winners take all
(2018) by Anand Giridharadas
conferences and idea festivals sponsored by plutocrats and big business host panels on injustice and promote ‘thought leaders’ who are willing to confine their thinking to improving lives w/in the faulty system ..t.. rather than tackling the faults..
or rather.. creating a nother way
in an era in which these elites have done so much to help, they have continued to hoard the overwhelming share of progress..
there is no denying that today’s elite may be among the more socially concerned elites in history. but it is also, by the cold logic of numbers, among the more predatory in history.. by refusing to risk its way of life, by rejecting the idea that the powerful might have to sacrifice for the common good, it clings to a set of social arrangements that allow it to monopolize progress and then give symbolic scraps to the forsaken – many of whom wouldn’t need the scraps if the society were working right..
this book is an attempt to understand the connection between these elites’ social concern and predation.. between the milking – and perhaps abetting – an unjust status quo and the attempts by the milkers to repair a small part of it..
it is also an attempt to offer a view of how the elite see the world, so that we might better assess the merits and limitations of their world changing campaigns
no question that the outpouring of elite-led social change in our era does great good and soothes pain and saves lives. but we should also recall oscar wilde’s words about such elite helpfulness being ‘not a solution’ but ‘an aggravation of the difficulty’
we need to go deep enough for all of us
‘just as worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves.. and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in present state of things in england, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good’
what’s wrong w trying to do good? may be: when the good is an accomplice to even greater, if more invisible harm..
in an age defined by chasm between those who have power and those who don’t, elites have spread the idea that people must be helped, but only in market friendly ways that do not upset fundamental power equations.. t.. the society should be changed in ways that do not change the underlying econ system that has allowed the winners to win and fostered many of the problems they seek to solve..
the broad fidelity to this law helps make sense of what we observe all around: the powerful fighting to ‘change the world’ in ways that essentially keep it the same..t
the people w the most to lose from genuine social change have placed themselves in charge of social change..t
what is at stake is whether the reform of our common life is led by govts elected by and accountable to the people
when has that ever happened
or rather by wealthy elites claiming to know our best interests
those aren’t our only two choices..
yes, govt is dysfunctional at present. but that is all the more reason to treat its repair as our foremost national priority
it is my hope in writing what follows to reveal these myths to be exactly that. much of what appears to be reform in our time is in fact the defense of stasis.. when we see thru the myths.. it will once again be possible to improve the world w/o permission slips from the powerful
1 – but how is the world changed?
many of them quietly wonder whether there is *another way and what **their place in it might be..t
2 – win win
behind asher’s portfolio w purpose, rosenstein’s asana and countless other similarly minded initiatives, there stands a radical theory. it is a new twist on an old idea about the beneficial side effects of self interest. the long standing idea took root in the emerging commercial society’s of urban europe a few centuries ago.. . the idea that self love trickles down to other is an early ancestor of win win ism..
what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people.. so eudaimoniative surplus is the way to go.. ie: it’s not about taking care of our selves.. it’s about doing the thing we can’ t not do.. but we have to let go of measuring/managing any of it.. or it won’t work..
it’s not the doing what you love that is hurting us.. (although i’d question if any of us are really doing what we love.. or just the best thing we can get by with in this system of measures/rewards et al..).. it’s the measuring/validating.. it’s the money.. that’s getting us.. we have to let go of that to get back/to meadows undisturbed ecosystem
what if the elites simply need to part w more of their money in order for every american to have, say, a semi decent public school
go deeper man
why is money always assumed..?
3 – rebel kings in worrisome berets
cruise ship of elites to change the world – summit..
selena soo: ‘when their business grows the world becomes a better place’ – view of many entrepreneur types
pishevar’s refusal to own up to his power was not an isolated occurrence. such modesty is a defining feature of sv and epicenter or new power. ‘they fight as though they are insurgents while they operate as though they are kings’.. writes danah boyd..
bill gates: ‘we are all created equal in the virtual world, and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world.. the network will not eliminate barriers of prejudice or ineq but it will be a powerful force in that direction’
it is hard to overstate how influential this belief has become in market world, esp in sv.. ie: if every girl in afghanistan had a smartphone.. if every classroom were linked to the web.. et al
fb despite calling itself a ‘community’ single handedly redefine the world ‘friend’ for much of humanity, based on what was best for its own business model..
perhaps most unlikely featured speaker at summit at sea was ed snowden..
snowden when asked about a start up.. seemed taken aback.. here he was talking about heresy and truth and freedom and now he was being asked about a start up.. ..’ i don’t like to promote things.. i would rather simply do it.. if it works.. expands.. that’s wonderful.. but for me i don’t tend to think that i’m going to be working in a commercial space..’
here was a man who didn’t like to promote himself, who didn’t crave money, who was actually fighting the system and willing to lose for the greater good to win..
