Winners Take All | Anand Giridharadas

Summary of: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World
By: Anand Giridharadas


In ‘Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,’ Anand Giridharadas explores the concept of corporate elites redefining social progress to suit their own interests. The book tackles the issues surrounding the rising economic inequality perpetuated by neoliberalism and the free market ideology. Readers can anticipate an insightful investigation into the win-win mentality of elites, the role of thought leaders, the application of business approaches in solving social issues, and how wealthy people use philanthropy to their advantage.

Redefining Social Progress

Recent college graduates like Hilary Cohen are facing tough career decisions in the wake of the global financial crisis. They want to make a difference in a world dominated by rising economic and social inequalities. Many believe the way to do this is by joining the business world and adopting its tools and methods. This prevailing ideology, known as neoliberalism, emphasizes the free market and minimizing regulation and intervention. However, it risks putting wealthy elites in charge and brushing aside questions about power and inequality. Adherents of neoliberalism need to recognize the need for a fairer distribution of resources to promote true social progress.

The Problem with Win-Win

The win-win principle, when applied by the elites, perpetuates inequality rather than addressing it. This is because their focus is on profit rather than social change. The idea of everyone benefitting without any sacrifices sounds good, but it misses the point that only a few really benefit from productivity growth. The solution is to redistribute profits more equally.

The Denial of Power

The book challenges the idea of a future where every human being will be an entrepreneur, where technology will prolong our lives, and where online videos will replace text communication. More often than not, the powerful pretend they lack power. They use this to pose as rebels against the establishment while hiding the real power they have. It’s a great trick to use – pick an idea that’ll benefit your business, turn it into a humble prediction of things to come, and push for the future you want while making it look as if no one has a choice. Take Uber, for example. The denial of its power was what allowed the company to profit from exploiting its drivers, but its actual influence over them was too vast to fly under the radar.

The Rise of Thought Leaders

Nowadays, society gets information from popular online sources in bite-size chunks. This makes it easier for elites to rely on thought leaders to preserve the status quo and maintain their power. Thought leaders are storytellers who zoom in on superficial solutions instead of asking about the root causes of a problem. They offer positive, simple solutions to challenging issues that make ideas attractive to the elites who’d rather not relinquish their power but want to appear to care. The difficult roots of the issue remain untouched. Thought leaders are perfect for maintaining the status quo at the surface level.

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