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Winners Take All
Cover of Winners Take All
Winners Take All
The Elite Charade of Changing the World
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The New York Times bestselling, 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. An essential read for understanding some of the egregious abuses of power that dominate today's news.
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.
The New York Times bestselling, 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. An essential read for understanding some of the egregious abuses of power that dominate today's news.
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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  • From the book Excerpted from WINNERS TAKE ALL:

    A successful society is a progress machine. It takes in the raw material of innovations and produces broad human advancement. America's machine is broken. When the fruits of change have fallen on the United States in recent decades, the very fortunate have basketed almost all of them. For instance, the average pretax income of the top tenth of Americans has doubled since 1980, that of the top 1 percent has more than tripled, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold—even as the average pretax income of the bottom half of Americans has stayed almost precisely the same. These familiar figures amount to three and a half decades' worth of wondrous, head-spinning change with zero impact on the average pay of 117 million Americans.

    Thus many millions of Americans, on the left and right, feel one thing in common: that the game is rigged against people like them. It is no wonder that the American voting public— like other publics around the world—has turned more resentful and suspicious in recent years, embracing populist movements on the left and right, bringing socialism and nationalism into the center of political life in a way that once seemed unthinkable, and succumbing to all manner of conspiracy theory and fake news. There is a spreading recognition, on both sides of the ideological divide, that the system is broken and has to change.

    Some elites faced with this kind of gathering anger have hidden behind walls and gates and on landed estates, emerging only to try to seize even greater political power to protect themselves against the mob. But in recent years a great many fortunate people have also tried something else, something both laudable and self-serving: They have tried to help by taking ownership of the problem.

    All around us, the winners in our highly inequitable status quo declare themselves partisans of change. They know the problem, and they want to be part of the solution. Actually, they want to lead the search for solutions. They believe that their solutions deserve to be at the forefront of social change. They may join or support movements initiated by ordinary people looking to fix aspects of their society. More often, though, these elites start initiatives of their own, taking on social change as though it were just another stock in their portfolio or corporation to restructure. Because they are in charge of these attempts at social change, the attempts naturally reflect their biases.

    The initiatives mostly aren't democratic, nor do they reflect collective problem-solving or universal solutions. Rather, they favor the use of the private sector and its charitable spoils, the market way of looking at things, and the bypassing of government. They reflect a highly influential view that the winners of an unjust status quo— and the tools and mentalities and values that helped them win—are the secret to redressing the injustices. Those at greatest risk of being resented in an age of inequality are thereby recast as our saviors from an age of inequality.

    Socially minded financiers at Goldman Sachs seek to change the world through "win-win" initiatives like "green bonds" and "impact investing." Tech companies like Uber and Airbnb cast themselves as empowering the poor by allowing them to chauffeur people around or rent out spare rooms. Management consultants and Wall Street brains seek to convince the social sector that they should guide its pursuit of greater equality by assuming board seats and leadership positions. Conferences and idea festivals sponsored by plutocrats and big business host panels on injustice and...
About the Author-
  • ANAND GIRIDHARADAS is the author of Winners Take All, The True American, and India Calling. He is an editor-at-large for TIME and was a foreign correspondent and columnist for The New York Times from 2005 to 2016. He has also written for The Atlantic, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. He is an on-air political analyst for MSNBC, a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, and a former McKinsey analyst. He has spoken on the main stage of TED. Anand's writing has been honored by the Society of Publishers in Asia, the Poynter Fellowship at Yale, the 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year award, Harvard University's Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award for Humanism in Culture, and the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Award. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2018
    Give a hungry man a fish, and you get to pat yourself on the back--and take a tax deduction.It's a matter of some irony, John Steinbeck once observed of the robber barons of the Gilded Age, that they spent the first two-thirds of their lives looting the public only to spend the last third giving the money away. Now, writes political analyst and journalist Giridharadas (The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, 2014, etc.), the global financial elite has reinterpreted Andrew Carnegie's view that it's good for society for capitalists to give something back to a new formula: It's good for business to do so when the time is right, but not otherwise. Moreover, business has co-opted philanthropy, such that any "world-changing" efforts come with a proviso: "if you really want to change the world, you must rely on the techniques, resources, and personnel of capitalism." Philanthropic initiatives to effect social change are no longer the province of public life but instead are private and voluntary, in keeping with free market individualism. Naturally, there's a layer of consultants and in-house vice presidents to manage all this largess, which hinges on the premise that things aren't so bad and just need to be nudged along. The author memorably calls this process "Pinkering," after the ameliorist-minded psychologist Steven Pinker. "It beamed out so many thoughts about why the world was getting better in recent years," Giridharadas writes of one initiative, "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." So what's so bad about private giving? Answers the author, when a society elects to help, it expresses democratic values with an eye to equality, while private giving is inherently unequal, a power relation between "the giver and the taker, the helper and the helped, the donor and the recipient."A provocative critique of the kind of modern, feel-good giving that addresses symptoms and not causes.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 2, 2018
    In this provocative and passionate look at philanthropy, capitalism, and inequality, Giridharadas (The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas) criticizes market-based solutions to inequality devised by rich American do-gooders as ultimately counterproductive and self-serving. Giridharadas insists that “the idea that after-the-fact benevolence justifies anything-goes capitalism” is no excuse for “avoiding the necessity of a more just and equitable system and a fairer distribution of power.” He turns a gimlet eye on philanthropists who make the money they donate by underpaying employees; luxurious philanthropy getaways that focus more on making attendees feel good about themselves than on creating profound change; and tech companies such as Uber, which promises to empower the poor with earning opportunities, but has been accused of exploiting its workers. Giridharadas calls out billionaire venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, who opines that “sharing is caring” but refers to labor unions as “cartels,” and profiles Darren Walker, who came from modest beginnings to end up president of the Ford Foundation, where his entreaties to philanthropists to acknowledge structural inequality fall mostly on deaf ears. In the end, Giridharadas believes only democratic solutions can address problems of inequality. This damning portrait of contemporary American philanthropy is a must-read for anyone interested in “changing the world.”

  • Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy "An insightful and refreshing perspective on some of the most vexing issues this nation confronts. This is an important book from a gifted writer whose honest exploration of complex problems provides urgently needed clarity in an increasingly confusing era."
  • Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers "A trenchant, humane, and often revelatory investigation by one of the wisest nonfiction writers going."
  • Ai-jen Poo, director, National Domestic Workers Alliance "Winners Take All is the book I have been waiting for--the most important intervention yet regarding elite-driven solutions, a vitally important problem to expose. The book courageously answers so many of the critical questions about how, despite much good will and many good people, we struggle to achieve progress in twenty-first-century America. If you want to be part of the solution, you should read this book."
  • Isabel Wilkerson, author, The Warmth of Other Suns "A brilliant, rising voice of our era takes us on a journey among the global elite in his search for understanding of our tragic disconnect. Thought-provoking, expansive, and timely."
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Winners Take All
Winners Take All
The Elite Charade of Changing the World
Anand Giridharadas
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