Davos

Perhaps the saddest words ever spoken by the director of a major museum

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Davos faces the most pressing global challenge of the day: How to protect the elites from everybody else.

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Governing the World: The History of an IdeaBy Mark Mazower (Penguin Press, 475 pp., $29.95)   WE HAVE PASSED, Mark Mazower writes, “from an era that had faith in the idea of international institutions to one that has lost it.” Mazower, a prolific professor of history at Columbia, has written a challenging and thought-provoking history of that arc of disillusion. We certainly have reason to be disillusioned.

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Early last month, a political blogger at a major national newspaper, as part of a growing chorus, all but declared that Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital was effectively defunct as a campaign issue. The headline: “Bill Clinton sticks another fork in Obama’s Bain strategy, says Romney had ‘sterling’ business career.” The top of the article: “The shelf life of President Obama’s Bain Capital strategy appears to be rapidly shrinking.

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The Visionary

If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.

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Occupy Davos

The Occupy movement has found, at last, the heart of the beast. The good news is that it's in the Swiss Alps, with some of the finest skiing in all of Europe just a stone's throw away. The bad news is that instead of tents the Occupiers get igloos. Who knew Davos could be a hardship post? Give me Cleveland any day. "To dismiss the Occupy WEF [i.e., World Economic Forum] movement would be a mistake," an anonymous Davos blogger informs us. Do you hear that, plutocrats? The Wall Street Journal reports that there are 70 billionaires among the 2,500 attendees.

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Over-Rated Thinkers

Welcome to TNR’s 2011 list issue. Yesterday we named the most powerful, least famous people in Washington. Today’s installment: DC’s most over-rated thinkers. NEWT GINGRICH Maybe it’s the Ph.D., his extensive bibliography, or his constant appearances on Fox News, but Newt Gingrich has held on to his reputation as the “ideas man” of the Republican Party for too long. Last May, when Gingrich was contemplating a run in 2012, Eric Cantor swooned over his intellect and The Washington Post published a story headlined: “Newt Gingrich has Ideas.

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Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live  By Jeff Jarvis  (Simon & Schuster, 263 pp., $26.99) In 1975, Malcolm Bradbury published The History Man, a piercing satire of the narcissistic pseudo-intellectualism of modern academia. The novel recounts a year in the life of the young radical sociologist Howard Kirk—“a theoretician of sociability”—who is working on a book called The Defeat of Privacy.

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Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos By Peter E. Gordon (Harvard University Press, 426 pp., $39.95) I. The Swiss town of Davos was once famed as a sanatorium. It provided pastoral balm for mental breakdown (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner), relief from chronic illness (Aby Warburg), and an Alpine antidote to tuberculosis (Robert Louis Stevenson finished Treasure Island there). This concentration of ailing artists and intellectuals produced its own distinctive cultural life, immortalized by Thomas Mann in 1924 in The Magic Mountain.

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Ottomania

Istanbul, Turkey—Late last month, when news broke that Israeli commandos had killed nine Turkish nationals onboard a Gaza-bound flotilla, no one here knew for sure exactly how Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would respond. But Turks could be confident of one thing: Whatever Erdogan did, it was going to be dramatic. Tayyip, as Turks call him, is an emotive leader known for unleashing verbal tornadoes. In January 2009, at Davos, he had famously exploded at Israeli President Shimon Peres, hissing, “You know how to kill very well!” before storming off the dais.

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