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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing 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- 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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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- 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.

30 review for Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    This is another book recommended to me by Richard. In many ways this is a similar and perhaps an even better book than ‘Small Change: Why business won’t save the world’ by Michael Edwards. Under my review of that book Jan-Maat mentions Andrew Carnegie – and he gets quite a run in this book, although, I wouldn’t be able to say he comes out of that looking particularly good. In fact, he is presented, as Jan-Maat says, as the classic case of what philanthropists are like. Their point is to not pay This is another book recommended to me by Richard. In many ways this is a similar and perhaps an even better book than ‘Small Change: Why business won’t save the world’ by Michael Edwards. Under my review of that book Jan-Maat mentions Andrew Carnegie – and he gets quite a run in this book, although, I wouldn’t be able to say he comes out of that looking particularly good. In fact, he is presented, as Jan-Maat says, as the classic case of what philanthropists are like. Their point is to not pay their workers too much, given workers will only likely spend it on wine, women and song – so it is much better to keep most of the money for yourself and then distribute it properly and rationally according to a rational plan involving various tributes named after yourself. In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I’m not particularly fond of the ‘third economy’ – or philanthropy more generally – and I would ban charities and replace them with government run welfare funded by higher rates of taxation. I’ve never had too much trouble understanding the preferences of my fellow Irishman, Oscar Wilde, around the nature of charity. He made it abundantly clear that charity is more an evil than a virtue – despite the King James Bible’s: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” As Wilde says: “Charity they (those in receipt of it) feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives.” As you see, nothing ever changes – charity still remains a ‘gift’ and is distributed according to the ‘morality’ of those giving. It is soul crushing and debasing of our common humanity, for both the giver and receiver. Edwards’ book is good since it focuses on the question of the extent to which the skills of business people match those necessary to address social problems such as urban poverty, the achievement gap in schools, drug addiction, and so on. Given that these are mostly social issues requiring community solutions, and the philanthropists are mostly skilled in providing market solutions to all problems, there is a clear disconnect. This book is better, because while Edwards does note that those able to act as philanthropists are also those who have made their fortunes benefiting from a system that has played no small part in the creation and existence of social problems in the first place, this book goes further in making the extent of this clear. So that the employment practices of the companies such philanthropists make their money in - that slash wages, eliminate benefits and increase the precarity of employment - are highlighted as causal to many of the problems these charities then seek to ‘fix’. The question is raised as to whether or not charities do more harm than good – it is too easy to think, ‘well, charities might not be perfect, but they are better than nothing at all – and anyway, isn’t it better that the rich do something for the poor?’ It isn’t at all clear that philanthropists do more good than harm. In fact, to the extent that charities are used to cover the built-in failings of the system – and are run by people who depend on how the system is currently set up for their wealth, that is, people least likely to want to change those aspects of the system – all that such charity is likely to achieve is to sate the consciences of those who will otherwise fight tooth and nail to perpetuate the injustices of the current world. All of this is extensively documented here. Since the end of the 1970s we have seen a shift away from a welfare state – where the poor had rights to assistance, rather than being forced to become mendicants for crumbs, and where social inequality was not at its astronomical levels we are witnessing today. The market has been presented as the sole solution to all problems and this has exacerbated the problems, rather than fixed them. The question raised here is where is this all likely to end? The movement towards greater inequality, with higher levels of precarity for ever larger sections of the population seem increasingly inevitable, given the free market policies pursued by both sides of politics in the US and across the West. A large part of the end of this book focuses on Bill Clinton’s efforts to open more and more of the US economy to market forces, both as president and through his institute after leaving power – this attitude is certainly not limited to the US. However, the election of Trump and the move towards more authoritarian leaders internationally seems to be a consequence of this ‘the market is the answer’ belief system. This book is an interesting read – it follows a number of people who want to do good, but are convinced (as is the universal prejudice of our age) that if you are to learn how to do good you must learn your skills in a global accounting firm, because being able to apply the logic and practices of such firms is presented as the only path to addressing all issues. This is also the logic of organisations such as the ‘Teach for’ movement. Again, too often market solutions leave no room for community solutions, that is, these market ‘solutions’ are imposed on communities, rather than with them. As such, they are all too rarely successful. I would recommend this book. I feel a storm is coming. To quote another Irishman: “And I say to my people’s masters: Beware Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people Who shall take what ye would not give. Did ye think to conquer the people, or that law is stronger than life, And than men’s desire to be free? We will try it out with you ye that have harried and held, Ye that have bullied and bribed. Tyrants… hypocrites… liars!” From The Rebel – Patrick Pearse

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is an excellent book and a must-read! It's also totally readable and even quite funny at times. And it's the kind of book that you keep bringing up in conversation and then trailing off and saying---you just really have to read this book. The oversimplified thesis is that you can't use the master's tools to break down his house. I hope this book is widely read and circulated.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nils

    Philanthropy exists mainly to enable the super-rich and super-powerful to defer any serious discussion of a serious reordering of power and wealth, argues Giridharadas. Through a series of vignettes both of the super-rich and super-powerful themselves, who prove themselves unable to conceive that righting the world’s wrongs might require that they cede some of the their privileges, and their servants in the philanthropic world, who realize queasily their own compromised position (which Giridhara Philanthropy exists mainly to enable the super-rich and super-powerful to defer any serious discussion of a serious reordering of power and wealth, argues Giridharadas. Through a series of vignettes both of the super-rich and super-powerful themselves, who prove themselves unable to conceive that righting the world’s wrongs might require that they cede some of the their privileges, and their servants in the philanthropic world, who realize queasily their own compromised position (which Giridharadas admits, to his credit, includes him), the book suggests that reforms within the frame of what he calls MarketWorld simply are inadequate, and in fact mainly provide ideological and psychological cover for an intolerable state of affairs. Dani Rodrick emerges as the intellectual hero.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Linh

