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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.

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. They rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; they lavishly reward “thought leaders” who redefine “change” in ways that preserve the status quo; and they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm.  
  
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? His groundbreaking investigation has already forced a great, sorely needed reckoning among the world’s wealthiest and those they hover above, and it 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.

Review

A New York Times bestseller | Named one of The New York Times "100 Notable Books of 2018" | Named one of NPR''s "Best Books of 2018" | Named one of the Financial Times "Books of the Year" | Named one of The Washington Post''s "50 Notable Works of Nonfiction" | One of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Best International Nonfiction” books of 2018 | One of the GreenBiz “10 Best Climate and Business Books of 2018” | 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year

“Entertaining and gripping . . . For those at the helm, the philanthropic plutocrats and aspiring ''change agents'' who believe they are helping but are actually making things worse, it’s time for a reckoning with their role in this spiraling dilemma. I suggest they might want to read a copy of this book while in the Hamptons this summer.” —Joseph E. Stiglitz, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Anand Giridharadas takes a swipe at the global elite in a trenchant, provocative and well-researched book about the people who are notionally generating social change . . . Read it and beware.” —Martha Lane Fox, Financial Times, “Books of the Year 2018”

“A splendid polemic  . . . Giridharadas writes brilliantly on the parasitic philanthropy industry.” The Economist

“Impassioned . . . That Giridharadas questions an idea that has become part of the air we breathe is alone worth the price of the book, and his delicious skewering of the many who exalt their own goodness while making money from dubious business practices makes for entertaining reading.” —Bethany McLean, The Washington Post

“One of the most insightful and provocative books about what’s going on in America that I’ve read in years.” —Senator Brian Schatz (Hawaii)

“The past years have seen some outstanding books on how philanthropists and their dollars have shaped public policy . . .  [Anand Giridharadas] zeros in on what he sees as a glaring hypocrisy among affluent elites: that while many well-meaning (and well-off) Americans claim to want to improve society''s inequalities, they don''t challenge the structures that preserve that inequality, not wanting to jeopardize their own privileged positions.” —Jessica Smith, NPR, “Best Books of 2018”

“Important . . . [An] empathic tone gives the book its persuasive power to touch the hearts of even those readers, like myself, who are the targets of its criticism.” —Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review

“An extraordinarily important book.” —Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief, Huffington Post

“Important . . .  [ Winners Take All] levels a devastating attack on philanthrocapitalism.” —Benjamin Soskis, The Chronicle of Philanthropy

“Indispensable . . . A lacerating critique.” —Chris Lehmann, In These Times

“Provocative and passionate . . . This damning portrait of contemporary American philanthropy is a must-read for anyone interested in ‘changing the world.’” Publishers Weekly (boxed and starred review)

“A challenging, provocative & bold book. I don’t agree with all of Anand’s critiques . . . but I encourage everyone to read the book & think hard about his take on the social sector.”  —Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy

“Giridharadas makes a compelling case  . . . [He] ultimately succeeds with  Winners Take All by adopting a temperate approach that creates space for a conversation.” —David Talbot, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Anyone following the debate about the role of philanthrocapitalists, corporate foundations or tech billionaires in solving the world''s problems will want to watch for this new book.” —Jena McGregor, The Washington Post

“[A] landmark new book.” —Darren Walker, president, The Ford Foundation
 
“[Giridharadas] has delivered a clarion call that will be a fixture on my syllabus and bookshelf.” —Megan Tompkins-Stange, assistant professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan

“This is a very difficult subject to tackle, but Giridharadas executes it brilliantly . . . This must-have title will be of great interest to readers, from students to professionals and everyone in-between, interested in solutions to today’s complex problems . . .  Winners Take All will be the starting point of conversations private and in groups on alternatives to the status quo and calls to action. An excellent book for troubled times.” Booklist

“In Anand’s thought-provoking book his fresh perspective on solving complex societal problems is admirable. I appreciate his commitment and dedication to spreading social justice.” — Bill Gates

“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.” — Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy

“A trenchant, humane, and often revelatory investigation by one of the wisest nonfiction writers going.” — Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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.” — Ai-jen Poo, director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
 
“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.” — Isabel Wilkerson, author, The Warmth of Other Suns

Winners Take All boldly exposes one of the great if little-reported scandals of the age of globalization: the domestication of the life of the mind by political and financial power and the substitution of ‘thought leaders’ for critical thinkers. It not only reorients us as we lurch out of a long ideological intoxication; it also embodies the values—intellectual autonomy and dissent—that we need to build a just society.” — Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger

“In this trenchant and timely book, Anand Giridharadas shows how the winners of global capitalism seek to help the losers, but without disturbing the market-friendly arrangements that keep the winners on top. He gives us an incisive critique of corporate-sponsored charities that promote frictionless ‘win-win’ solutions to the world’s problems but disdain the hard, contentious work of democratic politics. An indispensable guide for those perplexed by the rising public anger toward ‘change-making’ elites.” — Michael J. Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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 promote “thought leaders” who are willing to confine their thinking to improving lives within the faulty system rather than tackling the faults. Profitable companies built in questionable ways and employing reckless means engage in corporate social responsibility, and some rich people make a splash by “giving back”—regardless of the fact that they may have caused serious societal problems as they built their fortunes. Elite networking forums like the Aspen Institute and the Clinton Global Initiative groom the rich to be self-appointed leaders of social change, taking on the problems people like them have been instrumental in creating or sustaining. A new breed of community-minded so-called B Corporations has been born, reflecting a faith that more enlightened corporate self-interest—rather than, say, public regulation—is the surest guarantor of the public welfare. A pair of Silicon Valley billionaires fund an initiative to rethink the Democratic Party, and one of them can claim, without a hint of irony, that their goals are to amplify the voices of the powerless and reduce the political influence of rich people like them.

