic social rights to food, housing and health as being at the same level as the consumer demand for SUVs, real estate and stocks? What do the Mapuche in southern Chile have in common with the Wall Street bankers, or the cotton workers in Mali with the start-ups in Shanghai? Not much, except that they are united in the mirage of development.
But this opens up a dilemma that has always remained hidden in the illusion of development. A recent study confirms that, under the current development model, there is an unbridgeable contradiction between the social and environmental goals of the SDGs.8 In relatively wealthy countries where the physical SDGs (poverty, nutrition, health, energy) are reasonably satisfied – as in Europe, North America, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Thailand and the like – there is an ecological problem of huge magnitude. They are all crossing the planetary boundaries, as in the emission of CO2 and nitrogen, and the consumption of phosphorus and freshwater.
Conversely, where countries remain within their environmental frameworks, the physical SDGs are largely unfulfilled. Roughly, the double-bind is this: the higher the standard of living of a country rises, the more the biosphere tends to be degraded. And conversely, the less social human rights are guaranteed, the smaller the ecological footprint tends to be, at least in terms of carbon and materials. What a tragic result of development!
What weighs more heavily, moreover, is the fact that sometimes the wellbeing of the global middle class depends on the poverty of others. There are plenty of examples: local fisherfolk lose out when large factory ships empty the oceans; smallholders are displaced when agricultural corporations massively buy up land; slum-dwellers have to give way when city highways are built; long-established residents are evicted when gentrification reaches their neighbourhoods; workers are subjected to repression if they want to exercise their trade-union rights in factories in the global value chain.
In short, the imperial mode of living often penetrates deeply into the lifestyles, institutions and infrastructure of the global middle class.9 Unrecognized and yet highly effective through a variety of complex economic structures and exploitation mechanisms, the overall result is dramatic: the well-to-do are living at the expense of the poor.
FEAR OF THE FUTURE
To draw out the essence of Agenda 2030, the encyclical Laudato si’ and the Paris Agreement, one point stands out: the development enthusiasm of the 20th century is gone. In its place, the demise of expansive modernity has been moving to centre stage. The motto of the previous century (playing on the words of the Lord’s Prayer), ‘on Earth as in the West’, now seems like a threat. The world appears to be in disarray; chaos, fear and anger are widespread, contrasting sharply with the triumphalism of the 1990s. The rise of China, the decline of the West, the hegemony of the financial markets, the return of authoritarian states: all of these may serve as examples of the vagaries of contemporary history.
If one had to find a phrase summing up the current atmosphere in the Global North, as well as parts of the Global South, it would be: fear of the future. There is a fear that life prospects are shrinking and that children and grandchildren will be less well-off than their parents and grandparents. A suspicion is spreading within the global middle class that the expectations kindled by development are not going to be fulfilled.
The middle classes in formerly rich countries, thinned out by globalisation, now call for protection and security. At the same time, large parts of the population in the emerging countries, alienated from their traditions, aware of Western lifestyles through their smartphones, yet excluded from the modern world, are resorting to nationalistic pride.
Everywhere there is a huge polarization between rich and poor. However, while in the nation-states of yesteryear the losers were still capable of demanding corrections from the winners, they are no longer able to do so in times of globalization. The transnational economy, especially the financial sector, triumphs over the living conditions of each country. In response, national populism has emerged – with its many facets.
Facing the turbulences of today’s world, framing social problems as ‘development problems’ is strangely outdated. If everything is not misleading, three narratives of social transformation can be identified: the narratives of fortress, globalism and solidarity.
Fortress thinking expressed through national populism revives the glorious past of an imagined people. Authoritarian leaders bring back pride, while others are scapegoated – from Muslims to the UN. This leads to hatred of foreigners, sometimes coupled with religious fundamentalism. A kind of ‘affluence chauvinism’ is widespread, in particular amongst the middle classes whose material goods need to be defended against the poor.
Moreover, national populists have nothing but contempt for ecology. They welcome drilling for oil in the sea, fracking, coal mining and deforestation. They consider climate change to be a finely woven list of the enemies of the national economy. They are so backward looking that they glorify the plundering of nature. Except for their xenophobia, they could be considered as revenants of the developmental ideology of the 1950s. This adds to the anachronism of national populism.
