Magical Formulae for Market Futures: Tales from the World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos

Christina Garsten, Adrienne Sörbom

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    Markets are often portrayed as being organized by way of rationalized knowledge, objective reasoning, and the fluctuations of demand and supply. In parallel, and often mixed with this modality of knowledge, magical beliefs and practices are prevalent. Business leaders, management consultants, and financial advisors are often savvy in the art of creatively blending the ‘objective facts’ of markets with magical formulae, rites, and imaginaries of the future. This article looks at the World Economic Forum's yearly Davos meeting as a large-scale ritual that engages senior executives of global corporations, top-level politicians, and civil society leaders to contribute to the overall aim of ‘improving the world’. The Davos gathering has become a vital part of the business calendar, just as much for the intensity of its networking as for the declarations of action from the speakers’ podiums. The presentations and performances in Davos work as ‘technologies of enchantment’ in Gell's (1992) sense, instilling a sense of agency onto participants. The ritual also contributes towards securing the acquiescence of individuals and organizations in a transnational network of politico-economic intentionalities. By invoking global and regional challenges and risks, discussing possible scenarios and solutions, presenters invoke a sense of urgency and contribute to the articulation of global ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’. It is proposed that the magic of Davos resides to a large extent in the ritualized form of interaction and the technologies of enchantment through which it is set up.
    TidsskriftAnthropology Today
    Udgave nummer6
    Sider (fra-til)18–21
    Antal sider4
    StatusUdgivet - 2016