The elites behind efforts like these often speak in a language of “changing the world” and “making the world a better place” more typically associated with barricades than ski resorts. Yet we are left with the inescapable fact that in the very era in which these elites have done so much to help, they have continued to hoard the overwhelming share of progress, the average American’s life has scarcely improved, and virtually all of the nation’s institutions, with the exception of the military, have lost the public’s trust.

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?

There is no denying that today’s elite may be among the more socially concerned elites in history. But it is also, by the cold logic of numbers, among the more predatory in history. By refusing to risk its way of life, by rejecting the idea that the powerful might have to sacrifice for the common good, it clings to a set of social arrangements that allow it to monopolize progress and then give symbolic scraps to the forsaken—many of whom wouldn’t need the scraps if the society were working right. This book is an attempt to understand the connection between these elites’ social concern and predation, between the extraordinary helping and the extraordinary hoarding, between the milking—and perhaps abetting—of an unjust status quo and the attempts by the milkers to repair a small part of it.

There are many ways to make sense of all this elite concern and predation. One is that the elites are doing the best they can. The world is what it is; the system is what it is; the forces of the age are bigger than anyone can resist; the most fortunate are helping. This view may allow that this helpfulness is just a drop in the bucket, but it is something. The slightly more critical view is that this elite-led change is well-meaning but inadequate. It treats symptoms, not root causes; it does not change the fundamentals of what ails us. According to this view, elites are shirking the duty of more meaningful reform.

But there is still another, darker way of judging what goes on when elites put themselves in the vanguard of social change: that it not only fails to make things better, but also serves to keep things as they are. After all, it takes the edge off of some of the public’s anger at being excluded from progress. It improves the image of the winners. With its private and voluntary half-measures, it crowds out public solutions that would solve problems for everyone. For when elites assume leadership of social change, they are able to reshape what social change is—above all, to present it as something that should never threaten winners. In an age defined by a chasm between those who have power and those who don’t, elites have spread the idea that people must be helped, but only in market-friendly ways that do not upset fundamental power equations. The society should be changed in ways that do not change the underlying economic system that has allowed the winners to win and fostered many of the problems they seek to solve.

What is at stake is whether the reform of our common life is led by governments elected by and accountable to the people, or rather by wealthy elites claiming to know our best interests. We must decide whether, in the name of ascendant values such as efficiency and scale, we are willing to allow democratic purpose to be usurped by private actors who often genuinely aspire to improve things but, first things first, seek to protect themselves. Yes, government is dysfunctional at present. But that is all the more reason to treat its repair as our foremost national priority. Pursuing workarounds of our troubled democracy makes democracy even more troubled. We must ask ourselves why we have so easily lost faith in the engines of progress that got us where we are today—in the democratic efforts to outlaw slavery, end child labor, limit the workday, keep drugs safe, protect collective bargaining, create public schools, battle the Great Depression, electrify rural America, weave a nation together by road, pursue a Great Society free of poverty, extend civil and political rights to women and African Americans and other minorities, and give our fellow citizens health, security, and dignity in old age.

This book offers a series of portraits of this elite-led, market- friendly, winner-safe social change. In these pages, you will meet people who ardently believe in this form of change and people who are beginning to question it.

What these various figures have in common is that they are grappling with certain powerful myths—the myths that have fostered an age of extraordinary power concentration; that have allowed the elite’s private, partial, and self-preservational deeds to pass for real change; that have let many decent winners convince themselves, and much of the world, that their plan to “do well by doing good” is an adequate answer to an age of exclusion; that put a gloss of selflessness on the protection of one’s privileges; and that cast more meaningful change as wide-eyed, radical, and vague.

It is my hope in writing what follows to reveal these myths to be exactly that. Much of what appears to be reform in our time is in fact the defense of stasis. When we see through the myths that foster this misperception, the path to genuine change will come into view.