In contrast, the narrative of globalism revolves around the image of the planet as an archetypal symbol. Instead of the fortress mercantilism of ‘America First’, globalists promote an ideally deregulated, free-trade world, which is meant to bring wealth and wellbeing to corporations and consumers. The globalists, however, consider the present economic system unsustainable. Compared with the politics of neoliberalism, they give more space for public investments, more reforms of the social sector, and generally more leadership of public policy. Above all, they strive for economic growth within the framework of a ‘green economy’.
The globalised elite may worry about the future, but such difficulties can seemingly be overcome with inclusive growth, smart technologies and environmental guidelines for market forces. To a large extent, the UN Agenda 2030, with its Sustainable Development Goals, fits into this frame of thought.
The narrative of solidarity is different. The eco-social ethic stands in opposition to fortress thinking as well as to the narrative of globalism. It foresees a post-capitalist era, based on a cultural shift toward eco-solidarity. The economic monoculture, which reigns in large parts of the world, would make room for civilizational alternatives, be it the worldview of Ubuntu or Buen vivir, be it European humanism or community spirit.
In the mindset of solidarity, human rights – collective and individual – and ecological principles are valued highly; market forces are seen not as an end in themselves, but as a means to an end. The politics of solidarity promotes a cultural rather than technical change, underpinned by co-operative economic forms and public-welfare policies. In contrast to globalism, the narrative of solidarity pleads for permeable but no open borders, imposing certain conditions for migrants, commodities and capital, just as a membrane of a living cell.
Furthermore, as expressed in the slogan ‘think globally, act locally’, a cosmopolitan localism is nurtured whereby local politics must also take into account the needs of the transnational community. This means quitting the imperial way of life that industrial civilization demands, leaving land, food and capital in the hands of the Global South. Particularly in the face of ecological collapse, it is imperative, in the North as well as in the South, to phase out the economic system based on fossil resources, supplanting it with an economic system based on biodiversity.
This transition implies wind as well as solar power to provide energy and regenerative agriculture to provide food and fibre. Instead of expansive modernity it is time for reductive modernity: green enterprises, zero-emissions housing, much lower amounts (by European standards) of motorised traffic, much less consumption of meat, and generally less ownership and more sharing. And finally, new forms of frugal prosperity are called for: affluence of time instead of affluence of goods; labour of care instead of wage labour; partaking in nature instead of taking part in the rat race.
As we confront the fear of the future, the basic direction of politics is at stake; this paradigmatic dispute will be on the agenda for decades to come. Thus, development, like monarchy or feudalism, is about to move further and further into the haze of history, of interest only for students and scholars. Shaping our destiny beyond development is the task that lies ahead of us.
Wolfgang Sachs traces the origin of the development idea to the end of the Second World War and the emergence of the United States as the new world superpower, as he presents a guide to the ruins of the development idea.
A World Power in Search of a Mission
Wind and snow stormed over Pennsylvania Avenue on 20 January 1949 when, in his inauguration speech before Congress, US President Harry Truman defined the largest part of the world as “underdeveloped areas”. There it was, suddenly a permanent feature of the landscape, a pivotal concept which crammed the immeasurable diversity of the globe’s south into single category: ‘underdeveloped’. For the first time, the new world view was thus announced; all the peoples of the earth were to move along the same track and aspire to only one goal: development.
And the road to follow lay clearly before the President’s eyes: “Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace.”
After all, was it not the US which had already come closest to this utopia? According to that yardstick, nations fall into place as stragglers or lead runners. And “the United States is pre-eminent among nations in the development of industrial and scientific techniques”. Clothing self-interest in generosity, Truman outlined a programme of technical assistance designed to “relieve the suffering of these peoples” through “industrial activities” and “a higher standard of living”.
Looking back after forty years, we recognise Truman’s speech as the starting gun in the race for the South to catch up with the North. But we also see that the field of runners has been dispersed, as some competitors have fallen by the wayside and others have begun to suspect that they are running in the wrong direction.
