Coherent Gibberish

Robb, J. (2007). Davos Irrelevant? John Robb’s Weblog. January 17, 2007. Available online: [also at Davos Conversation and Free Press].

Nothing sums of the internally-consistent nonsense of Global Guerrillas and John Robb (the blogs) more than this post:

With global economy running itself (where it is going, nobody has a clue), bottoms up organizations are forming to solve local and global needs, and states being pushed to margins, you can’t help but get the sense that Davos is hideously anachronistic — from a seemingly long ago time when big ideas, big people, and big states ruled the world.

Like most of the rest of what John Robb writes, this is fourth-rate gibberish.

Consistency is a virtue, and Robb (the theorist) should be praised for it. While other writers might be tempted to change what they write to reflect something of what goes on in the world, global guerrillas (the theory) betrays no such reflex. Global Gorrillas Theory, like Aristotle’s theories, are completely free from worldly matters like observation, explanatory power, and falsification. Like some ancient philosophy free of empirical observations, Global Gorillas is a gift to the ages, because it remains equally worthless in all times in all places.

To go back to the post mentioned above: the World Economic Forum typically held in Davos, Switzerland, is a yearly gathering of influential and powerful people, and the obligatory hangers-on. It may be as benign as an place for debate and discussion among people who can operationalize ideas in the real world, or as hideous as a kleptocratic conclave of the rich and powerful. A basic understanding of human nature implies it is probably both.

In the real world, people can be motivated by learned goals. But not in Robb’s. After all, big ideas are hideously anachronistic. In the real world, some people are supernodes who hold greater influence than others. But not in Robb’s. After all, big people are hideously anarchistic. In the real world, the actions of powerful countries can set regional and system-level rules. But not in Robb’s. After all, big states are hideously anachronistic.

Again, such gibberish is perfectly consistent with the rest of what Robb has written. His “global guerrillas” exist entirely free of motivation and economics, altruistically sacrifice their lives, times, and materials to wear down the economies of big states. Why would they do this? How can they succeed, as they are putting their west point (lack of resources) against the strongest point of their enemies (the wealth of resources owned by the now-anachronistic big ideas, big states, and big actors). It doesn’t matter.

This is fully consistent with other aspects of “global guerrillas theory.” In scientific usage, “theory” implies some prediction should be made. But GGT doesn’t make predictions. In regular usage, “theory” implies the ability to explain something that has already happened. But GGT doesn’t explain the past. A full and complete understand of global guerrillas theory neither explains the past nor predicts the future. Global Guerrilla theory is, in the truest sense of the word, useless.

I have never read anything that implies that Global Guerrillas Theory is anything other than coherent gibberish. Perhaps Robb’s book will begin the process of matching his theorizing with real events in the real world. But I doubt it.