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Top reviews from the United States

Arthur T. Himmelman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Philanthropy Helps You Stand on Your Own Two Knees
Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2018
As someone who has spent many years seeking/securing grants from foundations, and almost 12 years working as a senior program officer at a large community and large private foundation, I believe my "headline," while humorous, sums up my understanding of philanthropy and one... See more
As someone who has spent many years seeking/securing grants from foundations, and almost 12 years working as a senior program officer at a large community and large private foundation, I believe my "headline," while humorous, sums up my understanding of philanthropy and one of the major themes of Winners Take All. I share another concern well described by Anand, namely, the extremely serious abdication of public responsibility for basic human needs. In large part, this is because the very rich, the gatekeepers they employ, and their political allies have intentionally worked to limit the viability of our public sector since the Reagan presidency. In fact, as Anand also notes, this has been done in various ways since the early part of the 20th century when the first large foundations were created by Rockefeller and Carnegie. I believe Anand would agree with my view that the rich use philanthropy and the entire nonprofit sector as a diversion from a strong public sector which, in these times, would be at least some form of American social democracy. If I could afford it, I would buy copies of Winners Take All for anyone who wants to understand the role of charity and philanthropy in maintaining existing power relations by limiting the power and effectiveness of a viable, democratic public sector. We must address the dominance of unaccountable, self-serving elites with democratic, public alternatives as Anand so brilliantly, courageously, and elegantly elucidates in Winners Take All.
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Mal Warwick
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Do the Davos and Aspen set really call the shots in America?
Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2018
I picked up this book thinking it was about me and my friends. It''s not, though. Despite the subtitle, Winners Take All is not about the entrepreneurs and investors who are involved in socially responsible businesses whose mission is to change the world. The sole exception... See more
I picked up this book thinking it was about me and my friends. It''s not, though. Despite the subtitle, Winners Take All is not about the entrepreneurs and investors who are involved in socially responsible businesses whose mission is to change the world. The sole exception is the author''s brief excursion in the epilogue into the B Corporation movement, in which I''ve been involved since the beginning. And he appears not to understand what B Corps are about.

"Elite-led, market-friendly, winner-safe social change"

In Winners Take All, author Anand Giridharadas zeroes in on growing economic inequality in America. As he notes at the outset, "When the fruits of change have fallen on the United States in recent decades, the very fortunate have basketed almost all of them." His culprit? "Elite-led, market-friendly, winner-safe social change." This is the set of beliefs held by the people who attend the World Economic Forum at Davos and gather at such other places as Aspen and the Clinton Global Initiative. In reviewing this book for the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stieglitz described them as "an elite that, rather than pushing for systemic change, only reinforces our lopsided economic reality—all while hobnobbing on the conference circuit and trafficking in platitudes." Giridharadas calls their mindset MarketWorld.

"An ascendant power elite" that seeks to do good by doing well
"MarketWorld," he explains, "is an ascendant power elite that is defined by the concurrent drives to do well and do good, to change the world while also profiting from the status quo. It consists of enlightened businesspeople and their collaborators in the worlds of charity, academia, media government, and think tanks."

Giridharadas takes on the elite consulting firms as well, citing McKinsey and its peers in the industry as among the culprits. The values they all promote are those of the marketplace; its proponents always talk about opportunities to solve problems, never about those who are responsible for creating the problems in the first place. The author distinguishes between public intellectuals (good) and thought leaders (bad). In his view, the former are primarily academics free of commercial influences. The latter have fallen for MarketWorld values, hook, line, and sinker. And that strikes me as simplistic. It would be naive to imply that major corporations haven''t made inroads into academia.

The eight billionaires who own half the world''s wealth are an easy target

Author Anand Giridharadas aims his most powerful broadsides at easy targets such as the multimillionaire and billionaire leaders of the tech and financial industries. Can anyone seriously argue that Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Goldman Sachs are addressing the economic inequality that Giridharadas identifies as the central issue? No matter what their leaders say, they''re clearly part of the problem, not the solution.

As I write today, Jeff Bezos of Amazon can claim a net worth of $162.9 billion. Facebook''s Mark Zuckerberg is "worth" $60.4 billion. The Google guys, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, weigh in at $54.1 billion and $52.7 billion, respectively. These four men are among the eight billionaires whose collective net worth is equal to all the wealth of half of the world''s population. Yes, just eight billionaires. And Goldman Sachs possesses assets of nearly $1 trillion. How could anyone suggest that these people would even consider lobbying the federal government to adopt policies that would lessen economic inequality in America? Yet Giridharadas complains that they don''t.

Winners Take All is based on the premise that these would-be do-gooders call the shots in the American economy and dominate the political debate. The author implies that economic inequality would quickly shrink if these folks were to work for genuine social change. However, this is far from the truth. Most wealthy people in the United States are conservative Republicans who do not pretend to be change agents. And they exert far greater power and influence in American society than the Davos and Aspen set. In today''s political discourse, the Heritage Foundation and its peers among Right-Wing think tanks and the institutions of the Christian Right wield far more power in setting government policy at both the federal and state levels than the "enlightened elite" Giridharadas writes about.

Bill Clinton''s central role in making the problem immeasurably worse

In the author''s view, it''s not just clueless businessmen or Republicans who are at fault. Bill Clinton also comes in for justifiable criticism. His "Third Way" between left and right effectively reversed the Democratic Party''s commitment to helping the less fortunate in our society. Remember mass incarceration? Financial deregulation? So-called welfare "reform?" Bill Clinton institutionalized the neoliberal consensus that Ronald Reagan had brought to the White House a decade previously—and the consequences were devastating, years before Donald Trump entered the political scene. On this point, Giridharadas is right on the money. (Pun intended.)