At this time it was thought only resources could be developed, not people or societies.It was in the corridors of the State Department during World War Two that “cultural progress” was absorbed by ‘economic mobilisation” and development was enthroned as the crowning concept. A new world view had found its succinct definition: the degree of civilization in a country could be measured by the level of its production. There was no longer any reason to limit the domain of development to resources only. From now on, people and whole societies could, or even should, be seen as the object of development. Truman’s imperative to develop meant that societies of the Third World were no longer seen as diverse and incomparable possibilities of human living arrangements but were rather placed on a single “progressive track”, judged more or less advanced according to the criteria of the Western industrial nations.
Such a reinterpretation of global history was not only politically flattering but also unavoidable, since under-development can only be recognised in looking back from a state of maturity. Development without predominance is like a race without direction. So the pervasive power and influence of the West was logically included in the proclamation of development. It is no coincidence that the preamble of the UN Charter (“We, the peoples of the United Nations…”) echoes the Constitution of the US (“We the people of the United States…”).
Old World Order – A de facto American Colony
Development meant nothing more than projecting the American model of society on to the rest of the world. Truman really needed such a reconceptualisation of the world. The old colonial world had fallen apart. The United States, the strongest nation to emerge from the War, was obliged to act as the new world power. For this it needed a vision of a new global order.
The concept of development provided the answer because it presented the world as collection of homogeneous entities, held together not through the political dominion of colonial times, but through economic interdependence. It meant the independence process of young countries could be allowed to proceed because they automatically fell under the wing of the US anyway when they proclaimed themselves to be subjects of economic development.
Development was the conceptual vehicle which allowed the US to behave as herald of national self-determination while at the same time founding a new type of world-wide domination: an anti-colonial imperialism..
Regimes in Search of a Raison D’etat
The leaders of the newly founded nations — from Nehru to Nkrumah, Nasser to Sukarno — accepted the image that the North had of the South, and internalised it as their self image. Under-development became the cognitive foundation for the establishment of nations throughout the Third World.
The Indian leader Nehru (incidentally, in opposition to Gandhi) made the point in 1949: “It is not a question of theory; be it communism, socialism or capitalism, whatever method is more successful, brings the necessary change and gives satisfaction to the masses, will establish itself on its own…. Our problem today is to raise the standard of the masses..”. Economic development as the primary aim of the state; the mobilisation of the country to increase the output: this beautifully suited the Western concept of the world as an economic arena.
As in all types of competition, this one rapidly produced its professional coaching staff. The World Bank sent off the first of its innumerable missions in July 1949. Upon their return from Colombia, the 14 experts wrote: “short term and sporadic efforts can hardly improve the overall picture. The vicious circle… can only be broken seriously through a global relaunching of the whole economy, along with education, health and food sectors.”
To increase production at a constant level, entire societies had to be overhauled. Had there ever existed a more zealous state objective? From then on, an unprecedented flowering of agencies and administrations came forth to address all aspects of life — to count, organise, mindlessly intervene and sacrifice, all in the name of “development”. Today the scene appears more like collective hallucination. Traditions, hierarchies, mental habits — the whole texture of societies — have all been dissolved in the planner’s mechanistic models.
But in this way the experts were able to apply the same blue-print for institutional reform throughout the world, the outline of which was most often patterned on the American way of life. There is no longer any question of letting things “mature for centuries”, as in the colonial period. After the Second World War, engineers set out to develop whole societies, and to accomplish the job in a few years or at the most a couple of decades.
Post-Development – Weaponization of Everything
After development died in the early 1990s, its remains were weaponised. The Old World Order was in a free fall with bouts of paranoia interspersed with hubris, ignorance and vanity. Its first attempt at a massive conceit was the self-inflicted 9/11 terror attack with simultaneous implosions in the basement of the World Trade Centre towers just as the planes struck. As America’s credibility was falling in the eyes of the world and its own people, this was followed by the bombing of Iraq in search of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that its intelligence sources knew were not there. They have only been emboldened to carry out more brazen crimes against humanity – the latest one being the highly deceitful use of a pandemic prevention protocol as a trojan horse to launch a global scale bio-psycho-spiritual warfare.
