This guest post was written for the Third Estate by Professors Ian Richardson, Andrew Kakabadse and Nada Kakabadse, whose book Bilderberg People has just been published.
Last weekend the transnational elite network known as Bilderberg met in Switzerland to discuss global policy issues and markets. The group meets each year in different locations and is comprised of powerful influencers – royalty, politicians, members of the military, and figures from the financial sector, major corporations and the media – with previous attendees including George Osborne, Peter Sutherland, Pascale Lamy, Henry Kissinger, Queen Beatrix of Spain, David Rockefeller and Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google.
The group first met at the Hotel de Bilderberg in 1954, after it was proposed that there should be an international conference at which European and American leaders would come together to foster cooperation on political, economic and defence issues.
Although a list of attendees is made public at the time of each meeting, minutes of the meeting are not distributed publically and, the group claims, no policy decisions are reached. There is an unwritten code of privacy meaning that attendees do not speak about what was discussed at the meetings. As such, the group is the subject of a number of conspiracy theories – plotting a New World Order, conspiring for capitalism and pushing a hard line of Zionism, if we are to believe all of the rumours.
But despite the outlandish nature of many of these statements, the Bilderberg group does have genuine power, which outranks even the World Economic Forum. Take this power, coupled with a lack of transparency, and it is easy to see why there is so much speculation as to what exactly the group are doing at these yearly meets.
In our book Bilderberg People we gained unprecedented access to thirteen of the Bilderberg attendees who agreed to give us anonymous interviews. We found that whilst the group may not be plotting a global takeover over their croissants, there is a strong theme of bolstering consensus around a particular strand of Western free market capitalism and promoting these Atlantic interests around the globe.
Through our interviews, we saw a process of elite socialisation at play within these gatherings where newer attendees tend to defer (knowingly or subconsciously) to the views of established members. This leads to a particular kind of consensus being reached within the network – one stemming not from the attendees being privy to an ‘enlightened’ way of thinking, but rather from old-fashioned power dynamics which effect even the most influential players globally. In this model, economics and politics are inseparable, with business leaders exerting large amounts of influence, which is in turn legitimised through the illusion of consensus.
More worrying is that the group is not accountable in the traditional sense – those in attendance are there in a personal capacity, not representing constituencies or stakeholders, and the lack of transparency surrounding their activities makes it very difficult to hold them to account despite the influence the meetings undoubtedly exert.
To be able to tackle this, we would do well to scrutinise the regulations around media ownership, as well as content, in a bid to try and loosen the restrictions holding back journalists from writing candidly about networks like the Bilderberg Group.
We are not talking about more conspiracy theories, but rather a little more investigation into a group which, for better of worse, wields a lot of power and has access to vast wealth and resources, yet meets unaccountably and largely under the radar of the public.
Ian Richardson, Andrew Kakabadse and Nada Kakabadse are Professors at the universities of Stockholm, Cranfield and Northampton respectively. They are the co-authors of the book Bilderberg People: Elite power and consensus in world affairs which is available to buy now on Amazon.