at summit.. snowden called for ‘one spot anywhere in the world where we can experiment where we can be safe’.. for him this was a serious vision perhaps involving life and death..t
what connects these various notions is a fantasy of living free of govt
fantasy..?.. undisturbed ecosystem is way less ridiculous than what we’re doing now..
but a long line of thinkers has told us that the powerful tend to be the big winners from the creation of blank slate, rules free world.. jo freeman..t.. in 72 essay – tyranny of structurelessness observed when groups operate on vague or anarchic terms, struturelessness ‘become a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others’
not today (and i’m not even sure she meant that- in the way we read it (ie: graeber’s take) – i think she was taking structure to be ginorm small.. which we haven’t yet tried).. not to mention the means we have today (tech as it could be..) to ground the chaos .. to embrace the entropy.. of a seemingly structureless world.. by.. giving everyone .. something else to do/be
someone always rules.. the question is who
all of us.. has to be all of us.. everyday.. via cure ios city
on trebor and platform cooperativism.. here was a rarity: a no strings attached idea for actually changing the world..t
4 – the critic and the thought leader
it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it – upton sinclair..t
(andrew) zolli – (curator of poptech) – believed that the desire to solve underlying problems is ‘an alluring and moral vision’ but ultimately wrong. the problems were perhaps here to stay and it was more important he argued to tech people to cope.. ie: bolster resilience of children in foster care.. a lot easier than fixing foster care
you can talk about our common problems, but don’t be political, don’t focus on root causes, don’t go after boogeymen, don’t try to change fundamental things. give hope. roll w the waves. that is the marketworld way..t
amy cuddy – ‘i’m going to talk today about body language’.. w/o necessarily intending to, she was giving marketworld what it craved in a thinker: a way of framing a problem that made it about giving bits of power to those who lack it w/o taking power away from those who hold it..
thinkers are invited to become the elite’s teachers on the circuit of ‘big idea get togethers’ – ted, sxsw, aspen ideas, milken … these thinkers often find themselves having become thought leaders w/o realizing it after ‘a slow accretion of opps that are hard to refuse
thought leader 3 step: 1\ focus on victim (adam grant) 2\ personalize the political – zoom in – not focusing on poverty, abuse, addiction.. but rather on feeling grateful for vulnerability – live bravely – use power of thoughts to zoom in a think smaller (brené brown) 3\ be constructively actionable – on saying what org wants heard and making a living of speaking engagements (malcolm gladwell)
the money can liberate the top thought leaders from the institution and colleagues that might otherwise provide some kind of advertisements rather than self contained work..
there is tremendous pressure to turn thoughts into commodities ..t..- into tiny, usable take aways.. into ideas that are profitable rather then compelling for their own sake.. to give into this pressure.. to make your thoughts more actionable.. is in effect to surrender..
the poet realizes that he has no chance of getting his way because the language in which he is forced to speak belongs to another domain.. thought leaders can find themselves becoming like poets speaking a tax collector’s language, saying what they might not say or belive on their own.. t.. and the danger isn’t only in what they say in this new language, but also in the possibility that they might somewhere down the line stop thinking in their native one
not to mention all the time/energy in learning this other language in the first place.. which too is all the more reason to stop thinking in their native one.. so much invested..
cuddy (her ted 2nd most watched.. 40 million) say herself as a person who had fought in the trenches against sexism for most of her career, but not she was being played back to herself as the dispenser of easy fixes.. when marketworld likes you.. it wants you as a product..
cuddy felt it harder and harder to speak truths like this the better known she became..
she stopped believing that ‘people are going to make the big sweeping changes that are actually going to change these things’
if she was right, she felt that her best strategy was to help women see the kinds of small scale changes they could make w/o changing anything
she would teach them to roll w the waves.. she would focus on victims, not the perpetrators
ugh… yeah that.. very much school reform/abolition as well
the irony of all this is dark: scaling back her critique of the system had allowed her to be wildly popular and more easily digested.. she became famous.. which heightened her awareness..and its ferocity convinced her not to take on that system but conclude it might never change.. made her turn from uprooting to helping to survive.. she had been drafted into a growing brigade: the theorist of the kind of change that leaves the underlying issues untouched..t
yeah.. that’s everybody.. no?
strangely, one of the things that makes it easier to accept the system is that when you do, you will find yourself being told more often that you are changing things..t
many genuine agents of change must make peace w never being seen as such, at least w/in their own lifetime
when she focused on how individual women could navigate a bad system, ironically, at that very moment of relinquishing hope of changing systems in a serious way, she began to be stopped everywhere she went by women who thanked her for changing their lives.. t
if cuddy was caught between the polarities of criticism and thought leadership, simon sinek was confidently and comfortably ensconced at the thought leader end of things
for the aspiring thought leader, it is less important to have an undergirding of scholarly research that it is to be your idea – to perform and hawk it relentlessly.. sinek was good at this.. he embodied his own dogma about living one’s life in service of a single, pulsing ‘why’.. he knew how to ‘productize’ his thoughts..
their interest in a man like sinek giving their workaday businesses the glow of heroism, change making, mission .. of a cause.. that ideas like these guide the rich and powerful in their business lives is what it is. but *is this the kind of thinking we want to guide the solution of our biggest shared problems..?
