Winners Take All Book Summary - Winners Take All Book explained in key points
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Winners Take All summary

Anand Giridharadas

The Elite Charade of Changing the World

4.1 (207 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

'Winners Take All' by Anand Giridharadas is a compelling critique of philanthrocapitalism. It challenges the notion that the wealthy can use their philanthropy to address societal issues while still preserving the very system that creates inequality.

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    Winners Take All
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    Corporate elites have redefined social progress to suit their own interests.

    Like most young adults coming of age in the wake of the global financial crash, recent philosophy graduate Hilary Cohen was facing some tough decisions about her future. She knew she wanted to make a difference. She just wasn’t sure how. Should she work for a non-profit? Train as a rabbi? Or would she have to learn to think like an entrepreneur to make the world a better place for everyone? That was the way she was leaning.

    And she was not alone among her generation.

    The key message here is: Corporate elites have redefined social progress to suit their own interests.

    No one who’s been around in the last few decades can fail to notice the rising inequality in the world at large, and particularly in the US. In fact, Google searches for “inequality” doubled among Americans in the four years between 2010 and Cohen’s graduation in 2014.

    That same year, Thomas Piketty – author of surprise bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century – coauthored an article that brought the stark contrasts clearly into view. His study found that if college graduates like Hilary Cohen reached the top 10 percent of earners, she’d be making twice as much as she would’ve in 1980. For the bottom half of earners, on the other hand, the average income rise was just $200 in total.

    In this atmosphere of polarizing wealth, economic and social inequalities were becoming more and more visible to young people like Cohen. The desire to do something about them was growing, and Cohen and her peers were increasingly convinced that making a difference meant joining the business world and training in its methods. She decided to join a top management consultancy. That way, she’d be able to use capitalism’s tools to solve social problems. 

    Without knowing it, Cohen had absorbed the prevailing ideology about how to change the world – known as neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is based on a belief in the free market. The idea is that if you leave individuals to pursue their personal goals in the free market and minimize regulation and statist intervention, people will be the happiest and most prosperous. Adherents of neoliberalism believe that it’s the big companies that change the world for the better, by applying their business knowledge to social problems like poverty.

    But this belief comes with a big risk. If you put wealthy elites in charge, challenging questions about power and inequality are going to be brushed aside. After all, the powerful don’t want to give up their power. And that’s exactly what they would have to do if resources were to be shared in a fairer way.

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    What is Winners Take All about?

    Winners Take All (2019) reveals the tricks and strategies used by global elites to justify preserving the status quo. It explores the ways that their endeavors to make the world a better place in fact serve to keep existing injustices and inequalities in place. And it shows how the language of change hides the role of the rich and powerful in causing the very problems they’re aiming to solve.  

    Who should read Winners Take All?

    • Global citizens concerned about social justice
    • Everyone who wants to understand how the rich and powerful run the world
    • Plutocrats ready to do a little soul searching

    About the Author

    Anand Giridharadas is a best-selling writer and journalist. He’s an editor-at-large for Time magazine and has worked as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the New York Times. His writing has been published in the Atlantic, the New Republic, and the New Yorker. He is also the author of The True American and India Calling.

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