Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World
January 21, 2019
This week, we're giving away Anand Giridharadas' brilliant book on "The Elite Charade of Changing the World," which we named as the best book of 2018.
Last Thursday, we announced our business book of year for 2018. Today, we are giving away 20 copies of that book.
And it seems fitting that we are giving away Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, by Anand Giridharadas, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as it is a book about an issue central to King's activism—economic justice.
We tend to remember King only for his work combating racial inequality and segregation, but forget that the 1963 March on Washington was a "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." Jobs and freedom. And we do not often celebrate the march on Washington he organized just five years later, the "Poor People's March on Washington," a part of his broader Poor People's Campaign to gain economic justice for all poor people in the United States—perhaps because he was assassinated before the event took place.
Brandon Terry reminded us recently in the Boston Review just how prescient King was on economic issues:
King worried in Why We Can’t Wait that, without mass action, the poor would be left “on a lonely island of economic insecurity in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” In the face of accelerating automation and the elimination of living-wage jobs, King endorsed a number of egalitarian policies, including basic income and a full-employment guarantee, which have once again become rallying cries.
Clint Smith, author of Counting Descent, asked of people on Twitter today:
If you’re doing an MLK day service project, consider bringing a King-level analysis to it. For example, don’t just serve lunch at a soup kitchen, interrogate why we allow millions of ppl to live in poverty in the first place.
King’s legacy isn’t about charity, it’s about justice.
The brilliance of Winners Take All is that it takes that interrogation to a societal level, exposing how charity is often used in lieu of justice—how philanthropic efforts prop up and perpetuate the injustices and inequalities that wealthy benefactors claim they're trying to address, all while imbuing them with even greater power. Winners Take All is a King-level analysis of our entire Philanthrocapitalist system, and a brilliant one. Some people, including Anand himself, have questioned whether it's really a business book, and that's fair. But we would then have to begin questioning whether or not The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (about the "The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron" ) or When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein (about the "The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management") are business books. And they undoubtedly are, even though they expose the fraudulent nature of those businesses. Giridharadas exposes as a fraud the way in which the global elite rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor people, even as they perpetuate the economics that make people poor.
Anand's wife Priya Parker (author of The Art of Gathering, which was also on the longlist for the award this year) accepted the award on his behalf. Reading a message Anand sent from London, she said the fact that we chose the book as the year's best was either evidence that business people don't read the books they give awards to or that "we are in such a dramatic and earthshaking moment in our country and world history that there is an openness to real criticism and real new paths forward." It is very much the latter. We feel that it's a book with a message that needs to be spread, and we can't let worry about whether people will question whether or not it's a proper "business book" stop us from elevating it. If you were to ask me what my favorite business book of all time is, I’d probably say Jeanne Marie Laskas’ Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work. But I didn’t review it when it came out in 2012 because I wasn’t sure it qualified as a “business book.” I guess I’m still not, but I can’t worry about that definition anymore, and I wish I hadn't then. Hidden America is a book about business, a book about working people and the work they do, brilliantly told by a preeminent journalist, and I shouldn't have let the consideration of whether it was a proper "business book" stop me from sharing its brilliance with others. One of the most surprising revelations from that book was that many coal miners go into the mines to hold on to their family farms. As Laskas tells it:
I heard that kind of story over and over again. Only a few of the coal miners I met didn't own at least a hundred acres of Ohio farmland, chunks passed through the generations, added to, divided up among brothers and sisters. Farming doesn't pay the bills, so you go into the coal mines. The deep. rich, plentiful mines of the Appalachia region are what helped so many family farms east of the Mississippi intact for over a century.
But what if those farmers marched on Washington for economic justice instead of marching into the mines? As Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech to Local 1199 in New York City of the Poor People's March:
When we go to Washington, we’re going to have black people because black people are poor, but we’re going to also have Puerto Ricans because Puerto Ricans are poor in the United States of America. We’re going to have Mexican Americans because they are mistreated. We’re going to have Indian Americans because they are mistreated. And for those who will not allow their prejudice to cause them to blindly support their oppressor, we’re going to have Appalachian whites with us in Washington.
We’re going there to engage in powerful nonviolent direct action to demand, to bring into being an attention-getting dramatic movement, which will make it impossible for the nation to overlook these demands. Now, they may not do anything about it. People ask me, “Suppose you go to Washington and you don’t get anything?” You ask people and you mobilize and you organize, and you don’t get anything. You’ve been an absolute failure. My only answer is that when you stand up for justice, you can never fail.
The forces that have the power to make a concession to the forces of justice and truth and right, but who refuse to do it and they follow the path of darkness still, are the forces that fail. We, as poor people, going to struggle for justice, can’t fail. If there is no response from the federal government, from the Congress, that’s the failure, not those who are struggling for justice.
If you cover business topics, as we do, pointing out how and where big business interests and the billionaire class undermine economic justice should be a requirement. We are grateful to Anand Giridharadas for giving us a vehicle, in the form of his brilliant book Winners Take All, to do that this year. All of which is a long way of saying that, of course we think Winners Take All is a business book, one we would strongly encourage everyone to read. Which is why we have named it the 2018 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year.
We have 20 copies available.