MICHAEL RECTENWALD THE OFFICIAL MICHAEL RECTENWALD SITE
I’ll begin by addressing the elephant in the room. Isn’t the Great Reset simply a “conspiracy theory” concocted and circulated by “rightwing extremists?” The so-called conspiracy theories run something like this: the Great Reset is a plot hatched by a technocratic global elite to establish a socialist-communist New World Order. The Great Reset will abolish the property rights of the majority, as well as individual and national sovereignty, and wipe out the last vestiges of personal freedom. It uses covid-19 and climate change as pretexts to enslave what will remain of humanity, using never-ending lockdowns, experimental vaccines, and pervasive and inescapable surveillance.
According to the New York Times and the Anti-Defamation League, the Great Reset has no basis in fact. Or, as the BBC claims, the Great Reset is a benign effort on the part of “leading thinkers” to bring about “a fairer, greener future,” based on a reset of capitalism. Meanwhile, Time devoted an issue to the Great Reset, effectively hailing it as the solution to all our problems post-covid.
Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), suggests that the Great Reset is merely an attempt to address the weaknesses of capitalism exposed by the covid crisis, as well as the looming catastrophes posed by unmitigated climate change and environmental degradation. This is what Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret suggest in their book, Covid-19: The Great Reset. It’s what numerous documents on the WEF website claim. Why, then, has the Great Reset been construed as a vast leftwing conspiracy to create a totalitarian one-world government?
I don’t mean to suggest that the truth lies somewhere between denial and conspiracy. Rather, I want to make clear just what the Great Reset entails, according to its architects and subscribers. I rely on the claims of Klaus Schwab and his WEF contributors, the WEF’s partnerships, developments in the U.S. and around the world, and on the implications that can be reasonably drawn from proposals and their implementation. In the process, I also mean to show how the Great Reset idea generates “conspiracy theories,” as if spontaneously.
Before grappling with the main components of the Great Reset, a history of the idea and its development is in order. Although its philosophical roots may go much deeper, the Great Reset can be traced to the inception of the World Economic Forum, founded as the European Management Forum in 1971. In the same year, Klaus Schwab, an engineer and economist by training, published his first book, Modern Enterprise Management in Mechanical Engineering, written in his native German. Here, Schwab first introduced what he would later call “stakeholder capitalism,” arguing, as the WEF website notes, “that the management of a modern enterprise must serve not only shareholders but all stakeholders to achieve long-term growth and prosperity.” Schwab and the WEF have promoted the multistakeholder concept ever since. The WEF is the source for the stakeholder and public-private partnership rhetoric and policies embraced by governments, corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, and international governance bodies worldwide. Public-private partnerships have played a key role in the response to the covid crisis and are instrumental in the response to the supposed climate change crisis.
The exact phrase, “the Great Reset,” came into circulation in 2010 with the publication of the book, The Great Reset, by the American Urban Studies theorist Richard Florida—although others claim that they used the phrase before him. Florida’s Great Reset was a response to the 2008 financial crisis and argues that the 2008 crash was the latest in a series of Great Resets, including the Long Depression of the 1870s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Far from being the fallow years typically depicted, Great Resets are periods of paradigm-shifting innovation and geographical reconfiguration. Schwab apparently appropriated the phrase and adapted it to represent his stakeholder vision for a new kind of capitalism and world system.
At the WEF annual meeting in 2014, Schwab declared: “What we want to do in Davos this year … is to push the reset button.” By this he referred to an imaginary reset button on the world economic system of “neoliberal” capitalism. A graphic depiction of a reset button would later appear on the WEF’s website. In 2017, the WEF published a paper entitled, “We need to reset the global operating system to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]” of the United Nations (UN).
Next, the WEF organized two events that eerily anticipated covid-19, which became the primary inspiration for the Great Reset project. In May 2018, the WEF collaborated with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to conduct the CLADE X Exercise, a “tabletop” simulation of a national response to a pandemic. The exercise simulated the outbreak of CLADE X, a novel strain of a human parainfluenza virus with genetic elements of the Nipah virus. According to Homeland Preparedness News, the CLADE X simulation demonstrated that “[t]he lack of both a protective vaccine and a proactive worldwide plan for tackling the spread of a catastrophic global pandemic resulted in the death of 150 million people across the Earth.”Clearly, preparation for a global pandemic was in order.
