Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can--except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it.
Today’s business elite are more involved than ever in solving social problems. From poverty and disease to working conditions in the 'gig' economy, capitalism’s winners use philanthropy and 'win-win' business ventures to achieve what government programs used to address. But what if, Giridharadas asks, these very elites have been and continue to be the sources of many of these problems? ... An exciting book club pick, 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.
Well, prepare for a new genre: books gently and politely skewering the corporate titans who claim to be solving such problems [of social inequality]... Anand Giridharadas, a former columnist for The New York Times, spoke about this phenomenon at an Aspen Institute conference in 2015, and he takes his ideas further in his entertaining and gripping new book ... He beautifully catches the language of Aspen, Davos and the recently extant Clinton Global Initiative, which will doubtless reappear in the newly born Bloomberg initiative. It’s a world of feel-good clichés like 'win-win' and 'make a difference' ... At Davos and the other international conclaves where the muckety-mucks celebrate the new economic world they have helped create, which has rewarded them so amply, corporate leaders move seamlessly from sessions discussing the risks of climate change, growing inequality and financial instability, to dinners at which they praise tax cuts for billionaires and corporations and applaud proposals for deregulation ... Giridharadas rightly argues that this misallocation of resources creates a grave opportunity cost ... 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. Perhaps recognizing the intractability and complexity of the fix we are in, Giridharadas sidesteps prescriptions ... The subtitle of the book says it all: 'The Elite Charade of Changing the World.'
Winners Take All is so readable because it is told through characters ... Giridharadas isn’t just raising questions. He’s come to big conclusions: that MarketWorld, along with its philosophical antecedents, like Carnegie-ism and neoliberalism...has been an abject failure. To prove his point, he doesn’t engage in any specific analysis. In fact, he doesn’t even mention, let alone examine, what is arguably MarketWorld’s most powerful and influential actor: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As big-picture proof of the failure of the status quo, Giridharadas cites his indebtedness to Thomas Piketty’s 'masterpiece' on the growth of inequality, Capital in the Twenty First Century. He argues that any thesis that the world has actually improved over the course of human history is simply a form of brainwashing ... For readers who are cynical about the private sector but also versed enough in history to be cynical about governments, the book would have been more powerful if Giridharadas had stayed within his definition of an old-school public intellectual: someone who is willing to throw bombs at the current state of affairs, but lacks the arrogance and self-righteousness that comes with believing you have the solution.