Their key agenda with the Covid warfare is to depopulate Earth of nearly 7.5 billion humans, 90% less than the human population of 8 billion to meet their targeted population of 500 million humans by the year 2030, which they believe is Earth’s carrying capacity in the current scenario.
In normal circumstances, human society would see this as cold blooded mass murder, genocide and pogrom that would erase the memories of Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, Pol Pot and Mao Tse Tung. But the materialistic developmentalists are remorseless and have been running scot-free despite the humongous scale of their crimes against humanity.
One of the resounding claims of the materialistic developmentalists from the anthropocentric viewpoint, paradoxically, has been that it was worth the ecological cost as development was improving the quality of life for large swathes of mankind, uplifting them from the depths of poverty, deprivation and backwardness and most emphatically, their claim has been to increase the average lifespan from 30 odd years to about 80 years with better quality of life and human development indicators. This was already achieved in the Developed countries, the First World or the Global North and rest of the world, consisting of underdeveloped and Developing countries were to aspire for the same.
The obvious question that arises is this :
How did humanity land itself in such a treacherous and murderous Ponzi gamble?
How did our checks and balances fail so miserably?
90 Seconds to Midnight
“Due largely–but not exclusively–to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation stemming from the conflict. The last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between Russia and the United States, New START, is scheduled to expire in February 2026. Russia also brought its war to the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor sites, violating international protocols and risking widespread release of radioactive materials. North Korea also resumed its nuclear rhetoric, launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile test over Japan in October 2022. Continuing threats posed by the climate crisis and the breakdown of global norms and institutions set up to mitigate risks associated with advancing technologies and biological threats such as COVID-19 also contributed to the time setting.”
– “Doomsday Clock set at 90 seconds to midnight”. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. January 24, 2023
When was the last time when the leading scientists felt that humanity was so close to extinction in the entire known history?
We must keep these scientific warnings in mind as we plan our way ahead. This has huge repercussions on the sense of urgency, on the intensity and focus of our efforts as well as the pressing need to widen our reach to every corner of the globe using the internet and all the communications tech by growing our influence. It is Now or Never.
The lifeless ruins of Development have been turned into factories for Weapons of Mass Destruction. The dehumanising and despiritualising Competitive Spirit has turned the promises of plenty to death knells for humanity as a whole. They would continue however to measure the commercial gains from the spectre of mass-scale destruction as profits of corporations and as GDP growth of nation-states that would continue to be classified on the basis of GDP per capita as Developed, Developing and Underdeveloped, depending on their capacity to destruct and eventually commit mass suicide for humanity as a whole. Till such time there is no one left to keep the accounts.
Another World is Possible
In Creative Unity, written a century back in 1922, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore elucidates:
“The instruments of our necessity assert that we must have food, shelter, clothes, comforts and convenience. And yet men spend an immense amount of their time and resources in contradicting this assertion, to prove that they are not a mere living catalogue of endless wants; that there is in them an ideal of perfection, a sense of unity, which is a harmony between parts and a harmony with surroundings.
Materials as materials are savage; they are solitary; they are ready to hurt one another. They are like our individual impulses seeking the unlimited freedom of wilfulness. Left to themselves they are destructive. But directly an ideal of unity raises its banner in their centre, it brings these rebellious forces under its sway and creation is revealed—the creation which is peace, which is the unity of perfect relationship. Our greed for eating is in itself ugly and selfish, it has no sense of decorum ; but when brought under the ideal of social fellowship, it is regulated and made ornamental; it is changed into a daily festivity of life. In human nature sexual passion is fiercely individual and destructive, but dominated by the ideal of love, it has been made to flower into a perfection of beauty, becoming in its best expression symbolical of the spiritual truth in man which is his kinship of love with the Infinite. Thus we find it is the One which expresses itself in creation; and the Many, by giving up opposition, make the revelation of unity perfect.
The one question before all others that has to be answered by our civilisations is not what they have and in what quantity, but what they express and how. In a society, the production and circulation of materials» the amassing and spending of money, may go on, as in the interminable prolonging of a straight line, if its people forget to follow some spiritual design of life which curbs them and transforms them into an organic whole.