A little over a year later, in October 2019, the WEF’s uncanny prescience was again on display, only this time with greater precision. Along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WEF teamed up with Johns Hopkins University to stage another pandemic exercise, called Event 201. Event 201 simulated the international response to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus—two months before the covid-19 outbreak became international news and five months before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security’s summary of the exercise closely resembles the actual covid-19 scenario, including apparent foreknowledge of so-called asymptomatic spread:
Event 201 simulates an outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs to people that eventually becomes efficiently transmissible from person to person, leading to a severe pandemic. The pathogen and the disease it causes are modeled largely on SARS, but it is more transmissible in the community setting by people with mild symptoms.
The CLADE X and Event 201 simulations anticipated practically every eventuality of the covid crisis, notably the responses by governments, health agencies, conventional media, social media, and elements of the public. The responses and their effects included worldwide lockdowns, the collapse of businesses and industries, the adoption of biometric surveillance technologies, an emphasis on social media censorship to combat “misinformation” and “disinformation,” the flooding of social and legacy media with “authoritative sources,” widespread riots, and mass unemployment.
These premonitory exercises and other covid curiosities have contributed to the “plandemic” narrative—speculation that the covid-19 crisis may have been staged by global elites centered around the WEF as an alibi for initiating the Great Reset. In addition to the pandemic exercise just referenced, Swiss Policy Research points to the WEF’s role in promoting digital biometric identity systems, thrusting its Young Global Leaders into major roles in the management of the covid crisis, and advocating the vaccination of children as “an entry point for digital identification.”
On June 13, 2019, the WEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN to form a partnership centered on advancing the UN “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” The WEF published the “United Nations-World Economic Forum Strategic Partnership Framework for the 2030 Agenda” shortly thereafter. The WEF promised to help “finance” the UN’s climate change agenda. The framework also commits the WEF to helping the UN “meet the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” including providing assets and expertise for “digital governance.” Agenda 2030 appears to have been tailor-made to accommodate the UN-WEF partnership. It adopts the stakeholder concept introduced by Schwab decades before. The word “stakeholders” is used no less than thirteen times in the 2030 resolution. The Great Reset, then, may be understood, in part, as the WEF’s contribution to Agenda 2030.
In June 2020, the WEF held its Great Reset summit as the fiftieth annual meeting of the World Economic Forum—delayed and refocused due to the covid crisis—and announced the Great Reset’s official launch.
Just months into the covid crisis, on July 19, 2020, and a mere month after the annual meeting, Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret published Covid 19: the Great Reset. Steve Umbrello, the Managing Director at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies at the University of Turin, wrote in his academic review of the manifesto:
Although not impossible, the speed at which a book on this particular topic, proposing these theses, was produced[,] does play into the conspiratorial aesthetic that the book has since induced. Even though the authors are transparent about writing and publishing the book within a month’s time, this neither confirms the veracity of such claims nor dispels suspicion from those who question its expediency.
The short interval between the WHO’s declaration of a pandemic and the book’s publication is not the only factor that has fed “the conspiratorial aesthetic” surrounding the Great Reset. Schwab’s writing with Malleret and other WEF statements have stoked the speculations. The co-authors declare, without apparent regret or shame, that covid-19 represents an “opportunity [that] can be seized,” and “we should take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our world,” and “the moment must be seized to take advantage of this unique window of opportunity,” and “[f]or these companies the pandemic is a unique opportunity to rethink their organization and enact positive, sustainable and lasting change,” and “[f]or those fortunate enough to find themselves in industries ‘naturally’ resilient to the pandemic [like Big Digital Tech], the crisis was not only more bearable, but even a source of profitable opportunities at a time of distress for the majority.” This last sentence may be suggestive of the Great Reset’s overall plan.
The Great Reset combines resets in all conceivable domains of human life: economic, environmental, geopolitical, governmental, industrial, technological, social, and individual.
The Great Reset ushers in a bewildering economic amalgam, what I’ve called “corporate socialism” and “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” or what Giorgio Agamben later called “communist capitalism.” Schwab and company euphemistically call this system “stakeholder capitalism.”
Stakeholder capitalism involves the behavioral modification of corporations to benefit “stakeholders.” A stakeholder is anyone or any group that stands to benefit or lose from corporate behavior—other than competitors.
Stakeholder capitalism includes not only corporate responses to ecological issues such as climate change, “but also rethinking their [corporations’] commitments to already-vulnerable communities within their ecosystems.” This is the “social justice” aspect of stakeholder capitalism and the Great Reset. Governments, banks, and asset managers use the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) index to squeeze non-woke players out of the market. The ESG index is essentially a social credit score for rating corporations. The collectivist planners drive ownership and control of production away from the non-compliant.