    As someone who has dithered on the edges of "elites changing the world", much of this rings true and I believe (and grapple) with the tension between the sometimes necessary power/influence/fortune needed, as we strive for justice and equity. An article that I always refer back to is Noam Chomsky's dissection of justice vs power. That and thoughts about how social movements and protest no matter how "ineffectual" will always be more powerful levers to create systemic change than social enterpris As someone who has dithered on the edges of "elites changing the world", much of this rings true and I believe (and grapple) with the tension between the sometimes necessary power/influence/fortune needed, as we strive for justice and equity. An article that I always refer back to is Noam Chomsky's dissection of justice vs power. That and thoughts about how social movements and protest no matter how "ineffectual" will always be more powerful levers to create systemic change than social enterprises. That's a whole other issue area though. I wanted this book to be more and found it was too long for what it had to say. I believe governments too should be larger actors than businesses, but the book drawing this conclusion seemed to be based on needing to propose something else rather than a genuine endorsement. I also would have hoped for greater analysis or critique of this "elite charade". I'd recommend all articles that are snippets of this book to everyone. The book itself, I'd primarily recommend to people who are part of these communities and have yet to realise everytime they use the word "movement" or "activist", it's an active form of co-option.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cesar

    Winners Take All is the hardest book I have ever read. Not because it was inaccessible or esoteric, but because it forced a long overdue look in the mirror. Being in the tech industry I’ve been swept up in thought leadership, heroic philanthropy, and the promise of innovation to impact lives at scale. For a moment I was becoming more convinced that maybe the market place was in fact the best place to solve our social ills. Maybe the right combination of philanthropies and technology could fix mo Winners Take All is the hardest book I have ever read. Not because it was inaccessible or esoteric, but because it forced a long overdue look in the mirror. Being in the tech industry I’ve been swept up in thought leadership, heroic philanthropy, and the promise of innovation to impact lives at scale. For a moment I was becoming more convinced that maybe the market place was in fact the best place to solve our social ills. Maybe the right combination of philanthropies and technology could fix most of our biggest issues. With each page, I slowly realized the lie I was telling myself to justify my newfound privilege in society. I saw myself in the story of Hilary Cohen, a young idealistic college grad swept by corporate furor over a desire to change the world and make impact at scale through the marketplace. I rationalized momentarily selling out with the promise of building skills so one day I may be better suited to truly make the impact I desired in the public sector. I could have my cake and eat it too. I saw myself in the story of Darren Walker, the philanthropist who against all odds went from poverty to riches. We share the same central questions. How do you reconcile the incompatible identity transition from a poor upbringing to another of riches and opportunity? How do you navigate the new elite social circles life throws you in? Am I too comfortable in my newfound privilege? How do you respond to the uncomfortable cooing and admiration? “Look at Cesar… Why can’t they all be like him? He had a single mother. He put himself through school.” Even the most well-meaning, do not understand the selfish ways we contribute to a society where we increasingly make stories like mine and Darren’s impossible to continue to emerge. The largest or most frequent donors to charity won’t change the fact that for my story to emerge again, the stars would need to align yet again, but in a more unlikely way. When you join the club of winners in society and you champion causes that ignore the fundamental structures and systems in place that led to your victory, you become complicit in the oppression that makes your success possible. The slaveholder who would rather treat his property with love and care instead of working to live in a free world was every bit as complicit as the most brutal slaveowners. True progress demands a sacrifice of privilege and power. Those of us who ride the wave of prosperity have a responsibility to think of the people for whom this change systemically fails. We have a shared moral obligation and commitment to the public good. My promise to the world is to never lose sight of that.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Spiller

    "Winners Take All" is an important and timely book. Giridharadas examines the fundamental limitations and contradictions of those who work for social change from a position of wealth and prestige. His central theme is "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house," that is, the solutions proffered by the global elite will never address the conditions that created the problems. He explains how this mindset, which he dubs "MarketWorld" not only entrenches the status quo but also spur "Winners Take All" is an important and timely book. Giridharadas examines the fundamental limitations and contradictions of those who work for social change from a position of wealth and prestige. His central theme is "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house," that is, the solutions proffered by the global elite will never address the conditions that created the problems. He explains how this mindset, which he dubs "MarketWorld" not only entrenches the status quo but also spurred the backlash that led to Brexit and the election of Trump. In a tone more rueful than accusatory, Giridharadas examines the blinkered world view of the philanthropic elite who seek "to do well by doing good". These folks tend to favor "win-win" solutions, that is, an approach that benefits the individual without requiring a fundamental change to the system that created the problem (and their wealth). Similarly, the philantrocapitalists tend to prefer empowerment solutions to redistribution. While they tend to arrogantly consider themselves more capable than government of addressing problems, they profess ignorance and weakness when taking on the system itself. Those who do not share their market-driven approach to problem solving are pitied as ignorant rubes. Giridharadas explains how we find ourselves in this predicament. The Republicans have long run on the theme that "government is the problem, not the solution." Instead of providing a competing vision of the role for strong government, the Democrats have co-opted some of the Republican government-bashing while offering market-friendly solutions. Thus, the limited range of policy prescriptions center on even further deregulation so that the market can work its "invisible hand." Giridharadas ultimately concludes that we cannot rely upon the rich to produce a just and equitable society, though they do have a role. Rather, it will take a group effort which includes democratic institutions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paula Lyle

