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Winners Take All

The Elite Charade of Changing the World
Written by: Anand Giridharadas
Narrated by: Anand Giridharadas
Length: 9 hrs and 36 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (68 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Best Seller

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

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 can - except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. We see how they rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; how they lavishly reward "thought leaders" who redefine "change" in winner-friendly ways; and how they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm. We hear the limousine confessions of a celebrated foundation boss; witness an American president hem and haw about his plutocratic benefactors; and attend a cruise-ship conference where entrepreneurs celebrate their own self-interested magnanimity.  

Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. A call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.

©2018 Anand Giridharadas (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“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)

"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)

"Provocative and passionate... This damning portrait of contemporary American philanthropy is a must-read for anyone interested in 'changing the world."" (Publishers Weekly)

“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)

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does all change need to be Win Win?

A very thought-provoking book on the type of changes we see in our society that is celebrated. In a society where the winners take all, they are also giving back at an unprecedented scale. Americans gave $410B in 2017 larger than the GDP of countries like Israel and Ireland. However, the very fact of giving lets them dictate the types of change they will effect in the world. A change that must help the winners or at least not harm the winners when effecting that change. This is likely to perpetuate if not accelerate trends we have seen over the last 30 years where we have seen the gap between the rich and poor widen. A world where the top 26 people have as much as the bottom 50% of the world. Should it be the winners in place of government who should be affecting this change? Does all change need to be "win-win"?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Critical look on what we never think to criticize

A daring look at philanthropy, it's roots and its effects. I've always mistrusted something about the Clinton Foundation and other known charities, but haven't been able to articulate my thoughts in a meaningful way until this book

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Important, interesting and enjoyable

I really appreciated this book. I had recently listened to The retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce. There is a clear connexion between the two books in that both, at a basic level, address the effects of growing inequality and the disregard of elites for the poor and lower middle class. Giridharadas’ book is focused on the US, unlike Luce’s; this allows him to drill down into the thinking of US élites, mostly philanthropists, when they are actually doing their best to do good. The central message, developed through detailed accounts of conversations with many members of the élite, is that the system that allows some to acquire vast wealth does a great deal of harm; and that it is not enough for wealthy people to give back through philanthropy, they should be much more heavily taxed, so that the government can do what it is supposed to do, democratically and accountably, to the benefit of the great majority. As the author acknowledges at the end, as a part of that system he is himself complicit with it, as no doubt (I would add) many if not all of us with above median incomes are. What is needed is political involvement so that the system can be profoundly reformed, so that it better serves more people. And thus, returning to Luce’s book, the impetus for populism would be, if not eliminated, at least mitigated.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-10-10

Profound.

This book was one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in recent memory. Many things I’ve unknowingly been taking for granted as more or less orthodoxy when it comes to notions of changing the world we’re challenged and turned on their respective heads. Just an incredibly interesting, urgent, devastatingly relevant book.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • B. Tyroler
  • 2018-11-30

5 minutes in I knew this book would change my life

Fresh look at how the world economy works. Very thought provoking, I feel like I need to listen a 2nd time- a lot to digest.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean O'Shea
  • 2018-09-30

Wow: A searing review a CHARADE we need to face squarely

I have long thought that Anand was “an interesting guy on the scene”.
His cogent observations and truth-telling experience are really a hopeful assessment of the new realities which are confounding for many of us. Valuable read. Worthy of your time, for sure.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Coyote
  • 2018-11-26

A brilliant frame breaker

This book pulls the cover off Smiley Face world changing philanthropy, - I call the members of the Mari Antoinnette society-making and proving it’s case that the people who created the problems Wreaking so much havoc in the world are framing their solutions in Ways which protect their wealth and status and change nothing. They are essentially anti-democratic people privatizing all solutions and framing government out of the picture. a wonderful book

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Carl A. Gallozzi
  • 2018-09-17

Pay attention to the Elite behind the Curtain....

"rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own.

From the Second Verse of
"God Bless The Child"
Billie Holiday and Arthur J. Herzog, Jr.
1939

Anand Giridhardas has generated a very readable and important book about the subtle and not too subtle of Philanthropy undertaken by Winners in the Global Competition.

Just a few nuggets:

There is no intellectual counterweight to the current state of hyper capitalism.

Significant private Philanthropy is basically opaque - who's giving what with what strings for what purpose.

Private Philanthropy spends a great deal of money, time and effort on implementing the "apparatus of justification" for their wealth, how it was accumulated and what they are doing with it- sort of Pity the Poor Billionaire that has to follow regulations and pay taxes.

Private Philanthropy in some instances is undertaking some tasks that had been the province of Governments - although now with opaqueness and no accountability.

This is an important subject related to inequality.

Before I read this book I hadn't thought too much about Private Philanthropy and where these people originally got their money - was it legal, ethical and for a better good?

