Ben Smithgall

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Software and data at Spotify. Previously with U.S. Digital Service and Code for America.

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Winners Take All

By Anand Giridharadas

Finished reading on January 5, 2019

Giridharadas notes all the way in the appendix that he fits very well into MarketWorld, having worked at McKinsey, spoken at Ted, and received a number of the fellowships that he decries in the book. That being said, his criticisms are well-founded, especially around philanthropy. His critique of the Gospel of Wealth is not necessarily new, but some of the criticisms of the philanthropy are.

Perhaps the weakest part of the book is that there really isn’t a lot of though given into how we move forward. Part of his case is that MarketWorld has become such an effective way of thinking because it has supplanted the role of government. Culturally, we have decided that we don’t want to support democratic institutions and instead want to trust “business,” but Giridharadas does a lot of work to show that “business thinking” falls short, especially when it comes to philanthropy and governance. He says that he prefers democratic and governmental solutions, but simultaneously admits that those solutions are not really feasible given that the public no longer supports them. So where does this leave us? What are we supposed to do? How can we possibly oppose or question MarketWorld, given how powerful its leaders are, and how clearly they disregard or absorb criticism.

The book makes me think a bit about Naomi Klein’s work, especially some of what she hints at in No Logo: as we moved into the 21st century, corporations became more nimble and able to re-purpose criticism into their own advertising. I wonder if Giridharadas’s work will be expropriated in the same way by MarketWorld types.

★★★★☆