    "Inspire the rich to do more good, but never, ever tell them to do less harm; inspire them to give back, but never, ever tell them to take less; inspire them to join the solution, but never, ever accuse them of being part of the problem." I say, sometimes, "How do those people sleep at night?" Now I know. They do so much to help already, how can they possibly be asked to pay taxes, too. This is an important book and should be read by every citizen. Then, each of those citizens should take seriousl "Inspire the rich to do more good, but never, ever tell them to do less harm; inspire them to give back, but never, ever tell them to take less; inspire them to join the solution, but never, ever accuse them of being part of the problem." I say, sometimes, "How do those people sleep at night?" Now I know. They do so much to help already, how can they possibly be asked to pay taxes, too. This is an important book and should be read by every citizen. Then, each of those citizens should take seriously the responsibility to engage in politics and vote. It's going to take a lot of us.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Tackett

    I found this a very enjoying read that really helped me coalesce some recent thoughts I've had recently on the subject. I first heard about the book on the Ezra Klein podcast (I would recommend listening to it as well to get Ezra's questions) and decided it was worth a try. It was. The basic focus of the book is that cultural elites are claiming to want to change the world, but really are treating the symptoms and not the root causes, which are often their own actions. The author demonstrates thi I found this a very enjoying read that really helped me coalesce some recent thoughts I've had recently on the subject. I first heard about the book on the Ezra Klein podcast (I would recommend listening to it as well to get Ezra's questions) and decided it was worth a try. It was. The basic focus of the book is that cultural elites are claiming to want to change the world, but really are treating the symptoms and not the root causes, which are often their own actions. The author demonstrates this in several ways, including actions by the wealthy and corporations, tech companies acting as change agents, and politicians relying on private sector solutions. Despite my enjoyment of the book, I felt I had to knock it one star. While the book offers several case studies involving acquaintances that reflected the cases above, it seemed like it continued to hammer the same point. It would have made a better argument if the author provided a counter example, even a historical one, of better way to solve some of these issues. In some of the chapters, it was difficult to keep up with the narrative, it would switch from a first hand reference to a discussion of the problem then back to a first hand narrative. The writing too was less academic and more manifesto, which is fine but sometimes it felt more like talking snarkily about the deficiency of a friend (e.g. "oh so-and-so wasn't at church today"). Despite that, I recommend the book. It didn't change me, but has definitely given me food for thought.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ark

    A phenomenally thought-provoking book examining the myths and fallacies of change and problem solving via market-driven solutions advocated by global elites seeking win-win solutions that fail to address the root causes of problems for which those elites may be the very causes or enablers of the problems they seek to redress.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Adusumilli