Just for example, deregulation, including the repeal of Glass-Steagall, was among the root causes of the Great Recession that struck in 2008. Don''t forget that millions lost their homes, and millions more lost their jobs, in that calamitous economic downturn. Democrat or Republican—it doesn''t seem to matter. Not a single US President over the past half century has taken any significant step to address America’s growing inequality in wealth and income. Barack Obama was by far the best of them, but he also:

** named as his top economic advisers many of the same people whose policies in the 90s brought down the economy in the 2000s;
** prevented the prosecution of the bankers who caused the crash; and
**failed to question the prevailing bipartisan love affair with Corporate America.

Who will lead society toward viable solutions?

Here''s the crux of the matter, as Giridharadas sees it: "What is at stake is whether the reform of our common life is led by governments elected by and accountable to the people, or rather by wealthy elites claiming to know our best interests." It doesn''t matter how well-intentioned they might make themselves out to be. If they don''t actively work to raise estate and income taxes, drive private money out of politics, provide universal free healthcare, and work to elect people committed to serving the majority of America''s people, they''re part of the problem. Nothing else they do can be a solution. And to that I say amen.

What other reviewers say about the book

** In his review of the book, Joseph Stieglitz notes that "Giridharadas is careful not to offend. He writes on two levels—seemingly tactful and subtle—but ultimately he presents a devastating portrait of a whole class, one easier to satirize than to reform."
** Kirkus Reviews leads its commentary with this: "Give a hungry man a fish, and you get to pat yourself on the back—and take a tax deduction." The review concludes that Winners Take All is "A provocative critique of the kind of modern, feel-good giving that addresses symptoms and not causes."
** Writing in Forbes, B Lab co-founder and managing partner Jay Coen Gilbert terms Winners Take All a "new and important book." Before launching into a defense of Certified B Corporations, Gilbert notes that "In provocative style and with compelling substance, Giridharadas speaks truth to power, calling elites to account for giving so much lip service to ''changing the world,'' while mostly upholding an unacceptable status quo."
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T. Rucker
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A self-help book for the uber wealthy and all who profess to be change agents
Reviewed in the United States on September 16, 2018
Winners Take All is a self-help book for the uber wealthy. I say this somewhat in jest, but, as Anand Giridharadas writes in his acknowledgements, his purpose for writing this book was as an “inquiry into the apparatus of justification” that permits the wealthy to win at... See more
Winners Take All is a self-help book for the uber wealthy. I say this somewhat in jest, but, as Anand Giridharadas writes in his acknowledgements, his purpose for writing this book was as an “inquiry into the apparatus of justification” that permits the wealthy to win at all costs, including extractive business practices that result in growing inequality and environmental damage, only to position themselves as having the answers to the problems that they have contributed to creating and accelerating. While his focus is on the uber wealthy, Giridharadas tenaciously exposes a universal human deficit: We all struggle to recognize our two selves—the person we aspire to be and the person we are. What continuously came up for me as I read Winners Take All is the need people have to be seen as good, but not being able to make the personal sacrifices (i.e. not winning) that real goodness demands.

This is, by far, one of the most important books published in the 21st century. Giridharadas articulates, with great storytelling, the illusion that has gripped us—particularly Americans,—allowing, if not engineering, injustice and inequality into our way of life: There are several ways to define it, including market mindset or really materialism where money elevates the monied by virtue of their market acumen to rule. He calls them MarketWorlders—people who apply a market perspective to solving social issues. Winners Take All offers all of us who have ever dreamt of changing the world to interrogate our motives, to think about who we are inviting to the table, and to understand that who we are, the experiences we’ve had, and the questions we ask or don’t ask determine the who, what, when, where and how of change. And if the only change we can imagine insists on us not losing comfort, reputation, influence, power, and so on, then we’ve already limited the change that is possible.
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Spike
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Behind Every Great Fortune...
Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2018
This is a fascinating book, rich with numerous contradictions, deeply flawed, written to persuade in a polished style, and ultimately compelling and shallow at the same time. Peter Carey, the Australian novelist, wrote, "Behind every great fortune is a great... See more
This is a fascinating book, rich with numerous contradictions, deeply flawed, written to persuade in a polished style, and ultimately compelling and shallow at the same time. Peter Carey, the Australian novelist, wrote, "Behind every great fortune is a great crime," and Giridharadas breathes life into this axiom convincingly. Many of the people he identifies in the elite, liberal, globalist movement are well known, and a few I''ve met personally. What he describes as their sense of moral superiority is utterly correct. When a wealthy hedge fund founder whom I know flies to India with millions to give from her non-taxable family foundation, it absolutely is a heady mix of criminality and odd benevolence. But what''s missing in Giridharadas''s analysis is, ironically, the criticisms he notes to be missing in these benevolent lords and ladies of private equity. Namely, he doesn''t identify precisely the class consciousness and the internalized, intrapsychic convictions that are the motors behind their actions. Further, no class, as he knows, acts against its own economic interests. So why should or when will the private equity lords and ladies? Tisch, quoted in the book, said it best in answer to his question about what, "could inspire them to pursue a fairer system. She said, "Revolution, maybe." Until forces outside of their class act to strip them of their privilege, nothing much will change (or maybe it will), as he acknowledges. But that change is unlikely to come from the class itself, and why should it? The other huge and obvious white elephant in the room that Giridharadas alludes to, but doesn''t explore much at all is the goal of private equity: To transfer public sector capital into private capital. He implies this, he skirts arounds it, he knows it, but it would merit a much better book. Insofar as that transfer is not ideological, and the capital working around the clock to make it happen is agnostic politically, I would wager that it is the far, far greater threat to democracy than the smug and "benign" globalists who collude with the system in place. He writes about the benign globalists because he was or, forgive me, is still one. He is well meaning, and I mean that with full irony. In a general way, the book also applies very poorly reasoned, well written arguments to establish inaccurate points. For example, on page 178, he writes that Purdue pushed OxyContin, "on general practitioners, who tended to have the disadvantage (or advantage, depending on your viewpoint) of less training than specialists such as orthopedic surgeons in treating serious pain and in detecting signs of painkiller abuse by patients." I''m sorry to say it, but that''s simply untrue. Neither had much training in pain management until about five years ago, and primary care doctors are actually the ones who evaluate routinely both abuse and pain. It''s a minor point, but, unfortunately, typical of the way Giridharadas builds his points: Through faulty analysis, and style that is deeply impressive, and well meaning intentions, but like the elites whom he disparages, without structural criticisms. With respect to medicine, for example, the roles of profit and reimbursement schedules would have gone a lot further in actually proving his point. Overall, the book is honestly a fine contribution to an understanding of why private equity is controlling the debate and eroding democracy, but as a work of depth and analysis , it falls far short of books by Piketty, whom the author at the end recognizes as an inspiration. It reminds me a bit of Cockburn''s columns in the WSJ: He was the entertainment, and not a threat to the forces he criticized. Similarly, this book is likely to entertain private equity folks; it''s not in the least threatening nor substantive. That''s a shame because the author clearly and very ironically held back: Acting the same as those he criticizes for holding back and colluding actively with the forces of destruction that are a synecdoche of private capital.
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R
1.0 out of 5 stars
Frustratingly simplistic and impractical
Reviewed in the United States on September 24, 2018
I''ll preface this review by saying that I''m a practitioner in the space that Giridharadas is critiquing. His central thesis, about "changing the world" through foundations and impact investing, is one that I wanted to agree with. I believe this industry is overdue for a... See more
I''ll preface this review by saying that I''m a practitioner in the space that Giridharadas is critiquing. His central thesis, about "changing the world" through foundations and impact investing, is one that I wanted to agree with. I believe this industry is overdue for a wake-up. I think that''s why I was so disappointed with this book.

