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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

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4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,842 ratings  ·  324 reviews

'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' Joseph Stiglitz, New York Times Book Review

'In Anand's thought-provoking book his fresh perspective on solving complex soc

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Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published January 24th 2019 by Penguin (first published August 28th 2018)
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Popular Answered Questions
Nir Sagiv Antonio, the question is not globalization, or coming together, it’s how it is done, and who is benefiting from it.
The question is why in all those…more
Antonio, the question is not globalization, or coming together, it’s how it is done, and who is benefiting from it.
The question is why in all those glory “do good” gatherings of philanthropy no one ever discuss the responsibilities of the elite, sometime causing the problems they want to fix.

How does those processes work and where is the accountability.
In addition how come that despite the tremendous amount of talent and money the elite have, in addition to their great abilities the numbers show no progress to most people and deeper inequality in society.
You should read the book, and make up your own mind.(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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 ·  1,842 ratings  ·  324 reviews


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BlackOxford
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 w
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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 Zuck
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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 ...more
Cesar
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Mehrsa
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Linh
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 enterpris ...more
Darnell
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 f
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Dolly
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 start ...more
Nils
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Meredith
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Peter 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 dimini ...more
Michael Perkins
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
on point synopsis 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 in for reductive and lucrative “thought leadership,” and mor
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Hamsini
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Dan Connors
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mr. Girid
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John Spiller
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 ...more
Emily
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?".
Michael Tackett
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Steve Turtell
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Wendy Liu
so good! an insider look at the moral bankruptcy of philanthrocapitalism. very accessible but still riveting. highly recommended
David Wunderlich
The author crystallizes a good critique and rebuke of the intellectual elite classes, though he waits until the acknowledgements to, well, acknowledge a fuller extent of how much he was part of the problem and to an extent still is.

It’s evident elsewhere anyway, as he only mentions Bill Gates in passing without singling him out for much despite him being the epitome of a modern day robber baron trying to launder his reputation through a foundation bearing his name. Not surprisingly given the ki
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Paul Ark
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Paula Lyle
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
"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
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Michael Siliski
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 v
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Radiantflux
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, politics
111th book for 2018.

We used to have public intellectuals, now we have thought leaders. Intellectuals wrote books with difficult truths that people didn't like; thought leaders give empowering talks at Davos and TED.

If this sounds too hard, consider that "social inequality" is a forbidden phrase in TED talks, as it suggests to the rich audience (+2000 dollars a ticket) that change that might effect them directly is necessary. "Poverty" on the other hand is fine, especially if some scheme is propo
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Randy
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will write a review later, it's definitely among the most mind-provocative books. In my mind, the following books provide most puzzle pieces to the big picture:

Robert Kuttner's "Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?" offers an excellent overall view from the angle of economics.

George Packer's "The Unwinding" provides a good ground level view.

Stephen Brill's "Tailspin" focuses on the ideas behind the changes in the last few decades, including the intended and unintended consequences of merito
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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
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Abby
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Adam McNamara
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, nonfiction
Winners Take All is about the elite’s “charade of changing the world.” Specifically, it’s about how wealthy people do a modest bit of good (through philanthropy) while doing nothing about larger systems of injustice (that they may or may not benefit from).

The author’s line of argument is as follows:

1. The world is full of problems.
”...rising inequalities of income, wealth and opportunities; the growing disconnect between finance and the real economy; mounting divergence in productivity levels be
...more
Greg
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Dana
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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.” 8 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.” 7 likes
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