    The Beatles carrying all the criticisms contained in this book: "She's so heavy!" Bill Gates contributing a quote for this book is one of the most ironic things. I wondered how a person so critical of the institutions was given access to the said institutions, and he revealed he himself was an insider and a benefiter of the system. The book's central refrain: How can you expect the people benefiting from the system to change the system? These philanthropists' billions come from wrecking governmen The Beatles carrying all the criticisms contained in this book: "She's so heavy!" Bill Gates contributing a quote for this book is one of the most ironic things. I wondered how a person so critical of the institutions was given access to the said institutions, and he revealed he himself was an insider and a benefiter of the system. The book's central refrain: How can you expect the people benefiting from the system to change the system? These philanthropists' billions come from wrecking government regulations and workers' rights and they spend a few millions to ameliorate some of the pain their own policies inflicted in the first place. This is the first time I'm reading a book devoted to this topic and hence, I might have felt unusually impressed. It takes a dump on TED talks, the concept of thought-leaders, the influencers like Steven Pinker, the whole speaker circuit who avoid thinking in terms of cause and effect since the 'causees' are most likely the corporate sponsors of their speaking gigs. I don't know if the writer made any money promoting this book in that very sort of environment he decries. I wouldn't be surprised if he did. “had heard rich men do this kind of thing so often that he had invented a verb for the act: They were “Pinkering”—using the long-run direction of human history to minimize, to delegitimize the concerns of those without power." "Here is an expert example of Pinkering, from the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Notice how accurate observations about human progress between the time of hunter-gatherers and the present creep into criticism-shaming: We’re this little, tribal species that was basically just sort of beating each other up, and competing with each other in all these ways, and somehow or other, we’ve risen so vastly far above our design specifications. I look around at us and I say, go humanity. We are fantastic. Yeah, there’s ISIS, there’s a lot of bad stuff, but you people who think that things are bad, you are expecting way too much. As a TED curator, Giussani was one of many people who had helped to build a new intellectual sphere in recent decades. It turned thought leaders into our most heard philosophers. It put many on the payroll of companies and plutocrats as their means of making a living. It promoted a body of ideas friendly to the winners of the age. It beamed out so many thoughts about why the world was getting better in recent years that its antennae failed to detect all the incoming transmissions about all the people whose lives were not improving, who didn’t care to be Pinkered because they knew what they were seeing, and what they were seeing was a society in which a small number of conference-going people and their friends were hoarding much of the progress they claimed to be inevitable, abundant, and beneficial to all.” A great book to read right after Bill Gates' approved Rosling's Factfulness, wouldn't you say? ;)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    If I were going to give all of you a book for Christmas, this would be it. Giridharadas has an insider’s (and skeptic’s) view of globalists, people in what he calls MarketWorld, neoliberalists, an elite who really think the best way to solve social problems is for them to start their own nonprofits. There were so many pages I wanted to transcribe, so many times I wanted to shake his hand, or text everyone I knew saying “See? I’m not the only one who thinks so!” He shows up the flawed philosophy If I were going to give all of you a book for Christmas, this would be it. Giridharadas has an insider’s (and skeptic’s) view of globalists, people in what he calls MarketWorld, neoliberalists, an elite who really think the best way to solve social problems is for them to start their own nonprofits. There were so many pages I wanted to transcribe, so many times I wanted to shake his hand, or text everyone I knew saying “See? I’m not the only one who thinks so!” He shows up the flawed philosophy that the best way to make change is to not ruffle feathers of the wealthy, offer win-win situations and make people believe they can “do well by doing good.” His call for robust local civic engagement and robust government, as well as thoughtful action when it is difficult (questioning your workplace’s role in the conditions that are driving inequality, for example) is one I am just not seeing much elsewhere. It is not until the acknowledgements that he admits being a part of MarketWorld, and he suggests that this was a story that could only be told by an insider. I suppose the outsiders writing in blogs of their concerns might seem invisible to him (a point he frequently makes when talking about who is NOT speaking at conference panels) but they do exist - however, this book never crumbles into crackpot conspiracy theories nor can it be accused of doing so without reference to its actual content because the author clearly has quite a bit of power. He does a pretty good job, as a journalist, of leaving people’s words out there to be interpreted by the reader. He does marvel a bit at the clueless belief that one is incorruptible (much appreciated, that. Once I had to have a good long thought about how easily I was bought when I realized I felt obligated to order things from a salesman who always brought coffee cake, versus the one who did not. I’ve never trusted a doctor’s free drug samples since, for if I can be corrupted by cake, how easy for my doctor to be corrupted by more costly items!) I would have liked a slight bit more probing of the way these elites become elites and what they believe about their own powers as a result. I would never have realized how much my graduate degree and professional job but lack of fellowships, Ivy League education, or MarketWorld conference attendance really leave me lumped in with the bumpkins to people in that sphere. Guess my belief in meritocracy was a little stronger than I thought. Readable and necessary, if only for an alternate explanation of populist anger.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    It took me a bit to get into this one -- Giridharadas has some *very* strong, negative opinions about some beliefs that I consider -- or at least, have considered -- core to my professional trajectory over the past decade or so. A colleague of mine, in my same line of work, is even highlighted in the book, and he writes, I feel, somewhat unfairly about her. (She's lumped in with Travis Kalanick in a sentence at a point, which I think *anyone* who knows her would argue is unwarranted.) And Giridh It took me a bit to get into this one -- Giridharadas has some *very* strong, negative opinions about some beliefs that I consider -- or at least, have considered -- core to my professional trajectory over the past decade or so. A colleague of mine, in my same line of work, is even highlighted in the book, and he writes, I feel, somewhat unfairly about her. (She's lumped in with Travis Kalanick in a sentence at a point, which I think *anyone* who knows her would argue is unwarranted.) And Giridharadas' points get hit on, and then drilled on, and then cemented over *over, and over, and over* again throughout the book, to the extent where it starts to sound a bit redundant. (For what it's worth, I "read" this as an audiobook on a road trip, so that might've affected the seeming frequency of some of his statements. Though, I've read other reviews of this book saying the same, so I don't think it's just that.) But somewhere around halfway through the book, I started coming around to Giridharadas' argument, and then opening up to it more, and now it won't really leave me, for better or worse. He's critical of "thought leaders" and "social entrepreneurs" and "social ventures" and TED Talks, even seemingly unassailable things like B Corporations and Clinton's CGI, both of which I've long admired, and thought brilliant. But his arguments build up, arguing how these things aren't *necessarily* bad, but that young, ambitious people should instead be pouring their time and energy into, say, public service, politics, and not-for-profit work. And it's hard to shake this idea once you're done with the book. He writes *in the acknowledgments* only about how he was once himself part of the societal circle he's critiquing so fiercely, and I wish he would've said this much earlier in the book. (If I weren't on a long car trip and eager for some sound, and the book-on-tape weren't already playing, I might've missed it.) But this tempers his argument for me, and adds to it the weight of his own lived, personal experience. Throughout the book I occasionally found myself thinking, defensively, "What does he know? He doesn't know what it's like to make the decisions like [whoever it is he's critiquing] has to on a regular basis." His own background helped me to realize that he has, many times over -- and lends to this book the air of an insider finally seeing the truth, rather than an outsider purporting to glance in and *think* he sees it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan Connors