Giridharadas takes an extremely simplified view toward the "change-making" industry. His examples are inflammatory and seem to prove a point, but he doesn''t interrogate the underlying premises of his thesis. For instance, he tears apart the "market-based" approach to solving problems, decrying McKinsey''s way of solving problems as narrow-minded. This is a valid criticism, but he fails to ask a deeper question: Why did this way of problem solving come about? What are its merits? How can we fix it?

He continues to gloss over nuance throughout his book, undermining many points in what should be a compelling argument. He believes wealthy donors do not deserve to be "met where they are" but misses the opportunity to ask why Darren Walker had that approach to begin with. (Likely because donors won''t listen to you at all if you come out the gate swinging.) He never asks the college grads why they picked McKinsey instead of the federal government, instead decrying McKinsey''s influence without unpacking how it got to such a position.

His needless barb toward Bill Clinton''s "bro" style belies a deeper insecurity on the part of the author, which likely will resonate with readers. Much of this book is the same: An antagonistic take-down of elitism. Yes, that is valid, but it''s largely an emotional argument. It lacks any substance.

In failing to suggest a single solution, he perpetuates the problem. Regardless of what he says, Giridharadas is an elite who worked at McKinsey. At least the folks he profiled in his book are actually doing something.
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Eric Berman
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Lots of potshots, no solutions
Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2018
The author confuses anecdote with data, and his disdain for people that he labels “elite” drips from every page. While he does advocate for a few sensible things like higher taxes on the wealthy, he paints a no-win picture of anybody who has acquired wealth: if they don’t... See more
The author confuses anecdote with data, and his disdain for people that he labels “elite” drips from every page. While he does advocate for a few sensible things like higher taxes on the wealthy, he paints a no-win picture of anybody who has acquired wealth: if they don’t give back, they are obviously bad people, and if they do give back, it is to solve their own problems. Indeed, his very condescension about the notion of “win win” makes it clear that if the wealthy are not doing something about inequality that actually hurts them, then it’s all self serving. Yet he never once suggests how one should actually address inequality. And on just about every page he makes non-disprovable assertions about ulterior motives and goals. Very frustrating to read; I found myself disagreeing with various assertions on just about every page.
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wsmrer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
System is not broken it’s Rigged
Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2018
Awareness is finally developing that these are stressful times. Anand Giridharadas’ Winners Take All is a rich excursion into the evolution of that awareness among the gentry and their various forms of generosity with philanthropy and business activism aimed at making... See more
Awareness is finally developing that these are stressful times. Anand Giridharadas’ Winners Take All is a rich excursion into the evolution of that awareness among the gentry and their various forms of generosity with philanthropy and business activism aimed at making things better without challenging their advantages.