*doesn’t really matter.. unless you go deep enough w the shared problems
sinek himself seemed to have doubts about the thought leaders’ ascendancy.. while he obviously believed in his own ideas, he made a point of criticizing thought leader charlatans ‘i have contempt for people in the speaking circuit..’ even though he was one of the leading figures on the speaking circuit. ‘even though i’m getting lumped in w people who do have speaking goals and call themselves motivational speakers or whatever they call themselves, i have contempt for these guys who i love, who i think are brilliant, and i see them stand on stages presenting to co’s that i know they disagree with, saying shit that i know is not true.. ‘ they’ll say.. ‘simon i’ve got to make a living’ and i think ‘got to make a living’ is a rationalization we tell ourselves to do things w/o integrity’.. although some described sinek in same terms.. he viewed such pandering something he had managed to stay above
earn a living ness
but too.. costello screen/service law.. can’t rant to people w/o a mech in place to leap to.. diagnosis w/o service in place.. unethical
cuddy wondered if a thought leader could use feedback like this to her advantage.. ie: if you want to talk about the structural power of sexism, first make people think of their daughters.. .. the risk, which the thought leader may or may not acknowledge is that you change the nature of the problem by that act of zooming.. you shrink the issues..
many thought leaders facing this pressure.. give in.. and cuddy insists that it is not because they don’t wish to press for bigger changes but because they are human.. ‘when you’re talking to other humans, you want a response, something other than a neutral facial expression.. you want interaction.. when you start talking about individuals, suddenly people start becoming animated.. it gives you hope.. you feel like people are going to change.. start to think.. i have to reach *all of them as individuals‘ – cuddy
well *that is true.. but with a mech (tech as it could be) that is accessible to ever human being on the planet from the get go..
listening to cuddy it was possible to understand the symbiosis that developed between marketworld elites and their thought leaders.. the thought leaders put out a variety of ideas and, being human beings, noticed what moved people at places like aspen ideas and ted ..what esp moved such audiences was the rendering of social problems as unintimidating bite sized digestible.. the actual nature of the problem receded..t
what the thought leaders offer marketworld’s winners, wittingly or unwittingly, is the semblance of being on the right side of change..t
the kinds of changes favored by the public in an age of ineq.. are usually unacceptable to elites.. simple rejection .. can only invite greater hostility toward elites.. it is more useful for elites to be seen as favoring change.. their kind of chagne of course..
take for ie education poor children in a time of declining social mobility.. a true critic might call for an end to funding schools by local property taxes …
dang.. now you’re doing it.. go deeper man
bruno guissani – ‘businesses are the engines of progress. the state should do as little as possible.. market forces are the best way to allocate resources and solve problems’.. speaking as a man who had controlled access to one of the most powerful stages in the world. guissani said that over this period ‘certain ideas have gotten more airtime because they fit into those intellectual assumptions’
(born in Switzerland in 1964) is the Global curator of TED.
ie: ideas framed as being about ‘poverty’ are more acceptable than ideas framed as being about ‘ineq’.. poverty is a material fact of deprivation that does not point fingers.. and ineq is something more worrying: it speaks of what some have and other slack; it flirts w the idea of injustice and wrongdoing; it is relational.. ‘poverty is essentially a question you can address via charity’ he said.. a person of means .. can write a check.. ‘but ineq.. you can’t.. because ineq is not about giving back.. ineq is about how you make the money that you’re giving back in the first place.. ‘ ineq he said is about the nature of the system.. to fight ineq means to change the system.. t.. for a privileged person.. it means to look into one’s own privilege.. ‘you can change the system only together. w charity.. if you have money, you can do a lot of things alone’
ie: w cuddy.. what motivated her was ineq.. lack of power in one set because of power held by another set..by the time this idea made it to ted, the ineq .. had been resculpted into poverty.. now ‘women’ less powerful than ‘men’.. the crime was still a crime, but now it wanted for suspects..
the catch is.. this is the way to gain more reach
it promoted a body of ideas friendly to the winners of the age.. beamed so many thoughts.. why the world was getting better in recent years that its antennae failed to detect all the incoming transmissions about all the people whose lives were not improving.. who didn’t care to be pinkered because they knew what they were seeing.. and what they were seeing was a society in which a small number of conference going people and their friends were hoarding much of the progress they claimed to be inevitable, abundantand benefitical to all.. t
now in america, in europe, and beyond, revolts were under way.. people were rejecting the winners’ consensus that guiussani had described..