For growth is not that enlargement which is merely adding to the dimensions of incompleteness. Growth is the movement of a whole towards a yet fuller wholeness. Living things start with this wholeness from the beginning of their career. A child has its own perfection as a child; it would be ugly if it appeared as an unfinished man. Life is a continual process of synthesis, and not of additions. Our activities of production and enjoyment of wealth attain that spirit of wholeness when they are blended with a creative ideal. Otherwise they have the insane aspect of the eternally unfinished; they become like locomotive engines which have railway lines but no stations; which rush on towards a collision of uncontrolled forces or to a sudden breakdown of the overstrained machinery.
Through creation man expresses his truth; through that expression he gains back his truth in its fullness. Human society is for the best expression of man, and that expression, according to its perfection, leads him to the full realisation of the divine in humanity. When that expression is obscure, then his faith the Infinite that is within him becomes weak; then his aspiration cannot go beyond the idea of success. His faith in the Infinite is creative; his desire for success is constructive; one is his home, and the other is his office. With the overwhelming growth of necessity, civilisation becomes a gigantic office to which the home is a mere appendix. The predominance of the pursuit of success gives to society the character of what we call Shudra in India. In fighting a battle, the Kshatriya, the noble knight, followed his honour for his ideal, which was greater than victory itself; but the mercenary Shudra has success for his object. The name Shudra symbolises a man who has no margin round him beyond his bare utility. The word denotes a classification which includes all naked machines that have lost their completeness of humanity, be their work manual or intellectual.
They are like walking stomachs or brains, and we feel, in pity, urged to call on God and cry, “Cover them up for mercy’s sake with some veil of beauty and life!””
Evidence of Non-violent Prosperity around the World in the Pre-Development Era
Economic prosperity in various societies of the world before the modern European industrial development was no less. Far more prosperity has been around for centuries in many nations and societies (than the unprecedented economic prosperity that is being attributed only to Europe) even before the 18th century in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Congo, Male, Sudan, Nubia, India, China, Tibet, Japan, Mongolia, Mesopotamia, Sumer, Iran (Persia), Iraq, Turkey, Ottoman, Thailand, Indonesia, Java, Sumatra, Champa, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Korea, Vietnam, etc.
Many of these countries have been much more advanced in technology than 19th century Europe — millennia ago. The facts about China are well known. Europeans learned many types of scientific techniques from China like gunpowder, printing, paper making method, map making, watch making, meteorology and irrigation system, seismology, anatomy etc. England learned the technology of steel making, smallpox vaccine, silver foil making methods etc. from India. The excellence of Maya, Aztec, Inca, Egypt, Sumer and Babylonia civilizations in astronomical calculations and architecture is world famous. Ghana had no match in gold reserves and prosperity. The richness of the Saraswat civilization of Harappa is well-known by now.
Thus these diverse countries have been more or at least equally prosperous for centuries without any extra conceit and without adopting any craze for luxury as many countries of Europe and now the United States of America have been in the past 300 years. These countries did not show enmity towards nature. They did not barbarously exploit natural resources and produce consumer goods for monstrous consumption, in the name of technology.
The reason for this is not that the peaceful and non-violent societies did not have knowledge of technology. Or they did not have that skill and aptitude or did not have scientific vision and intellect. Rather they had a rich understanding of the rhythms of the universe, of truth and ever-changing reality (ऋत), of the universal-individual, the cycle of creation and the cycle of time. They were so assured by their traditional knowledge. In their vision, adopting the madness of looting all the resources in a short time, in the name of development, would be suicidal. They considered it a terrible injustice to our future generations and would be a sin from this point of view. This is the reason why these prosperous societies and nations, despite their advanced technology, restrained their consumption and their production. Whatever information remains today about the prosperity and lifestyle of these societies, it is proven that the prosperity in these societies was mainly associated with a non-violent lifestyle. The traditions of frugality in consumption and fulfilment of essential needs from the point of view of social harmony, have always kept these societies balanced and restrained.
Why we need an Emergency Response to a highly treacherous and subversive bio-psycho-spiritual warfare!
Is an alliance of political and corporate leaders under the aegis of WEF exploiting the Covid pandemic with the aim of crashing national economies and introducing a global digital currency?