    This book was definitely an eye-opener for me. As one who deals with charities and non-profits some, it saddened me to see how much that world is being abused by those with the most money to spare. The richest 1% have managed to grow in power and influence over the past decades so that they can dominate the worldwide conversation of how to make things better. Their answer- win/win charitable projects that make people feel better without challenging the structural flaws in the economy. Mr. Girid This book was definitely an eye-opener for me. As one who deals with charities and non-profits some, it saddened me to see how much that world is being abused by those with the most money to spare. The richest 1% have managed to grow in power and influence over the past decades so that they can dominate the worldwide conversation of how to make things better. Their answer- win/win charitable projects that make people feel better without challenging the structural flaws in the economy. Mr. Giridharadas, who is honest about his own membership in and profit from the global thinking elite, puts his mentors to task for the dishonest way in which they fight for the type of change that they want, without consulting the people at the bottom whose lives are being affected. The book covers the Clinton Global Initiative, which I've always wondered about. Bill and Hillary Clinton, while occasionally on the side of structural political change, seem to have joined the club of billionaires who want to make policy through the works of mysterious, unaccountable entities rather than through laws, taxes, and policy. "The era of big government is over," Clinton famously said, and this book shows some of the consequences of that. It will probably take an economic upheaval to dislodge these elites, who dominate both parties right now, and clean out the money from politics once and for all. Until then, hold politicians to a higher standard and vote them out if they fail. “Are we ready to hand over our future to the elite, one supposedly world-changing initiative at a time? Are we ready to call participatory democracy a failure, and to declare these other, private forms of change-making the new way forward? Is the decrepit state of American self-government an excuse to work around it and let it further atrophy? Or is meaningful democracy, in which we all potentially have a voice, worth fighting for?” This book is an important, enlightening read, and it pushed me to think harder about how a true democracy is supposed to work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elliott Frank

    One of the most important non-fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. It takes to task the notion that large-scale societal change can be achieved by the same people who benefit the most from the status queue. The prose are every bit as good as the detailed and clear-cut explanations of how American society convinces civic minded individuals to eschew civics for more lucrative corporate positions, by selling the idea that doing good and doing well is only attainable by first amassing personal we One of the most important non-fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. It takes to task the notion that large-scale societal change can be achieved by the same people who benefit the most from the status queue. The prose are every bit as good as the detailed and clear-cut explanations of how American society convinces civic minded individuals to eschew civics for more lucrative corporate positions, by selling the idea that doing good and doing well is only attainable by first amassing personal wealth and an impressive network of corporate connections. This is not a treatises against philanthropy, but rather an argument that a society which can only care for those of limited means by way of voluntary gifts from the wealthy is not a society actively addressing the causes and systemic failings that create inequality. In a time when many have lost their faith in government, this book is a necessary reminder that we must ever aspire to make government work for all, not just the monied few.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen Adkins

    For years, I have been ranting about MBA folks thinking they know how to fix education, despite their never stepping foot in a classroom (or maybe doing a TFA stint). Giridharadas articulates this position so completely and extends it to all spheres of government; he makes a compelling case that something has seriously gone wrong when we subcontract the problems of justice out to corporations, or as he more pithily phrases it, when we "substitute generosity for justice." In sum, we come up with For years, I have been ranting about MBA folks thinking they know how to fix education, despite their never stepping foot in a classroom (or maybe doing a TFA stint). Giridharadas articulates this position so completely and extends it to all spheres of government; he makes a compelling case that something has seriously gone wrong when we subcontract the problems of justice out to corporations, or as he more pithily phrases it, when we "substitute generosity for justice." In sum, we come up with catchy, one-size-fits-all solutions that too frequently address symptoms of public problems, rather than the core of the issue--extreme inequality. Most crucially, by letting private investors devise solutions, we guarantee that those solutions won't touch all the legal and financial systems that perpetuate the wealth of the investment class. This is a well-researched and -reported book, and while there are occasional pieces that don't need to be there (his riff on TED talk philosophy was funny and apropos, but his use of Amy Cuddy seemed less germane to his larger point), but overall I found this persuasive and important.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    I think this book is too close to my current research for me to get much out of it - if it already seems obvious to you that elite driven, pro-market type initiatives don't do much for the common good than this book might not offer much. And I found the last section on Trump grating - any author who attributes Trump's popularity only to anti-globalization without any mention of racism misses a crucial element of American politics. That said glad I'm glad his argument is circulating in the public I think this book is too close to my current research for me to get much out of it - if it already seems obvious to you that elite driven, pro-market type initiatives don't do much for the common good than this book might not offer much. And I found the last section on Trump grating - any author who attributes Trump's popularity only to anti-globalization without any mention of racism misses a crucial element of American politics. That said glad I'm glad his argument is circulating in the public sphere - if the reviews are anything to go by, most people don't see the hypocrisy in these win-win forms of thinking and this book can hopefully spark some important discussion.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Bair

    Extremely thought provoking. Nodded my head and said "Yeah!" on virtually every page. "If anyone truly believes that the same ski-town conferences and fellowship programs, the same politicians and policies, the same entrepreneurs and social businesses, the same campaign donors, the same thought leaders, the same consulting firms and protocols, the same philanthropists and reformed Goldman Sachs executives, the same win-wins and doing-well-by-doing-good initiatives and private solutions to public Extremely thought provoking. Nodded my head and said "Yeah!" on virtually every page. "If anyone truly believes that the same ski-town conferences and fellowship programs, the same politicians and policies, the same entrepreneurs and social businesses, the same campaign donors, the same thought leaders, the same consulting firms and protocols, the same philanthropists and reformed Goldman Sachs executives, the same win-wins and doing-well-by-doing-good initiatives and private solutions to public problems that had promised grandly, if superficially, to change the world - if anyone thinks that the MarketWorld complex of people and institutions and ideas that failed to prevent this mess even as it harped on making a difference, and whose neglect fueled populism's flames, is also the solution, wake them up by tapping them, gently, with this book."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Turtell