“In the summer of 2015, I stood anxiously at a podium in Aspen, Colorado, wondering what happens when you tell a roomful of rich and powerful people that they are not the saviors they think they are. Four years earlier, I had been named a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute." “That evening at the bar, some cheered me, others glared at me icily, and a private-equity man told me I was an (insulting name edited).” (p. 267)

“This book offers a series of portraits of this elite-led, market-friendly, winner-safe social change.” Giridharadas makes the point the concerned elites actions are not a match for the failure that has followed the 1970’s with inequalities documented in Thomas Piketty’s masterpiece, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. “I came upon a line that brought the purpose of my own book into focus.” “Whether such extreme inequality is or is not sustainable,” Piketty writes, “depends not only on the effectiveness of the repressive apparatus but also, and perhaps primarily, on the effectiveness of the apparatus of justification.”
That day I decided my book would be an inquiry into the apparatus of justification.”

To tell this story he backs up into the transformation that begins with the Market orientated actions of Ronald Reagan’s ‘Government is the Problem’ in America and Margaret Thatcher’s ‘TINA’ (There Is No Alternative) in Britain on the right, followed shortly thereafter by Bill Clinton’s Third Way and Tony Blair’s “New” Labor Party (1997-2007) on the left. That ideology is often called neoliberalism, and it is, in the framing of the anthropologist David Harvey,* “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.” Where the theory goes, “deregulation, privatization, and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social provision” tend to follow, Harvey writes. “While personal and individual freedom in the marketplace is guaranteed, each individual is held responsible and accountable for his or her own actions and well-being. This principle extends into the realms of welfare, education, health care, and even pensions.”
Then and now: The ratio between CEO compensation to average worker soars from 25:1 in 1970 to 335:1 in 2015.

What followed was stagnation for the middle class, the breakdown of the banking system creating the Wall St financial crisis of 2008 and eight years of low growth and high unemployment and as Yascha Mounk notes “that each new generation has less faith in democracy as they see it and less faith in prevailing political structures and cries they are much more likely to vote for antisystem parties in many countries around the world.”** Another take on Trump’s election?

As Giridharadas’ subtitle states ‘The Elite Charade of Changing the World’ is not an answer. He does not offer solutions just a critique. The world awaits solutions or revolutions?
A good read for his wise assessments, the private-equity man was wrong.
5 stars
* A Brief History of Neoliberalism
** The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It.
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Mike D.
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If you don''t want solutions then it''s a good book
Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2019
This book is a takedown of wealthy liberals who think they can do good and be/get rich at the same time. Boiled down, his arguments are that billionaires are evil, charity is a coverup for nefariously gained riches, and that capitalists who try to do social good in their... See more
This book is a takedown of wealthy liberals who think they can do good and be/get rich at the same time. Boiled down, his arguments are that billionaires are evil, charity is a coverup for nefariously gained riches, and that capitalists who try to do social good in their businesses are insincere. The author doesn''t really propose solutions, which is the biggest flaw in the book, so I presume he thinks everyone should go work in government instead.

Anand is piggybacking on the current zeitgeist of hating the rich. He lumps good and bad people all together. I agree that people in Americans should not have to rely on charity for social support in the areas our government falls short. We should have systems to ensure basic necessities for all people in our country – health care, housing, college, job opportunities. He is correct that some rich people lobby the government to maintain their favorable treatment in the tax code – and this is wrong. But many rich people fight for the opposite, a more just system, and many would gladly pay more taxes. So when they give money to charitable causes, they are solving a problem in the way they have power to do, which rather than being nefarious is just people doing the best they can within an imperfect system. This is not the ideal solution – as the author says, it concentrates power in the hands of people with money, but it also doesn''t mean those rich people are bad. The author seems to overlook this kind of nuance again and again.

The author is a questionable messenger for this book. He seems like someone who has spent his life promoting his own brand than a messenger of the revolution, as he would like you to believe in this book. He is happy to name-drop his own platinum resumé –McKinsey, Harvard, NYTimes, TED, Shaker Heights, etc. – and yet he mocks and criticizes the very people who aspire to build their careers in impressive ways. I wanted to eye roll hard when in Chapter 1 he unironically jabs at "so-called thought leaders" who give TED talks, yet in the jacket of this very same book he references he has spoken on the main stage of TED!