How is it that more than 190 governments from all over the world ended up dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in almost exactly the same manner, with lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccination cards now being commonplace everywhere? The answer may lie in the Young Global Leaders school, which was established and managed by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, and that many of today’s prominent political and business leaders passed through on their way to the top.
In a report published in November 2021, the German economist, journalist, and author Ernst Wolff has revealed some facts about Schwab’s “Young Global Leaders” school that are relevant for understanding world events during the pandemic in a video from the German Corona Committee podcast. While Wolff is mainly known as a critic of the globalist financial system, recently he has focused on bringing to light what he sees as the hidden agenda behind the anti-Covid measures being enacted around the world.
The story begins with the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is an NGO founded by Klaus Schwab, a German economist and mechanical engineer, in Switzerland in 1971, when he was only 32. The WEF is best-known to the public for the annual conferences it holds in Davos, Switzerland each January that aim to bring together political and business leaders from around the world to discuss the problems of the day. Today, it is one of the most important networks in the world for the globalist power elite, being funded by approximately a thousand multinational corporations.
The WEF, which was originally called the European Management Forum until 1987, succeeded in bringing together 440 executives from 31 nations already at its very first meeting in February 1971, which as Wolff points out was an unexpected achievement for someone like Schwab, who had very little international or professional experience prior to this. Wolff believes the reason may be due to the contacts Schwab made during his university education, including studying with no less a person than former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Wolff also points out that while Schwab was there, the Harvard Business School had been in the process of planning a management forum of their own, and it is possible that Harvard ended up delegating the task of organizing it to him.
The Forum initially only brought together people from the economic field, but before long, it began attracting politicians, prominent figures from the media (including from the BBC and CNN), and even celebrities.
Schwab’s Young Global Leaders: Incubator of the Great Reset?
In 1992 Schwab established a parallel institution, the Global Leaders for Tomorrow school, which was re-established as Young Global Leaders in 2004. Attendees at the school must apply for admission and are then subjected to a rigorous selection process. Members of the school’s very first class in 1992 already included many who went on to become important liberal political figures, such as Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Tony Blair. There are currently about 1,300 graduates of this school, and the list of alumni includes several names of those who went on to become leaders of the health institutions of their respective nations. Four of them are former and current health ministers for Germany, including Jens Spahn, who has been Federal Minister of Health since 2018. Philipp Rösler, who was Minister of Health from 2009 until 2011, was appointed the WEF’s Managing Director by Schwab in 2014.
Other notable names on the school’s roster are Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand whose stringent lockdown measures have been praised by global health authorities; Emmanuel Macron, the President of France; Sebastian Kurz, who was until recently the Chancellor of Austria; Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary; Jean-Claude Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and President of the European Commission; and Annalena Baerbock, the leader of the German Greens who was the party’s first candidate for Chancellor in this year’s federal election, and who is still in the running to be Merkel’s successor. We also find California Governor Gavin Newsom on the list, who was selected for the class of 2005, as well as former presidential candidate and current US Secretary of Transportation Peter Buttigieg, who is a very recent alumnus, having been selected for the class of 2019. All of these politicians who were in office during the past two years have favored harsh responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and which also happened to considerably increase their respective governments’ power.
But the school’s list of alumni is not limited to political leaders. We also find many of the captains of private industry there, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and the Clinton Foundation’s Chelsea Clinton. Again, all of them expressed support for the global response to the pandemic, and many reaped considerable profits as a result of the measures.
Wolff believes that the people behind the WEF and the Global Leaders school are the ones who really determine who will become political leaders, although he stresses that he doesn’t believe that Schwab himself is the one making these decisions but is merely a facilitator. He further points out that the school’s alumni include not only Americans and Europeans, but also people from Asia, Africa, and South America, indicating that its reach is truly worldwide.
In 2012, Schwab and the WEF founded yet another institution, the “Global Shapers Community,” which brings together those identified by them as having leadership potential from around the world who are under 30. Approximately 10,000 participants have passed through this program to date, and they regularly hold meetings in 400 cities. Wolff believes that it is yet another proving ground where future political leaders are being selected, vetted, and groomed before being positioned in the world’s political apparatus.