    It's hard to argue with any of the blatantly obvious points Giridharadas makes, but in chapter after chapter his targets prove themselves immune to the criticism. The whole book is a collective portrait of a class well-described by Tolstoy in one of the book's epigraphs: “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and 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 C It's hard to argue with any of the blatantly obvious points Giridharadas makes, but in chapter after chapter his targets prove themselves immune to the criticism. The whole book is a collective portrait of a class well-described by Tolstoy in one of the book's epigraphs: “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and 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. I'd love to read reviews by the people he skewers, especially an unrepentant Bill Clinton, who sees absolutely no problem pulling down millions on the lecture circuit after his time in office. "He said this as though it were impossible to imagine how the opportunity to earn tens of millions of dollars after a presidency might affect a president's fight-picking decisions while in office."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    Giridharadas, a former Aspen Institute fellow, uses his experience behind the scenes with the world's global elite to question their motives and philanthropy. His thesis revolves around the idea that business models can solve the world's problems with poverty, economics, and social justice. MarketWorld, his name for the elite group, will do well by a few people judged deserving after the elite's winnings are secured for their families. The author calls this "the Trying-to-Solve-the-Problem-with- Giridharadas, a former Aspen Institute fellow, uses his experience behind the scenes with the world's global elite to question their motives and philanthropy. His thesis revolves around the idea that business models can solve the world's problems with poverty, economics, and social justice. MarketWorld, his name for the elite group, will do well by a few people judged deserving after the elite's winnings are secured for their families. The author calls this "the Trying-to-Solve-the-Problem-with-the-Tools-That-Caused-It issue." He also takes on the "thought leaders" who populate the TEDtalk circuit to spread messages the elites deem acceptable. A thought-provoking read for an era that led to the rise of Donald Trump in the White House.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    We live in a world where every SV exec and company, even ones laughably so (Coca-Cola? Facebook?) claim to be changing the world for the better, doing good and are involved in charitable donations. With so much charity and well-meaning, why hasn't the average American seen an income change for three decades? It's something that most seem to be acutely aware of even if they haven't spent enough time to properly articulate the critique. Giridharadas forwards the idea that the winners of capitalism We live in a world where every SV exec and company, even ones laughably so (Coca-Cola? Facebook?) claim to be changing the world for the better, doing good and are involved in charitable donations. With so much charity and well-meaning, why hasn't the average American seen an income change for three decades? It's something that most seem to be acutely aware of even if they haven't spent enough time to properly articulate the critique. Giridharadas forwards the idea that the winners of capitalism certainly want the feeling of doing good without any self-sacrifice. Charity is treating the symptom and not the cause; vehicles of extreme wealth extraction via tech on the backs of ordinary people is what enables a plutocratic elite to give money back. The book ridicules thought-leaders peddling marketable ideas that never-quite rock the boat hard enough to make a meaningful change, entrepreneurs whose social solutions happen to line their pockets, banking execs who now steep their language in social progress, and so on. The book is largely told via vehicles of anecdotal stories to illustrate larger trends, landing interviews from a diverse cast of would-be do-gooders to those grappling with trying to make a substantive change within the system. In the end, Anand's pulse reading of the rise of populism is a rebuke the jet-setting plutocrats by electing Trump, as "the arsonists make the best firefighters" answer. While that might be a part of the story, he's not entirely wrong with this outlook.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    In this book, Giridharadas points to the limits of market or philanthropic solutions for social problems and argues that such innovation may even weaken our existing social system by diverting pent-up demand for change. He critiques the changemaker industrial complex (of Davos, TED talks, the Aspen Institute, etc.) for favoring new (and perhaps, ultimately limited) solutions rather than trying to reform the political, social, or corporate system as a whole. I found the book really powerful and t In this book, Giridharadas points to the limits of market or philanthropic solutions for social problems and argues that such innovation may even weaken our existing social system by diverting pent-up demand for change. He critiques the changemaker industrial complex (of Davos, TED talks, the Aspen Institute, etc.) for favoring new (and perhaps, ultimately limited) solutions rather than trying to reform the political, social, or corporate system as a whole. I found the book really powerful and thought-provoking.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jinie Choi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Challenged every view I've held of tech philanthropists, and corporate philanthropy. As a believer in profit and private companies accelerating innovations to help these causes, it made me revisit foundations of my beliefs and confront my biases.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carol Palmer