One of the WEF’s many “strategic partners,” BlackRock, Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, is solidly behind the stakeholder model of the Great Reset program. In a 2021 letter to CEOs, BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink declared that “climate risk is investment risk,” and “the creation of sustainable index investments has enabled a massive acceleration of capital towards companies better prepared to address climate risk.” Fink states that the pandemic accelerated the flow of funds toward sustainable investments:
We have long believed that our clients, as shareholders in your company, will benefit if you can create enduring, sustainable value for all of your stakeholders…As more and more investors choose to tilt their investments towards sustainability-focused companies, the tectonic shift we are seeing will accelerate further. And because this will have such a dramatic impact on how capital is allocated, every management team and board will need to consider how this will impact their company’s stock.
Fink’s letter is more than a report to CEOs. It is an implicit threat. Meanwhile, investment according to the ESG index and other financial tools is gaining the force of law in the U.S., with the Biden administration’s recent “U.S. Climate-Related Financial Risk: Executive Order 14030.”
Schwab and Malleret pit “stakeholder capitalism” against “neoliberalism,” “a corpus of ideas and policies … favouring competition over solidarity, creative destruction over government intervention and economic growth over social welfare.” That is, “neoliberalism” refers to what is otherwise known as the free market. Stakeholder capitalism is thus opposed to the free enterprise system. It means not only corporate cooperation with the state and NGOs but also vastly increased government intervention in the economy. Schwab and Malleret promote “the return of ‘big’ government,” as if it ever retreated: If “the past five centuries in Europe and America” have taught us anything, they assert, it is that “acute crises contribute to boosting the power of the state. It’s always been the case and there is no reason why it should be different with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Schwab and company erect the strawman of neoliberalism as the source of our economic woes. But the governmental favoring of industries and players within industries—or corporatism, otherwise known as economic fascism, and not fair and free competition—has been the real source of what Schwab and his ilk apparently decry. The Great Reset vastly increases corporatism or economic fascism.
While approved corporate stakeholders are not necessarily monopolies, the tendency of the Great Reset is toward monopolization—vesting as much control over production and distribution in these favored corporations as possible, while eliminating industries and producers deemed either unnecessary or inimical. To bring this reset about, “[e]very country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed,” writes the authoritarian Schwab.
Unsurprisingly, stakeholder capitalism has been seen as a new approach to achieving socialism, even by socialists. As I’ve suggested, stakeholder capitalism tends toward “corporate socialism,” or “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” two ways of understanding the overall economics of the Great Reset.
Anthony C. Sutton, the late historian and Hoover Institute scholar, described corporate socialism as follows:
Old John D. Rockefeller and his 19th century fellow capitalists were convinced of one absolute truth: that no great monetary wealth could be accumulated under the impartial rules of a competitive laissez faire society. The only sure road to the acquisition of massive wealth was monopoly: drive out your competitors, reduce competition, eliminate laissez-faire, and above all get state protection for your industry through compliant politicians and government regulation. This last avenue yields a legal monopoly, and a legal monopoly always leads to wealth.
This robber baron schema is also … the socialist plan. The difference between a corporate state monopoly and a socialist state monopoly is essentially only the identity of the group controlling the power structure…We call this phenomenon of corporate legal monopoly—market control acquired by using political influence—by the name of corporate socialism.
The corporate-socialist tendency is toward a two-tiered economy, with monopolies and the state on top, and “actually existing socialism” for the majority below. “Actually existing socialism” is socialism as it really is, as opposed to how Marx and his epigones claimed it would be.
“Capitalism with Chinese characteristics” is a play on the Chinese Communist Party’s description of its economic system. Several decades ago, as China’s growing reliance on the for-profit sectors of its economy could no longer be credibly denied by the CCP, its leadership approved the slogan “socialism with Chinese characteristics” to describe its economic system. Formulated by Deng Xiaoping, the phrase became an essential component of the CCP’s attempt to rationalize Chinese for-profit development under a socialist political system.
According to the party, the growing privatization of the Chinese economy was to be a temporary phase—lasting a hundred years if necessary(!)—on the way to a classless society of full socialism-communism. The party leaders claimed, and still maintain, that socialism with Chinese characteristics is necessary in China’s case because China was a “backward” agrarian country when socialism was introduced—too early, it was suggested. China needed a capitalist booster shot.
