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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of…
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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (edition 2018)

by Anand Giridharadas (Author)

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4091144,688 (4.03)20
An insider's groundbreaking investigation of how the global elite's efforts to "change the world" preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve. Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can'except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. We see how they rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; how they lavishly reward "thought leaders" who redefine "change" in winner-friendly ways; and how they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm. We hear the limousine confessions of a celebrated foundation boss; witness an American president hem and haw about his plutocratic benefactors; and attend a cruise-ship conference where entrepreneurs celebrate their own self-interested magnanimity. Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes' He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. A call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.… (more)
Member:pqfuller
Title:Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World
Authors:Anand Giridharadas (Author)
Info:Knopf (2018), Edition: First Edition, First Printing, 304 pages
Collections:To read
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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

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» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I read most of this title on a substitute flight from San Francisco after my original one was cancelled, so I was in an uncomfortable seat and trying to zone out. I say this because it was an apt setting, as the very frequent flyer next to me flirted with the flight attendant and they each tried to one-up the other in their respective knowledge of the American Airlines fleet. The premise is that we have no good reason to assume that the most wealthy in our society should have taken charge of all that they do, too often try to use philanthropy as a substitute for real problem solving, and aren't even very skilled at what they rule over. And the fact that this small group has largely segregated themselves from the rest of us is a corollary, enforcing further his main point. If you want the public sector to be strengthened and reclaim its work that has been contracted out, Giridharadas has the ideas for you. ( )
  jonerthon | Jun 5, 2020 |
“The only thing better than controlling money and power is to control the efforts to question the distribution of money and power. The only thing better than being a fox is being a fox asked to watch over hens.”

We live in a world where most large societal problems only seem solvable by somebody who possesses endless resources. So when that man (it’s almost always a man) comes riding down on his horse, offering help, we rarely stop and question his motivations, or how he got all of that power in the first place.

This book, by Anand Giridharadas, is an excellent analysis of how our capitalist society has created inequalities, and how the very people who have historically benefitted from this divide are working hard to paint themselves as the people who can solve the inequality. The author puts it well when he says that you cannot use the master’s tools to take apart his own house; i.e., you cannot use the byproducts of capitalism to fix the problems of the free market.

The venture capitalists who invest in fancy Silicon Valley start-ups don’t see themselves as powerful parts of systemic oppression, they see themselves as rebels against “the man”. Elon Musk tells people that he’s only interested in advancing science, but does not acknowledge the dangers of privatizing space travel and rarely mentions the extent to which he profits off of these “common-good efforts”. For generations the innovation of society at large has only been helping those at the top of the totem pole, while the majority of Americans (and people in the world at large) have been fruitlessly attempting to catch up. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the wealthy trying to help, the problem comes when they do this in a direct attempt to keep people satisfied in the system that created these issues in the first place. Bill Gates is a great man, but the extent of his wealth is the byproduct of an unfair machine that needs to be fixed. So if his tens of millions of dollars given to charity make people feel less inclined to stand up and say “Hey, isn’t it messed up that he has that much money?” then it can be a reason for concern. Some corporations go out of their way to truly do good things (one example the book gives is the choice AirBnB made to reduce racial profiling, when it easily could have blamed the users and not the platform itself), but in order to properly respect these actions we must contextualize it by admitting that most businesses act solely out of their own interest of profits.

Especially in 2018, the conversation about corporate morality has pivoted towards social media. The book quotes French philosopher Foucault in regards to the “state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” Our communications (and really, our lives) are being controlled by small groups, and their image as philanthropists has helped quell any call for transparency. ‘Zuckerberg isn’t a bad guy, he donated a bunch of money to a hospital in San Francisco!’ But now we learn that he made a lot of that money by overlooking Russian cybercrimes that contributed to the hijacking of our democracy. Is Zuckerberg’s donation still valid and helpful? Yes. But does this mean that he is a net positive to a system that has allowed him near limitless power over our lives? God, no.

This book is great. If you disagree with what I’ve said in this review, you should read it. If you agree with it, then you still should read it. Obviously it’s all opinion, but it’s a well-informed and researched stance that sheds a lot of light on how we got to where we are, and how this is not normal. We used to rely on a transparent and publicly funded government to help us, and now we look to independent agents who are profiting off of our suffering. Anand does more justice to the argument than I ever could, but I can promise that this book is worth your time.

Parts of it kind of dragged, hence the lack of a 5 star review. It took me a long time to finish because I had a crazy busy semester, but hot dog am I happy that I did finish it.