I have very mixed feelings on this book. It''s probably a net positive for the world in spite of the author himself. The world is easy to criticize, of which the author does a lot – and finding solutions to the world''s ills is hard, so the author doesn''t do a lot of that. The book doesn’t pass the critical and analytical thinking bar, but if it motivates people to fight harder to level the playing field, it’s a good thing. He gets credit for making people uncomfortable.
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Athan
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well written, well researched, but ultimately flawed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 23, 2018
Must start this book review with a MASSIVE disclaimer. I epitomize the class of people the author of this book has placed at its crosshairs: my kids hold three G7 passports apiece, with an additional OECD passport waiting for them if they ask. I’m comfortable in five modern...See more
Must start this book review with a MASSIVE disclaimer. I epitomize the class of people the author of this book has placed at its crosshairs: my kids hold three G7 passports apiece, with an additional OECD passport waiting for them if they ask. I’m comfortable in five modern languages. My business is in automation. It is registered in Delaware, headquartered in Boston and, for now, I run it out of London. Our clients are hedge funds, banks and pension funds. I once started the world’s first live-online restaurant reservation service and was fully prepared to take money from the wonderful people at Carlyle to do so. Oh, and to cap it all (and fit the author’s stereotype to a T) not too long ago we were diverting fully one third of my family’s income to a French-based international charity that sends doctors to dangerous places… If that would give him any comfort, I’m happy to supply Anand Giridharadadas with a long-nosed, balding, middle-aged voodoo doll to poke. Get in there, brother! With that out of the way, let’s get down to the serious business of actually reviewing “Winners Take All:” Surprise! For all the wrong reasons, I liked it a lot. It’s beautifully written. The man can write. He gets his message across very crisply, but without shouting. Not only that, the book is very accessible: you don’t need to have studied any Economics to read “Winners Take All.” Neither do you need to be familiar with the public discourse on the issues he addresses. With the exception of a single, annoying, neologism I’ll get to later, it uses no jargon. You won’t find any mumbo jumbo in here about concepts like “the Washington Consensus” or “the End of History” or “Neoconservatism” or anything else like that. If he can avoid namedropping, moreover, you can trust the author to do so. Names are in here only if mentioning them helps the argument. Tremendous stuff! If I could write half as well as Anand Giridharadadas, I’d be a happy man. Significantly, the criticism leveled at the hypocrisy of (the upper echelons of) my class is 100% justified. These days, when I hear “philanthropist,” I run the mile. This book has explained to me where my visceral distaste comes from and traces it back to the seminal writing behind the hypocrisy, the “manifesto” Andrew Carnegie wrote for his deeds before that was really a word you could use in polite conversation, along the lines of “I make my money how money’s made and I get to give back how I know is best.” There are also entire chapters that demolish the idea of the “win-win” (also known as “doing well while doing good”), poke fun at the idea of a “thought leader” (a guy who dances around the topic of redistribution when addressing ways to improve society) and summarize well how bad we’ve been swindled by the Sacklers and their ilk. And yet, the book fails! Here’s how: The alleged straw man in this book is “MarketWorld,” the concept that we can deal with all problems on the planet using the framework of the market. Throughout the book it’s MarketWorld this, MarketWorld that, until you, the reader, are ready to hit somebody. Advice to my new friend Anand: ask Matt Taibbi to grant you an audience and get his advice on a better name for your concept. But here’s the funny thing about “Winners Take All:“ Around p. 143 it finally dawned on me that the author’s muse is not his distaste for Marketworld. What actually informs this book is anticolonialism. He’s (justifiably) sick of western experts and do-gooders flying into far-away places like India or Rwanda and proposing ready-made solutions to local problems without having done an iota of homework on how the locals deal with these issues even more than he’s annoyed that the helicoptered-in experts all hail from Marketworld. This much he actually tells us in a well-penned chapter. He goes on to identify this as the biggest issue with private interventions of the pluto-philanthropists WITHIN the border: not only is it presumptuous of us to think we’ve got the answers, he says, not only does our hypocrisy irk the recipients of our munificence so much that they voted for Trump, but by failing to engage with the authorities, the local governments and the local beneficiaries of any philanthropic efforts, we are no different than a privileged kid on his gap year that’s flying into Bangladesh to teach housewives how to program in Python. Well! In this case, it’s Anand Giridharadas who’s guilty of not having done his local reconnaissance! It’s fine to argue that we, the one percenters are flouting “our political institutions -our laws, our police, our constitutions, our regulations, our taxes, our shared infrastructure,” but it is also to 100% ignore that the approach of adding our own, private, improvements one at a time is PRECISELY, 101%, HOW THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF WORKS IN AMERICA. I’m quoting from Edward Luce’s “Time to Start Thinking” here, so numbers may have in the meantime changed (upwards, I’m willing to bet, Trump notwithstanding), but all government interventions in America are incremental. As Obama was starting his second term, the US government had 51 entirely duplicative schemes for worker assistance, 82 different programs to improve teaching and 56 different programs to promote financial literacy. Obama himself had 37 “policy czars.” Both sides doing it, btw: George W Bush had 64 “chiefs of staff.” There were at least 12 protocols for de-activating IEDs in Afghanistan. (See, I can also say “protocol” and I’m using it literally, how about that?) The American way is not to scrap existing programs. It’s to tack on new ones. Remember how Obama was crucified for saying “if you’ve got a plan you can keep your plan?” It’s because, for once, he did the right thing. Good deeds like that don’t go unpunished. So the main message in “Winners Take All” is right in theory, but wrong in practice. The failure is a failure to study one’s domain. When in Rome, do as Romans do. The kids that could be earning millions working for Goldman Sachs but only earn thousands working on some more charitable project of very narrow scope are doing the best they can, actually. The billionaire’s kid that takes a year off to teach high school somewhere that has metal detectors is doing the right thing. That is not to say that the pendulum has not swung too far away from the commons and too close to the interests of capital. It has. That is not to deny that some things we have privatized lie in the domain where the government is the more natural protagonist. Most to the point, that is not to say that the Sacklers are true philanthropists or that Clinton does the right thing by charging corporates 250k to tell them what they want to hear (even if he declares taxes on it, unlike his new billionaire friends). But, contrary to the central message of this book, it’s healthy to fight the good fight wherever it is that the border lies today. Let’s concentrate our efforts on gaining ground and on moving that border in the right direction.