With the slogan, the party was able to suggest that China had been an exception to the orthodox Marxist position that socialism arrives only after the development of capitalism—although Marx himself deviated from his own formula late in life. At the same time, the slogan allowed the CCP to confirm the orthodox Marxist position. China’s socialist revolution had come before developed industrial capitalism—an exception to orthodox Marxism. Capitalism was thus introduced into China’s economic system later—a confirmation of orthodox Marxism.
Stripped of its socialist ideological pretensions, socialism with Chinese characteristics, or the Chinese system itself, amounts to a socialist or communist state increasingly funded by “capitalist” economic development. The difference between the former Soviet Union and contemporary China is that when it became obvious that a socialist economy had failed, the former gave up its socialist economic pretenses, while the latter has not.
The Great Reset represents the development of the Chinese system in the West, only in reverse. Whereas the Chinese political class began with a socialist political system and introduced privately held for-profit production later, the West began with a degree of capitalism and is implementing a socialist political system now. It’s as if the Western oligarchy looked to the “socialism” on display in China, and said, “yes, we want it.” This Chinese-style system includes vastly increased state intervention in the economy on the one hand, and the kind of authoritarian measures that the Chinese government uses to control the population, on the other.
Now, let’s look at contemporary developments and how they have been moving in this direction.
The draconian lockdown measures employed by governments just so happen to have accomplished what corporate socialists like the WEF and their collaborators apparently wanted done. They have destroyed small businesses, thus eliminating competitors for corporate monopolists. As the Foundation for Economic Education reported, in the U.S. alone, millions of small businesses closed their doors due to lockdowns.Yelp data indicates that 60% of business closures are now permanent. Meanwhile, the Big Digital giants—including Amazon, Apple, and Facebook—appreciated massive gains. During the three months ending in June 2020, for example, Amazon’s “quarterly profit of $5.2bn (£4bn) was the biggest since the company’s start in 1994 and came despite heavy spending on protective gear and other measures due to the virus.” A data analysis from Harvard University, Brown University, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that government-mandated lockdowns devastated lower-income-earning workers and benefitted those at the top. Meanwhile, studies have shown that lockdowns did nothing to mitigate the spread of covid-19.
Developments advancing the Great Reset agenda include unfettered immigration, travel restrictions for otherwise legal border crossing, the Federal Reserve’s unrestrained printing of money, the subsequent inflation, increasing taxation, the increased dependence on the state, the supply-chain crisis, the restrictions and job losses due to vaccine mandates, and the prospect of personal carbon allowances. Altogether, these and other such policies constitute a coordinated attack on the majority. Ironically, they also represent the “fairness” aspect of the Great Reset—if we properly understand fairness to mean leveling the economic status of the “average American” with those in less “privileged” regions. And this is one of the functions of woke ideology—to make the majority in developed countries feel unworthy of their “privileged” lifestyles and consumption patterns, which the elite are in the process of resetting to a reduced and static new normal, but not for themselves.
The corporate stakeholder model of the Great Reset spills into its governance and geopolitical model: states and favored corporations in “public-private partnerships” in control of governance. The configuration yields a corporate-state hybrid largely unaccountable to the constituents of national governments.
The cozy relationship between multinational corporations and governments has even aroused the scorn of a few academics. Some note that the UN-WEF partnership and the governance model of the WEF represent at least the partial privatization of the UN’s Agenda 2030, with the WEF bringing corporate partners, money, and supposed expertise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4-IR) to the table. And the WEF’s governance model extends well beyond the UN, affecting the constitution and behavior of governments worldwide. This usurpation has led political scientist Ivan Wecke to call the WEF’s governmental redesign of the world system “a corporate takeover of global governance.”
This is true, but the WEF model also represents the governmentalization of private industry. Under Schwab’s stakeholder capitalism and the multistakeholder governance model, governance is not only increasingly privatized, but also and more importantly, corporations are deputized as major additions to governments and intergovernmental bodies. The state is thereby extended, enhanced, and augmented by the addition of enormous corporate assets. These include funding directed at “sustainable development” to the exclusion of the non-compliant, as well as the use of Big Data, AI, and 5G to monitor and control citizens. In the case of the covid vaccine regime, the state grants Big Pharma monopoly protection and indemnity from liability in exchange for a vehicle to expand its powers of coercion. As such, corporate stakeholders become what I have called “governmentalities”—otherwise “private” organizations wielded as state apparatuses, with no obligation to answer to pesky constituents. Since these corporations are multinational, the state essentially becomes global, whether or not a “one-world government” is ever formalized.