Wolff points out that very few graduates of the Global Leaders school list it on their CVs. He says that he has only seen it listed on one: namely, that of the German economist Richard Werner, who is a known critic of the establishment. Wolff suggests that the school seems to like to include even critics of the system among its ranks, as another name among its graduates is Gregor Hackmack, the German chief of Change.org, who was in its 2010 class. Wolff believes this is because the organization wants to present itself as being fair and balanced, although it also wants to ensure that its critics are controlled opposition.
Another thing that the Global Leaders graduates have in common is that most of them have very sparse CVs apart from their participation in the program prior to being elevated to positions of power, which may indicate that it is their connection to Schwab’s institutions that is the decisive factor in launching their careers. This is most evident when the school’s alumni are publicly questioned about issues that they have not been instructed to talk about in advance, and their struggles to come up with answers are often quite evident. Wolff contends that their roles are only to act as mouthpieces for the talking points that those in the shadows behind them want discussed in public debate.
Schwab’s Yes Men in Action
Given the growing discontent with the anti-Covid measures put into practice by the school’s graduates who are now national leaders, Wolff believes it is possible that these people were selected due to their willingness to do whatever they are told, and that they are being set up to fail so that the subsequent backlash can be exploited to justify the creation of a new global form of government. Indeed, Wolff notes that politicians with unique personalities and strong, original views have become rare, and that the distinguishing character of the national leaders of the past 30 years has been their meekness and adherence to a strict globalist line dictated from above. This has been especially evident in most countries’ response to the pandemic, where politicians who knew nothing about viruses two years ago suddenly proclaimed that Covid was a severe health crisis that justified locking people up in their homes, shutting down their businesses, and wrecking entire economies.
Determining exactly how the school operates is difficult, but Wolff has managed to learn something about it. In the school’s early years, it involved the members of each class meeting several times over the course of a year, including a ten-day “executive training” session at the Harvard Business School. Wolff believes that, through meeting their classmates and becoming part of a wider network, the graduates then establish contacts who they rely on in their later careers. Today, the school’s program includes courses offered over the course of five years at irregular intervals, which in some cases may overlap with the beginnings of some of its participants’ political or professional careers – meaning they will be making regular visits to Davos. Emmanuel Macron and Peter Buttigieg, for example, were selected for the school less than five years ago, which means it is possible they have been regularly attending Young Global Leaders-related programs while in political office and may in fact still be attending them today.
A Worldwide Network of Wealth & Influence
Graduates from the Young Global Leaders school, and Global Leaders for Tomorrow before them, find themselves very well-situated given that they then have access to the WEF’s network of contacts. The WEF’s current Board of Trustees includes such luminaries as Christine Lagarde, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and current President of the European Central Bank; Queen Rania of Jordan, who has been ranked by Forbes as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world; and Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the largest investment management corporation internationally and which handles approximately $9 trillion annually. By tracing the connections between the school’s graduates, Wolff claims that you can see that they continue to rely on each other for support for their initiatives long after they participated in the Global Leaders programs.
Wolff believes that many elite universities play a role in the process determined by the WEF, and that they should no longer be seen as operating outside of the fields of politics and economics. He cites the example of the Harvard Business School, which receives millions of dollars from donors each year, as well as the Harvard School of Public Health, which was renamed the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health after it received $350 million from the Hong Kong-born billionaire Gerald Chan. The same is true of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, which became the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health after media mogul Michael Bloomberg donated $1.8 billion to the school in 2018.
Wolff states that the WEF’s influence goes far beyond those who have passed through the Global Leaders and Global Shapers programs, however, as the number of people who participate in the annual Davos conferences is much larger than many suspect; he mentions being informed that approximately 1,500 private jets bring attendees to the event each year, overloading Switzerland’s airports.