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bookword
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The shallow hypocrisy of the philanthropists
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 4, 2018
This book is an excellent, cogent, fluent and engaging anaysis of the shallow hypocrisy of the philanthropists who seek to polish their reputations for generosity whilst lining their pockets. Instead of paying fair wages to their employees, engaging in fair trade or paying...See more
This book is an excellent, cogent, fluent and engaging anaysis of the shallow hypocrisy of the philanthropists who seek to polish their reputations for generosity whilst lining their pockets. Instead of paying fair wages to their employees, engaging in fair trade or paying their taxes, they ruthlessly extract and hoard their wealth and return a few crumbs to the poor, in ill-informed, patronising ways - and expect us all to be grateful!
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Andrew Ashurst
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent book which articulates much of what I felt and feel about TED talk culture
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 28, 2020
Enjoyable and readable book so well written in that sense. My overall view of it is captured by my headline. I don''t like TED talks, no, that''s wrong, it''s not that I don''t like or enjoy many of them, I just felt they were mostly smart/rich/lucky people fixing the world for...See more
Enjoyable and readable book so well written in that sense. My overall view of it is captured by my headline. I don''t like TED talks, no, that''s wrong, it''s not that I don''t like or enjoy many of them, I just felt they were mostly smart/rich/lucky people fixing the world for everyone without really digging too deep or ever being impolite enough to ''j''accuse''. TED talk culture it seems will talk about anything except the elephants in the room of say, the under-regulated tech sector or (and mainly) the overly complex and special interest serving tax system (including tax havens etc) which underlies many of the problems that TED talkers like to think they are solving in their win-win ways. I wish more TED talkers would read or had read Henry George (possibly including this author).
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B. A. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Anand Giridharadas critiques the benevolence business
Reviewed in India on December 7, 2018
I’ve spent the last decade documenting large-scale, privately-funded efforts to improve public health and sanitation in India and Kenya. Based on that experience, I find Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World refreshingly candid and...See more
I’ve spent the last decade documenting large-scale, privately-funded efforts to improve public health and sanitation in India and Kenya. Based on that experience, I find Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World refreshingly candid and insightful. The book is a courageous, in-depth critique of the social reform and international development efforts of billionaire philanthropists and corporations. Giridharadas calls such efforts a charade because they don’t address the causes of inequality. He writes, “when elites assume leadership of social change, they are able to reshape what social change is—above all, to present it as something that should never threaten winners.” (p. 8) Quoting OECD leader Angel Gurria, Giridharadas writes, “Elites have found myriad ways to change things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.” (p. 9) To explain and illustrate why the elites’ efforts fail to address structural causes of poverty and inequality, Giridharadas examines the methods that foundations and corporations use. He describes a meeting of the Open Society Foundations’ Economic Advancement Program’s advisers in which, “the issues . . . would be presented in the business way, in the form of slides with graphs and charts. The question of building more inclusive economies would be atomized into endless subcategories, until the human reality all but vanished. The fundamental problems would grow almost unrecognizable. Justice and inequality would be converted into problems the private equity executive was preeminently qualified to solve.”(p. 132) Giridharadas explains that the protocols by which McKinsey consultants help corporations to become more competitive are now commonly viewed by foundations and NGOs as essential for analysing and addressing social problems. He writes, “Our age of market supremacy has blessed the protocols with a remarkable change of fortune: They have evolved from being a specialized way of solving particular business problems to being, in the view of many, the essential toolkit for solving anything.” (p. 139) The problem, according to Giridharadas, with using the protocols for analysing and addressing social problems is that, “problems reformatted according to the protocols were recast in the light of the winner’s gaze. After all, the definition of the problem is done by the problem-solver and crowds out other ways of seeing it.” (p. 142) “The protocols’ spread to social questions also gave elites a chance to limit the range of possible answers.” (p. 152) Giridharadas’s cites the final Clinton Global Initiative’s one-sided panel discussions to demonstrate that private social reform efforts fail to understand and address the causes of poverty and inequality because they exclude divergent perspectives and voices: “The organizers of this final CGI, held in the throes of the antiglobalist revolt, decided that a panel on the topic was a must. And the organizers evidently concluded that the panel should consist entirely of globalists, with no one representing the other side.” (p. 214) Giridharadas devotes Chapter 4 to examining the sycophancy of thought leaders, to show how the elites reward the generation and promotion of winner-safe prescriptions for social change. Frank Giustra of the Giustra Foundation wrongly accuses Giridharadas of not offering solutions to the problems presented in Winners Take All. Giridharadas does propose solutions. To more equitably distribute the gains from the increasing productivity of the workforce, Giridharadas calls for “tighter regulations on trading, higher taxes on financiers, stronger labor protections to protect workers from layoffs and pension raiding by private equity owners, and incentives favouring job-creating investment over mere speculation.” (pp. 40-41) I strongly recommend Winners Take All to anyone working in philanthropy or CSR.
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Brian Yarwood
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Winner takes all
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 1, 2019
The title tell all The financial system as been rigged since Romans brought taxation on the workers And democracy as always been a clever facade no such thing as equality
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