As if the economic and governmental resets were not dramatic enough, the technological reset reads like a dystopic sci-fi novel. It is based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4-IR). The 4-IR, we are told, follows the first, second, and third industrial revolutions—the mechanical, electrical, and digital, respectively. The 4-IR builds on the digital revolution, but Schwab sees the 4-IR as an exponential take-off and convergence of existing and emerging fields, including Big Data; artificial intelligence (AI); machine learning; quantum computing; and genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR). The consequence is the merging of the physical, digital, and biological worlds. The blurring of these categories ultimately challenges the very ontologies by which we understand ourselves and the world, including “what it means to be human.”
The specific applications include a ubiquitous Internet, the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Bodies (IoB), autonomous vehicles, smart cities, 3-D printing, robots, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and more.
While Schwab promotes a particular vision for the 4-IR, there is nothing original about his formulations. Transhumanists and Singularitarians (or prophets of the technological singularity), such as Ray Kurzweil and many others, forecasted these and more revolutionary developments, long before Schwab heralded them.The significance of Schwab’s and the WEF’s take on the new technological revolution is the attempt to harness it to a particular end, presumably “a fairer, greener future.”
But if existing 4-IR developments are any indication of the future, then Schwab’s apparent optimism is misplaced, and the 4-IR is grossly misrepresented. These developments already include Internet algorithms that feed users prescribed news and advertisements and downrank or exclude banned content; algorithms that censor social media content, and consign “dangerous” individuals and organizations to digital gulags; keyword warrants based on search engine inputs; apps that track and trace covid suspects and report violators to the police; robot police with QR code scanners to identify and round up the unvaccinated and other dissidents; and smart cities where everyone is a digital entity to be monitored, surveilled, and recorded, while data on their every move is collected, collated, stored, and attached to a digital identity and social credit score—to name a few of the panoptic manifestations of the 4-IR.
In short, 4-IR technologies subject human beings to a technological management that makes surveillance by the NSA look like child’s play. And Schwab lauds developments that connect brains directly to the cloud and enable the “data mining” of thought and memory, a technological mastery over decision-making that threatens autonomy and undermines any semblance of free will. The 4-IR accelerates the merging of humans and machines, resulting in a world in which all information, including genetic information, is shared, and every action, thought, and unconscious motivation is known, predicted, and possibly even precluded. Naturally, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World comes to mind. Yet Schwab touts brain-cloud interfaces as enhancements, as vast improvements over standard human intelligence.
Unless taken out of the hands of corporate-socialist technocrats, the 4-IR will constitute a virtual, inescapable prison of body and mind.
In terms of the social order, the Great Reset promises “inclusion” in a “shared destiny.” But the subordination of “netizens” implies economic and political disenfranchisement, a hyper-vigilance over self and others, and social isolation—or what Hannah Arendt called “organized loneliness”—on a global scale. In the age of covid, this organized loneliness is already manifest in lockdowns, masking, social distancing, and the exclusion of the “unvaccinated.” The “Alone Together” public service announcement produced and circulated by the Ad Council in March of 2020 represented organized loneliness succinctly.
In Google Archipelago, I argued that leftist authoritarianism is the political ideology and modus operandi of what I call Big Digital, and that Big Digital is the leading edge of a nascent world system. Big Digital is the communications, ideological, and technological arm of an emerging corporate-socialist totalitarianism. The Great Reset is the name that has since been given to the project of establishing this world system.
Just as Klaus Schwab and the WEF hoped, the covid crisis has accelerated the Great Reset. The response to the covid-19 scourge has consolidated the grip on the economy of monopolistic corporations above, while advancing “actually-existing socialism” below. In partnership with Big Tech, Big Pharma, the legacy media, national and international health agencies, and compliant populations, hitherto “democratic” Western states are being transformed into totalitarian regimes modeled after China, seemingly overnight. I need not provide a litany of the tyranny and abuses. You can read about them on alternative news sites—until you can no longer read about them.
The Great Reset, then, is not a conspiracy theory; it is an open, avowed, and planned project, and it is well underway. But because capitalism with Chinese characteristics or corporate-socialist statism lacks free markets and depends on the absence of free will and individual liberty, it is, ironically, “unsustainable.” The vast majority will not accept the Great Reset’s attempts to lock them away in an economic, governmental, and technological prison. Like earlier attempts at totalitarianism, the Great Reset is doomed to fail.
The author would like to thank Lori R. Price for her excellent editorial suggestions on this paper.
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