Another quote:
“Investing has become the genteel occupation… gentleman investors decide what ideas are worth pursuing, and the people pitching to them tailor their proposals accordingly. The companies that come out of this are no longer pursuing profit, or even revenue. Instead, the measure of their success is valuation- how much money they’ve convinced people to tell them they’re worth... They, too, honestly believed they were changing the world, and offered the same kinds of excuses about why our day-to-day life bore no relation to the shiny, beautiful world that was supposed to lie just around the corner.”
( )
  MaxAndBradley | May 27, 2020 |
A scathing indictment of the insane financial system our world seems to be at the mercy of. Giridharadas is a compelling author, this is meticulously researched and professionally argued. It's hard not to get angrier with each page and I know if a non-fiction book/movie/show gets me really angry, it's almost always because the product is good and the cause is just. It's surprising to me how thin skinned the elite are - they can't possibly swallow the fact that the way they made their money is immoral, the amount of money they have is immoral and that simply taxing them more and doing less harm would reduce much of the world's problems, instead of "side-hustle" B Corporation projects about "helping" people. Great book. ( )
  hskey | Mar 1, 2020 |
About once a year I read a book that makes me uncomfortable, but also crystallizes the cloudy misgivings I’ve had,
yet couldn’t figure out how to explain. Last year that book was An American Sickness. This time it is Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas. He takes on the unscrupulous business practices of tech firms but also the problem of using mckinsey consultants for NGO-type work. As expected he skewers the Sacklers, yet also devotes a chapter to criticism of Clinton’s Third Way and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Im going to steal from the synopsis on the front flap:
“Giridharadas asks hard questions: Should the world’s gravest problems be solved by unelected elites rather than the public institutions they erode by lobbying and dodging taxes? How do those who commit injustice — like the family who helped seed the opioid crisis — use generosity to cover it up?
Giridharadas portrays these elite revolutionaries with sympathy and critique. They cling to a sincere if dubious belief that what’s best for humanity happens to be what’s best for them. But beneath their self-assurance, many confess festering doubts about their complicity in an unjust order. The reporting leads Giridharadas to the the conclusion that we need a change in how we seek change...Rather than rely on scraps from winners we must create more robust egalitarian institutions. Rather than trust solutions from the top down, we must take on the grueling democratic work of truly changing the world from the bottom up.” ( )
1 vote strandbooks | Oct 30, 2019 |
Powerful condemnation of TED-talk activism that promises salvation for the poor without requiring the rich to do anything other than open their pocketbooks. Neoliberal reformers comfort the afflicted but don’t afflict the comforted; they tell the rich to give back, not to take less; to do more good, but not to do less harm. These failed chiasmuses have real consequences, because it turns out you can’t actually do a lot of big things without government and laws as tools in the progressive arsenal. For products, for example, this ideology means certifying good instead of regulating bad, but if you don’t regulate bad, it may stay cheaper (because it is effectively subsidized by the regulatory system) and its proponents may be better at advertising. Thought leaders may have progressive ideals but present them softly, and the listeners don’t pick up on the subtle message of critique because they don’t have reason to do so. Depressing but convincing. ( )
  rivkat | Apr 19, 2019 |
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Anand Giridharadasprimary authorall editionscalculated
AlexRozCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lew, BettyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
SpantomodaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stroh, MackenzieAuthor photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vorhees, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I sit on a man's back choking him and making him carry me, yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible . . . except by getting off his back.

Leo Tolstoy, Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence
Social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of another.

Letter to Bahá'í from the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel
Dedication
FOR ORION AND ZORA
and the more than 300,000 children born today,
with hope that you will see through our illusions
First words
All around us in America is the clank-clank-clank of the new – in our companies and economy, our neighborhoods and schools, our technologies and social fabric.  (Prologue)
Her college mind heavy with the teachings of Aristotle and Goldman Sachs, Hilary Clinton knew she wanted to change the world.
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An insider's groundbreaking investigation of how the global elite's efforts to "change the world" preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve. Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can'except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. We see how they rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; how they lavishly reward "thought leaders" who redefine "change" in winner-friendly ways; and how they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm. We hear the limousine confessions of a celebrated foundation boss; witness an American president hem and haw about his plutocratic benefactors; and attend a cruise-ship conference where entrepreneurs celebrate their own self-interested magnanimity. Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes' He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. A call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.

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Contents: But how is the world changed? -- Win-win -- Rebel-kings in worrisome berets -- The critic and the thought leader -- Arsonists make the best firefighters -- Generosity and justice -- All that works in the modern world.
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