    A few years ago, a conservative friend told me that conservatives are way more generous than liberals. Look at how much the Walton family gives away to set up charter schools. I told him that it would be even more generous if they paid Walmart employees a living wage so that their employees didn't have to have food drives for less fortunate employees. Also, Walmart could provide low cost health insurance to their employees and maybe so many of them wouldn't be dependent on Medicaid for health ca A few years ago, a conservative friend told me that conservatives are way more generous than liberals. Look at how much the Walton family gives away to set up charter schools. I told him that it would be even more generous if they paid Walmart employees a living wage so that their employees didn't have to have food drives for less fortunate employees. Also, Walmart could provide low cost health insurance to their employees and maybe so many of them wouldn't be dependent on Medicaid for health care. My friend changed the topic (I won!) I was excited to read this book. It encompassed the conversation with my conservative friend. All these rich people give away money, but don't make any changes to what horrible practices go on in their businesses or influence politicians to have their taxes lowered. They believe that by giving away the money, it makes up for the damage they've caused. Andrew Carnegie wrote that it was better he gave away his money rather than raise his workers' pay because the poor would just fritter away the extra money. The worst example in the book was the philanthropic family who owns the company that makes Oxycontin. They aggressively marketed the drug and just as aggressively blocked regulations that would make it harder for people to start taking and get hooked on Oxycontin. So what if Oxycontin use was one of the seeds of the current opioid epidemic? These people gave money to start museums! Their philanthropic giving is supposed to cover all the bad that enabled them to have that money. The one problem I have with the book is what now? What's the next step? Hopefully that will be in the next book?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    I ADORED this book. It was not without its flaws, including being super biased, one sided and judgmental, but I LOVED it. I’ve been a total MarketWorlder, assuming business was the best vehicle for making change and business school was the most effective way to learn now. And this book helped me see an alternate way. Which released over a decade of cognitive dissonance I didn’t fully realize I was wrestling with. I don’t have all the answers yet about what this means for how I want to live my li I ADORED this book. It was not without its flaws, including being super biased, one sided and judgmental, but I LOVED it. I’ve been a total MarketWorlder, assuming business was the best vehicle for making change and business school was the most effective way to learn now. And this book helped me see an alternate way. Which released over a decade of cognitive dissonance I didn’t fully realize I was wrestling with. I don’t have all the answers yet about what this means for how I want to live my life and create the biggest impact I can using participatory methods and wise discernment rather than judgment, but it gave me sooo much to think about and to start processing. This book opened my eyes to why Hillary lost and how much and why elites have lost the trust of the vast majority of people by monopolizing changing the system that made them/us so powerful, and not actually making that change as inequality grows and the system excludes more and more people. I also understand that one of the reasons I love it is that it feels super vindicating with where I am in my life having just left running sustainability at a social enterprise to start a much more participatory nonprofit approach to rural primary education reform. Lots to digest and think about. The reason it loses a star is because it takes a ‘marketworld’ approach to calling out the ‘marketworlders.’ The author quotes and uses case studies from countless marketworld inner circles, but does not once interview or include the voices of the disenfranchised people he’s defending. Which I found very disappointing since actions speak so much louder than words. Don’t just tell us this way is wrong because it is exclusive; write an inclusive narrative that shows us the power of participation and giving microphones to people who marketworld has silenced, but remain deafeningly silent once again throughout this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hector Mujica

    This book was an excellent read. It captures the tension best represented by the Oscar Wilde quote: "Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do the most harm are the people who try to do most good." It wrestles with the tensions of in order to change the status quo, you n This book was an excellent read. It captures the tension best represented by the Oscar Wilde quote: "Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do the most harm are the people who try to do most good." It wrestles with the tensions of in order to change the status quo, you need to give into the status quo, and the desire to change systems altogether, vs living within systems to try to strive for marginal change. A few of my favorite quotes: "Partial contribution you can feel and touch but your complicity in the system is something you benefits from." "People that seem to keep the most benefits are the helpers not the helped." "Are we here to change the system or to be changed by it?" "The best way to know about a problem is to be part of it."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jane Comer

    A unique perspective on wealthy "do-gooders" who seek to change the world without recognizing their contributions to systemic problems in our country. The "winners" have won largely on the back of those they now seek to help; yet they address "poverty" rather than "inequality". They take the tax breaks and loopholes in our laws, they accept tax cuts that have and will largely end programs to help those trying to break out of poverty. Instead of encouraging the companies in which they own stock o A unique perspective on wealthy "do-gooders" who seek to change the world without recognizing their contributions to systemic problems in our country. The "winners" have won largely on the back of those they now seek to help; yet they address "poverty" rather than "inequality". They take the tax breaks and loopholes in our laws, they accept tax cuts that have and will largely end programs to help those trying to break out of poverty. Instead of encouraging the companies in which they own stock or oversee in management to plow some of the unbelievable profits being made today into wage increases, they praise the rising stock prices. The author has moved in the company of the wealthy elite; yet he has carefully documented how the "win-win" mentality does not solve today's problems.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Trey McIntyre

    I disagree with soooo much in this book, but it is thought-provoking. The mot aggravating part is, I think, the lack of a clear counter-proposal to the problems he sees. It’s clearly implied, of course, but he doesn’t elaborate.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stevo Brock

    This book was Stevo's Business Book of the Week for the week of 9/2, as selected by Stevo's Book Reviews on the Internet: http://forums.delphiforums.com/stevo1. https://amzn.to/2CcDbWp

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bilal Baydoun

    “If anyone truly believes that the same ski-town conferences and fellowship programs, the same politicians and policies, the same entrepreneurs and social businesses, the same campaign donors, the same thought leaders, the same consulting firms and protocols, the same philanthropists and reformed Goldman Sachs executives, the same win-wins and doing-well-by-doing-good initiatives and private solutions to public problems that had promised grandly, if superficially, to change the world—if anyone t “If anyone truly believes that the same ski-town conferences and fellowship programs, the same politicians and policies, the same entrepreneurs and social businesses, the same campaign donors, the same thought leaders, the same consulting firms and protocols, the same philanthropists and reformed Goldman Sachs executives, the same win-wins and doing-well-by-doing-good initiatives and private solutions to public problems that had promised grandly, if superficially, to change the world—if anyone thinks that the MarketWorld complex of people and institutions and ideas that failed to prevent this mess even as it harped on making a difference, and whose neglect fueled populism’s flames, is also the solution, wake them up by tapping them, gently, with this book. For the inescapable answer to the overwhelming question—Where do we go from here?—is: somewhere other than where we have been going, led by people other than the people who have been leading us.”