I liked that he generated this enlightening premise - he said the same theme 'n' times.

I would recommend to any individual who has an interest in wealth and income inequality - it's short and longer term effects.

The rating was chosen as the story, subject are speaks for itself - whatever shortcomings are made up during the read.

Carl Gallozzi
Cgallozzi@comcast.net

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Mira Krishnan
  • 2018-09-06

It's hard to know what to make of this book.

Giridharadas raises a really important question, and he offers the beginnings of an analysis that has the potential to really re-think our relationship with society as intellectual and economic elites. However, the question I am left with is whether his book, that criticizes the McKinsey way for cramming concepts into stock organizational schemes and criticizes Mr. Trump for having been the worst example of the very thing he campaigned against, is this same thing, itself. That is, Giridharadas offers interesting anecdotes and interview testimony from others like himself, but he never really goes beyond scratching the surface. He begins the book with a fairly pre-existing hypothesis and never critiques or tests this hypothesis. And as he, as he admits in the acknowledgements (which is, in many senses, the best chapter of the book and is well worth the listen), he has been, again and again, part of the problem himself.

I'm just not sure this book is also not part of the problem and not part of the solution. At its best, it presages the book that actually needs to be written, that actually critically analyzes and assesses this situation, and real investigation into potential answers and possibly scalable models for solving this kind of disproportionate and self-interested impact that we have as economic and influence elites (by way of disclosure I am a consultant and I am sure that I, too, am frequently part of the problem).

I do want to say, on the positive side, Giridharadas self-narrating is perfect. His style is perfectly matched to his writing. His fast talking, glib way of quoting his interviewees fits with the half-thought, intellectually lazy ideas he encounters. He was an outstanding narrator in all respects.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-01-21

A much needed inquiry into the world of impact

As someone who works in the world that Anand investigates, I felt that many of his words articulated what for years many of us thought to ourselves quietly but could not find the words and the courage to express. The book however, does not offer any alternative worlds in which change making can be done. In that sense, Anand is not being the “thought-leader” he talks about in his book but rather a true journalist who investigates and communicates an idea.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Samantha H.
  • 2019-01-11

It inspires reflection and I'm better for it

I am a better person for having read this book and it has shifted the way I exam the world around me. Listening to the arugements unfold wasn't always easy and I found myself debating with my steering wheel most days when I was in the car by myself listening. Having worked in and studied development, and worked in the corporate world as well, I felt the book did make an incredibly good case for an uncomfortable feeling I've had in the pit if my stomach about both sectors for a long but didn't know how to articulate or even exam fully. I definitely have been a market world thinker for most of my career and I deeply appreciate this book for helping me identify and reexamine that position so I can find ways to serve my community.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Listener
  • 2018-10-23

Unexpectedly Powerful Perspective

I listened to Anand Giridharadas on a couple of NPR shows and podcasts and found what he was saying was interesting, but didn’t run out to buy the audiobook…. Am so pleased that I finally did. The underlying question is: What is the best way to improve the lives of the majority of Americans who have not experienced the economic gains of the past 40 years. The answer from the mega-rich is: them. You hear of their “do-gooding” everywhere: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Bill Clinton, Bloomberg and many other less well known (like the Sacklers whose company, Purdue, markets OxyContin) among many others who grew or inherited great fortunes.

Giridharadas gives a detailed and compelling argument that this beneficence from the "globalists" is not the best method to solve America's inequities. It helps small pockets of people, but will do nothing to fix the problems systemically. Not only does it not help, but it contributes to the financial inequities all around us. Silicon Valley is especially targeted for their unwise and uninformed digital “problem solving”. And it seems that many (most?) companies get on the philanthropic bandwagon to hobnob with other elites to enhance their brand and therefore bottom line. "Doing well by doing good"

I just devoured this book and want to say so much more, but the publisher’s summary is apt and I urge anyone who is a little interested in this idea to listen or read this book. What a fresh perspective to the idea that a small percentage of people who take 80% of the gains from our economy’s growth are justified if they then become philanthropists and give back some of their wealth in ways they see fit (and they are unaccountable). There are many stories of insiders on both sides of the argument - that is the ultimate success of the book - the research.

Narration was perfect. I don't think you'll be sorry getting this book. So worth a credit.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Erik Foley
  • 2019-07-14

exquisite debunking of the win-win myth

one of the best books I have ever red in both expression and content. I teach sustainable business and social entrepreneurship and I'm very aware of the dark side of the concepts and stories that I traffic in. winners take all is a critical deconstruction of the motives and culture the drives the current fascination with social impact among the world's Financial Elite. the author does concede the business and markets have a role to play in solving the world's social problems but he puts greater faith in our political systems at every level. I'm grateful for having read this book and will be sharing it with many of my colleagues and Friends. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful