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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  6,928 ratings  ·  1,117 reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 28th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Antonio Gallo “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,…more“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.”
― Anand Giridharadas, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World(less)
Ji Shun What if 'intelligent analysis', 'the cost of your attention', 'the people who choose to answer this question' are all somewhat relative in this…moreWhat if 'intelligent analysis', 'the cost of your attention', 'the people who choose to answer this question' are all somewhat relative in this context...(less)

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Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
What Trump and Idealists Have in Common

‘Making a difference’ could be the idealistic theme of my generation’s collective ethos - at least among those of us who survived the drug-culture of the 60’s and 70’s with intact minds. The world had been opened to us by cheap access to good education, a long post-war economic boom, a range of radical new philosophies and more or less guaranteed employment. We had choices. And the right people appeared to be demonstrating how to exercise power around the
Bill Kerwin
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Did you watch Zuckerberg testify before the Senate committees about Facebook and the 2018 election? Were you struck by how blithely unrepentant he seemed, how convinced that his titanic, poorly monitored data base—which he habitually describes as “a community”—is an unalloyed benefit to us all? “Facebook was not originally created to be a company,” Zuckerberg claims, “It was built to accomplish a social mission—to make the world more open and connected.”

So how is it that a billionaire like
Always Pouting
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this but it might be just because fundamentally I'm ideologically opposed to people being that wealthy. I think it does a really good job of what the intended purpose is, to show that a lot of times philanthropy itself is just a way to ameliorate problems caused by the same people doing the philanthropy and that much of the philanthropy can not make up for the systemic issues we have created by letting people accumulate as much wealth at the expense of others as we do. I think ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Before you read this book, read the author’s bio. For someone who is so critical of elites hiding in their hobbit holes, he waits until the acknowledgments section at the end to let you know that he is one of them. I found this incredibly bizarre. He says the reason is because he didn’t want to make the book about him, but at the same time he states, “The best way to know about a problem is to be a part of it.” I think the premise of the work would have been infinitely more powerful had he ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent exposé of the wealthy and powerful who aim to do "good" and just perpetuate systems of injustice. Anand Giridharadas creates a compelling argument about how elites who work at corporations and companies like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs say they "work for social change," yet never address the core of what causes inequality in the first place. He provides several detailed anecdotes of young adults who get swept up into these corporations based on the ideal that they will learn a skill ...more
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
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 ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 19, 2018 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very mixed feelings about this book. I liked some parts too much to give a low rating, disliked other parts too much to give a high rating, and don't feel those should average out.

While I was reading, I was considering a criticism that this book is ultimately not engaged in critical thought, but is just another "thought leader," simply for a different demographic. But it doesn't entirely fall into this trap, and it isn't shallow or vapid. There are definitely pieces that were solid.

Yet I still
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook and I wouldn't recommend doing that
I also feel like this was the script of a documentary or something, maybe this is bc I haven't read many books like this and it's been a long time since I've done that but this felt exceptionally dry!
Still it offered some good points to consider.
I don't think I'll ever read this if I don't do it now amidst the biggest corruption trial in my country.

My first thought is nothing new here. Take all of the thoughts on white privilege and apply them to wealth privilege and you have the concept of this book. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that tremendous income inequality and/or maintenance of that condition is the root of evil...

4+ Stars

Listened to audio book. Author was the narrator. He did a good job.
Diane S ☔
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
Thoughts soon.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jenn "JR"
Winners Take All (2018)
Anand Giridhardas

People who are making money at the expense of the common good are not ignorant about the effects they are having on the world around them.

Take as an example – the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, built by the widow who was the heir to the fortune of Winchester rifles. She earned something like $10,000/minute without having to do a thing because of the pivotal role that those weapons served in the genocide that took place across the US West in the
Michael Siliski
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended if you’re angry at liberal elites and want to lean into that anger with some anecdotes and an uncomplicated narrative.

Winners Take All tells the story of how a new elite of market-oriented, globe-trotting philanthropists have convinced themselves and the rest of us that they’re acting in our best interests, while in fact they’ve created a broken civil society and hoarded all the wealth and power for themselves.

There's a lot of truth to the story, and I agree with many of the policy
Dec 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I almost gave it 2 stars, but thought that some points, chapters deserved more. Not all of them.

