This week sees the return of the World Economic Forum when heads of state, captains of industry, celebrities, and money men from all over the world attempt to solve society's most pressing problems from a luxury ski resort in the Swiss mountains.

Arriving in their private jets, helicopters, and chauffeur-driven black saloons, while armed police look on, more than 3,000 Davos delegates will come together under the premise of making the earth a better place for everyone.

The event has plenty of critics who wince at the sight of the uber-elite claiming to care about serious issues such as inequality, climate change, and corruption, in between endless cocktail parties, dinners, and champagne-soaked private bashes in the town's finest hotels.

It costs around $100,000 (£82,000) to attend Davos, and many times more to be one of 120 sponsors. Cynics argue that the money would be better spent funding charities that specialise in such areas, or on research into the causes of major problems, rather than spending four days in an expensive holiday town pontificating and partying.

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There's no doubt that there is an absurdity about the event that invites invective, but no one could accuse the organisers of being completely oblivious to the febrile mood that looms large over this year's meeting.

For 2017, the theme is "Responsive and Responsible Leadership", set against a backdrop of "growing anti-establishment populism", the dizzying 100-page programme explains. The foreword boldly suggests "reforming market capitalism" could be a remedy because economic growth can no longer be counted on to cure society's "fractures".

Davos has always been good at picking out the current themes, but then anyone of reasonable intellect who follows the news could probably do that.

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It also outlines other hot topics that will be passionately debated: the global economy; climate change; technological transformation; and geopolitical risk, though these could be pertinent at any time in the last 10 years.

The question is whether they are able to come up with real answers to these issues. Davos has always been good at picking out the current themes, but then anyone of reasonable intellect who follows the news could probably do that. A quick glance at my Facebook feed would tell you that most people identify with today's air of discontent in some way.

Every year since the financial crash, the men and (increasingly) women of Davos have had a crisis to agonise over whether it is banker excess, the future of the euro, or the low-growth world that has dogged the post-crisis years.

This year, political instability is higher than it ever has been not just because of Brexit and Trump but also a flurry of European elections that threatens to inject fresh energy into the recent surge of populism.

Swiss police officers walk past the congress centre where the annual meeting, World Economic Forum, will take place in Davos, Switzerland. Photo / AP
Swiss police officers walk past the congress centre where the annual meeting, World Economic Forum, will take place in Davos, Switzerland. Photo / AP

The real question is whether Davos is any good at coming up with solutions. This is the 47th annual Davos jamboree since Klaus Schwab founded it and it's hard to remember any notable changes in global policy that have triggered lasting positive change.

The organisers undermine themselves at points with flowery corporate pseudo-speak, describing the event as a "global multi-stakeholder summit", but perhaps its biggest problem in the past is that excessive gloom has been frowned upon as counter-productive, as if optimism and confidence alone can cure the world's ills.

At times that has backfired. Who can forget the uproar that greeted the news that George Osborne and David Cameron had dared to enjoy an "uproarious" pizza dinner the night before the government announced that the country was in the throes of a triple-dip recession.

Underlining the impression that our leaders are out of touch with the general populace, the same year Boris Johnson had scolded delegates for being overly pessimistic.

"Let's junk talk of austerity, and understand that the biggest single inhibitor of business is confidence," he declared.

Let's be honest, no one wants to fork out £100,000 and spend the week being miserable but perhaps this year there will be a little more restraint and a new mood of realism.

Business and world leaders are gathering for the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Photo / AP
Business and world leaders are gathering for the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Photo / AP

Certainly, the absence of every G7 leader except for Theresa May suggests top politicians want to avoid inflaming the populist backlash, while Donald Trump's decision to stay away is the biggest snub of all to the old order.

If the Washington Consensus really is over and a new world order is emerging, then Davos Man must find his place in it. If ever there was a time for some genuine soul-searching, it is now.