The Alliance of Big Business & Government
The main goal of the WEF’s activities, Wolff believes, is to facilitate and further high-level cooperation between big business and national governments, something which we are already seeing take place. Viviane Fischer, another participant in the Corona Committee podcast, points out that the British-based company Serco processes migrants for the British government and also manages prisons around the world, among its many other activities. The pharmaceutical industry’s international reach is also considerable: Wolff mentions that Global Leaders alumnus Bill Gates, for example, had long been doing business with Pfizer, one of the main producers of the controversial mRNA anti-Covid vaccines, through his Foundation’s public health initiatives in Africa since long before the pandemic began. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gates has become one of the foremost champions of lockdowns and the Covid vaccines since they became available, and The Wall Street Journal has reported that his Foundation had made approximately $200 billion in “social benefits” from distributing vaccines before the pandemic had even begun. One can only imagine what its vaccine profits are today.
Digital technology, which is now all-pervasive, is also playing a prominent role in the elite’s global designs. Wolff highlights that BlackRock, run by Global Leaders alumnus Larry Fink, is presently the largest advisor to the world’s central banks and has been collecting data on the world financial system for more than 30 years now, and undoubtedly has a greater understanding of how the system works than the central banks themselves.
One of the goals of the current policies being pursued by many governments, Wolff believes, is to destroy the businesses of small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs so that multinational corporations based in the United States and China can monopolize business everywhere. Amazon, which was led until recently by Global Leaders alumnus Jeff Bezos, in particular has made enormous profits as a result of the lockdown measures that have devastated the middle class.
Wolff contends that the ultimate goal of this domination by large platforms is to see the introduction of digital bank currency. Just in the past few months, China’s International Finance Forum, which is similar to the WEF, proposed the introduction of the digital yuan, which could in turn be internationalized by the Diem blockchain-based currency network. Interestingly, Diem is the successor to Libra, a cryptocurrency that was first announced by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, indicating that a global currency that will transcend the power of either the dollar or the yuan, and managed through the cooperation of Chinese, European, and American business networks, is currently being discussed. The International Finance Forum’s supervisory board includes such names as the WEF’s Christine Lagarde; Jean-Claude Trichet, the former President of the European Central Bank; and Horst Köhler, the former Head of the International Monetary Fund.
Wolff further explains that the lockdowns and subsequent bailouts that were seen around the world over the past two years left many nations on the verge of bankruptcy. In order to avoid an economic catastrophe, the governments of the world resorted to drawing on 650 billion special drawing rights, or SDRs, which are supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets managed by the International Monetary Fund. When these eventually come due, it will leave these same governments in dire straits, which is why it may be that the introduction of digital currency has become a sudden priority – and this may have been the hidden purpose of the lockdowns all along.
Wolff says that two European countries are already prepared to begin using digital currency: Sweden and Switzerland. Perhaps not coincidentally, Sweden has had virtually no lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic, and Switzerland has taken only very light measures. Wolff believes that the reason for this may be that the two countries did not need to crash their economies through lockdown measures because they were already prepared to begin using digital currency before the pandemic began. He contends that a new round of lockdowns may be being prepared that will finish off the world’s economies for good, leading to massive unemployment and in turn the introduction of Universal Basic Income and the use of a digital currency managed by a central bank. This currency might be restricted, both in terms of what individuals can spend it on as well as in the time frame that one has to spend it in.
Further, Wolff indicates that the inflation currently being seen around the world is an inevitable consequence of the fact that national governments, after taking loans from the central banks, have introduced approximately $20 trillion into the global economy in less than two years. Whereas previous bailouts were directed into the markets, this latest round has gone to ordinary people, and as a result, this is driving up the prices of products that ordinary people spend their money on, such as food.
Democracy Has Been Cancelled
The ultimate conclusion one must draw from all of this, according to Wolff, is that democracy as we knew it has been silently canceled, and that although the appearance of democratic processes is being maintained in our countries, the fact is that an examination of how governance around the world works today shows that an elite of super-wealthy and powerful individuals effectively control everything that goes on in politics, as has been especially evident in relation to the pandemic response.
The best way to combat their designs, Wolff says, is simply to educate people about what is happening, and for them to realize that the narrative of the “super-dangerous virus” is a lie that has been designed to manipulate them into accepting things that run contrary to their own interests. If even 10% of ordinary citizens become aware of this and decide to take action, it could thwart the elite’s plans and perhaps open a window for ordinary citizens to take back control over their own destinies.