  30. 5 out of 5

    Raghu

    Philanthropy has been much in the news for decades now. In the past thirty years, there has been an explosion of chraitable giving in the US alone, rising from $25 billion in 1973 to $335 billion in 2013. Americans are a generous lot. Statistics show that 95.4% of US households gave to charity in 2013, amounting to $241 billion. The remainder came from corporate giving and other foundations. Naturally, with so much money on offer, myriad number of NGOs, Charity organizations and philanthropic fo Philanthropy has been much in the news for decades now. In the past thirty years, there has been an explosion of chraitable giving in the US alone, rising from $25 billion in 1973 to $335 billion in 2013. Americans are a generous lot. Statistics show that 95.4% of US households gave to charity in 2013, amounting to $241 billion. The remainder came from corporate giving and other foundations. Naturally, with so much money on offer, myriad number of NGOs, Charity organizations and philanthropic foundations come into existence to ‘put this money to work’. Of late, we also have Silicon Valley billionaires committing their wealth to foundations, set up to ‘change the world’, ‘abolish poverty’ and ‘make a difference’. In addition, the UN says that Globalization of the world economy in the past forty years moved capital to developing nations, resulting in nearly 600 million people coming out of poverty due to the changes it brought. With so much money chasing poverty, why do we still keep hearing that a billion people are living below $2 a day in the world today? Are the problems of world poverty so huge that $335 billion in charity each year cannot make a dent? The author of this book, Anand Giridhardas, knows this problem well and has been involved in it for many years. He was a McKinsey consultant who embraced initiatives in philanthrophic giving while he was there. He is well acquainted with industry leaders who congregate at Davos and Aspen and talk about changing the world. He knows the scene in the Clinton Global Initiative. In addition, he is buddies with many venture capitalists, social impact consultants and entrepreuners and billionaire social philanthropists. In this book, he tries to show us what is wrong with this model of charity and why it won’t solve the problem. Giridhardas’ main thesis is that the neo-liberal capitalist system under which we live, perpetuates vast differences in privilege by the way it is structured. The moneyed elite who do philanthropy, do so without destabilizing the system that is at the root of the problems they profess to solve. So, tasking the winners of this system to bring social justice through philanthropy is a futile exercise. At the most, it can just do good at the fringes but not really ‘change the world’. Then, he goes on to discuss what is really needed to deal with poverty and inequality. There are many who contest the proposition that there are vast differences in privilege nowadays and that American capitalist democracy perpetuates it. They point to affirmative actions over fifty years, the civil rights of the 1960s and the ascendancy of Barak Obama as President as proof that things are converging rather than diverging. In fact, it is a pet expression of many right-wingers that we live in a post-racial world today! In addition, globalization has substantially reduced poverty in the developing world. So, what is the basis for saying that this system is the cause of the poverty that entrepreuners are trying to solve? Economist Thomas Piketty and his colleagues show in their paper some startling facts about the current state of affairs. As of 2014, let us assume that a just-graduated college student, ends up as part of the top 10% income earners. She would be making twice as much as a similarly situated person would have in 1980. Had she entered the top one percent of income earners, she would make thrice as much as a one percenter in her parents’ day. In other words, she would make $1.3 million a year as opposed to $428000 in 1980, adjusted for inflation. On the slim chance that she enters the 0.001 percent, she would make seven times as much as a similar person in 1980 - more specifically, $122 million. In the same time period, the bottom half of all Americans would have seen their average pre-tax income rise from $16000 to just $16200. In other words, in spite of mind-bending innovations during this period, which saw productivity rise by 72%, a full 117 million workers would see a rise of just 9% in their pay over three decades. As a contrast, any casual search on Google tells us that Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, had a compensation package of $100.6 million for the year 2015 and that it shot up to $199.7 million the next year! So, there is no doubt that the system is rigged against the majority of workers and that the privilege is widening in an ever-accelerating trend. Naturally, Giridhardas warns us to be beware of ultra-rich people who want to change the world. He gives many arguments as to why the elite will not ever shake the foundations which confer these privileges on them quoting American civil rights activist Audre Lorde’s dictum that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,”. Giridhardas does give some prescriptions as to what needs to be done to set the system right. He says that it is important to rein in business, change tax laws so that the govt gets much more from the profits of businesses, make aggressive policies to protect workers, redistribute income and make healthcare and education affordable for all. This would mean higher taxes and smaller profits. But then, changing the world means more than just giving back. It also takes giving something up. However, I wonder if such a change is realistically possible in America today. After all, the elite in any society, be it a democracy or dictatorship, never gives up its position of privilege and authority voluntarily. They would resist it tooth and nail. On top of it, we have only two political parties in the US and both are in cosy relationships with the elite of Wall Street. The Democratic party used to be a party of workers till some thirty years ago. But ever since the Bill Clinton presidency, it has become a party that believes in keeping the special privileges of the elite and letting the rest of us grab what just trickles down from them. The same thing has happened in the UK under Tony Blair and in Australia under Bob Hawke. Both leaders turned their Labor party into something like the US Democrats since the 1990s. Hence, the changes that Giridhardas wants to see have only a slim chance of seeing the light of day, in my view. All we can hope is that a leader like Jeremy Corbyn emerges in the US and pushes strongly the interests of the bottom half of Americans. This is a thought-provoking book and gives much cause for reflection. Perhaps, the working class, the students and intellectuals must unite and find a way to lobby the ultra-rich strongly to change the way businesses are run today. Why should businesses dish out astronomical compensations to the CEOs and engineers and executives, but zap the low-end worker with bare minimum wages, no healthcare and no safety net?

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