Anand Giridharadas and the Argument for Dismantling the Philanthropic Billionaire

Twitter isn't the key to doing it

Anand Giridharadas
Giridharadas struck a chord with his 2018 best-seller "Winners Take All"
Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / October 21, 2019 4:07 pm

Best-selling author and journalist Anand Giridharadas isn’t sold on the idea that billionaires can redeem themselves solely through philanthropy and a convincing display of good intentions, and he’s even gotten some of those billionaires to agree with him.

The author of the 2018 best-seller Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, Giridharadas is challenging what Fast Company‘s Ainsley Harris called “the cult of the billionaire” in a recent profile. According to Giridharadas, we’ve all been to willing to give the billionaires at the head of some of the world’s most destructive corporations a free pass to a squeaky-clean reputation as long as they’re willing to throw some money toward a philanthropic effort or two. As the the 1% continue to use their wealth to control American society from the top down, argues Giridharadas, it’s no surprise inequality in the country continues to rise unchecked.

Perhaps surprisingly, as Harris noted, Giridharadas’s book managed to strike a chord even among the wealthy classes and organizations it challenges. From Obama Foundation dinners to lectures at Google, Giridharadas’s ideas are taking hold among the elite institutions that have the power to implement them.

This, as the author told Harris, is largely the result of his strategic attack on the system, rather than the individuals that perpetuate it. “It’s not that [they’re] bad people,” Giridharadas told Harris. “It’s good people ambling into these structures and then sticking to them at [an] emotional, cultural, self-belief level.”

Giridharadas also believes the platform he uses to advance this message makes a difference. On a platform like Twitter, he argued, people will quickly tune out any challenge to their fundamental beliefs, but they’re more likely to meet you halfway if they’ve read a clear and respectful thesis laid out in a book.

“Books are a place where you can tell the truth, where you can be a critic,” Giridharadas said. “There’s a space for unencumbered honesty.”

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