This author is comparable to a professor lecturing about dozens and dozens of aspects to the economy without personally knowing any of the practical applications that comprise them. Kind of like (not an exact analogy) telling you about all aspects of automobile assembly without once being on a chassis drop or door "line".

He makes some points well but he himself is way too embedded in the exact "group
May 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
I was looking for some critical soul searching as a member of the "elite" that the author rails against but Mr. Giridharadas very quickly lost me when he tries to make a point in page 2 about how poor American men *only* live as long as men in Pakistan or Sudan. Far from celebrating the great gains that Pakistan or Sudan have made in increasing the average lifetimes, this factoid is seen as a something worth lamenting as though Americans have a god given right to live longer than the rest of the ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Very much in the tradition of Thomas Frank and the Baffler Magazine. This lampoons the TED talking Thought leaders and Elon Musks hanging around Davos and Martha's Vineyard. You know the plutocrats on a mission to save us all. I don't know if they do it the avoid scrutiny or salve their conscience I am not a shrink and I certainly don't hang out in their circles but its a dog and pony show which makes billionaires look good and deflect attention from the glaring problems of inequality and ...more
Wendy Liu
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: capitalism-etc
so good! an insider look at the moral bankruptcy of philanthrocapitalism. very accessible but still riveting. highly recommended
Jason Furman
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am very glad that “Winners Take All” was written and that it is being widely read in precisely the circles that need to read it. I could see it actually making the world a better place. A lot of the reportage is excellent, in many ways looking from multiple perspectives, being as sympathetic as possible, and by virtue of that sympathy its criticisms are that much more biting and compelling. The weakness of the book, however, is the superficiality of its underlying analysis of the economy and ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about this topic in the New Yorker and am sympathetic to the author's view of things. But the beginning of this book was so relentlessly repetitious that I couldn't carry on reading it. I felt that it went beyond "not my taste" to "where is your editor?".
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly effective trade book on political economy, globalism, elites, consultants, and philanthropy. It is effective because it ties together a bunch of related ideas under a broader and persuasive story. That story is about a class of business activities that can be viewed with such headings as “positive” “socially directed” “entrepreneurial”, “social entrepreneurship”, and “sustainable”. Mix and match on these terms as you wish, but this approach towards socially conscious business is ...more
Michael Perkins
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
on point synopsis by Masha Gessen from The New Yorker....

Anand Giridharadas takes on the ethos of “doing good by doing well”: the feel-good ideology that enables people who think of themselves as good, principled, politically aware, and even woke to contribute to—and benefit from—ever-increasing inequality. Giridharadas’s characters are McKinsey consultants who believe that they are changing the world for the better, academics who have traded thinking for reductive and lucrative “thought
Eric Lin
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting counterweight to the seemingly endless stream of optimism and inspiration coming out of the vast majority of leaders in tech these days.

Creating a startup to solve the problem should not be the default answer to every problem, argues the author. The populism that has sprung up in the past few years, ushering leaders like Trump and Boris Johnson to power is rooted in a very wide gulf between these 'market worlders', and the people they claim to be helping.

For example, the economy
Daniel Beck
Mar 16, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I basically agreed with the thesis of this book and yet I cannot recommend it at all.

I was looking forward to this one. I listened to an interview with Anand Giridharadas and was excited to read the book. I was hoping to learn how to talk critically about the favorite myth of technologists, financiers, and other wealthy, powerful people: that corporate greed can function as a substitute for public institutions in improving the world. I was fully predisposed to like this book. Instead, I got a
Sonya Dutta Choudhury
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To take on the philanthropists of the world, accusing them of being part of a charade, takes some nerve. Giridhardas, a former New York Times Columnist and author, appears to have this in plenty.

The fireworks start from the title, through to the opening quote from Leo Tolstoy.

“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”.

Giridhardas takes
Dan Connors
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books
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.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incisive, hard-hitting critique on philanthrocapitalism full of sarcasm, humour and a ton of food for thought. The author very clearly lays out his privileges, insider-outsider status and unpacks the whole 'i want to save the world' charade that elite across the world are engaged in. If you are someone working in impact investing, non-profits, social enterprises, CSR, this is a compulsory read, that will challenge your assumptions and question your beliefs but also enable you to look at yourself ...more
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Anand Giridharadas writes the Admit One column for the New York Times's arts pages and the Currents column for its global edition. He is the author of India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of A Nation's Remaking. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“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.” 16 likes
“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.” 14 likes
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