millions around the world were ‘feeling that a big chunk of their reality was being ignored at best, censored, or ridiculed even’ – guissani
eventually, they would do something about it
5 – arsonists make the best firefighters
hinton was learning the protocols to work his way into the arena of business. yet even as he was absorbing them, the protocols were leaping beyond business, conquering domains far a field w their atomizing method.. the protocols had grown out of corp problem solving, but increasingly marketworlders were employing them to elbow into the solution of social problems traditionally considered in other ways, by more public spirited actors.. and the more people accepted the idea of the protocols as essential to public problem solving the more marketworld was elevated over govt and vcivil society as the best engine of change and progress..
protocols have evolved from being a specialized way of solving particular business problems to being, in the view of many, the essential toolkit for solving anything.. t.. increasingly seen as vital training for working in charity, education, social justice, politics, health care, the arts, newsrooms and any number of arenas that used to be more comfortable w their own in house apprenticeship.. orgs like gates foundation hire the protocol bearers to solve the problem of ed for poor children in america. civil rights orgs put protocol bearer on their boards, taking not only their money but also their advice..
no train – if we need training.. a sign we’re doing it wrong
few things better illustrate how far the protocols have spread than the rise of a new kind of consulting firm.. dedicated to fighting for the oppressed using the tools of business.. ie: business solutions to poverty… it is possible to read into this that people are poor because of the absence of these linkages, not because of caste, race, land, hoarding, wages, labor conditions and plunder; not because of anything anyone did – or is doing – to anyone else.. not because of reversible decision s societies have taken
perhaps the clearest signal of technoserve’s faith in the power of the protocols to cure injustice – rather than, say, life experience – is the constitution of its board.. 26 of 28 white
the bearers of these protocols were, ironically, rushing in to shape the solution of the problems that their methods were complicit in causing.. t
kavita ramdas: ‘the nuance and inherent humility of the social sciences – the realization that development has to do w people.. have no cache in this metrics-driven, efficiency-seeking, tech-focused approach to social change’
hinton and michael porter question the work of protocols
porter – harvard business school – lays out how business approach to live created ailments for which it now offered itself as a cure.. at heart of his account was a critique of the protocols.. and their piecemeal approach.. their rejection of the whole, had harmed people
porter spoke of how co’s over last gen had pursued a vision of globalization in which they owed nothing to any community.. because those taught by profs..who tended to be agnostic about place.. you analyze data.. then go where opp is
if community didn’t like co.. co could always move.. co’s flourished because of their freedom to escape and the community’s lack of leverage
porter: ‘somehow in being efficient/clever/productive, people thought they had the license to just stop thinking about the human beings and the well being of everybody else in the system’
hinton: ‘we are attempting to solve these problems w the very tools/minds that constructed the problems in the first place’
hinton saw how the protocols, redeployed to the war on hardship, could be very useful to marketworld.. ie: being the white night.. savior of world..
protocols limit the range of possible answers..t
in hinton’s view.. not a matter of malice.. ‘it’s the banality of inattentiveness.. it’s not wickedness. it’s not conscious self censorship.. it’s just habit.. i’m guilty of that.. i’ve got a pretty broad rolodex.. but when you reach out.. you reach out to smart, articulate people like yourself. . so it self replicates’
if he believed the protocols’ spread to be a colonization, what would decolonization look like.. ie from hinton: a primary school teach on the board.. one from india.. he said he would try to put an ordinary person – one of the people on whose behalf those private equity and consulting types had ben deliberating – on the board
still doesn’t get at the deeper issue.. that the issues the board/protocol/company/whatever is talking about is not the issue.. ie: primary school.. lack of money.. et al.. go deeper.. deep enough that you can’t ‘board’ the answer
hinton: ‘..social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of another’
not just utilitarian terms.. but spiritual dimension.. ‘inner desire to be *productive and to be of service to one’s community’
i don’t know.. i think we’re feeding that lie/myth as well. that our hearts crave *production and being of service.. i think a healthier view is that what the world needs most is the energy of 7bn alive people.. we need people’s art.. the thing they can’t not do.. not some duty/work (aka: solving other people’s problems).. that’s not the dance of an undisturbed ecosystem
he had been hired for his skill at solving business problems using the protocols. his values were his own problem. ‘that wasn’t why i was invited to the party’ he said
6 – generosity and justice
carnegie: if you want progress, you have to let rich people make their money however they can, even if it widens ineq.. businessperson deserve this permission, he said, because ‘this talent for org and management is rare among men’..
for carnegie.. ineq was a brief state between the taking and giving phases.. ineq is transitional. a necessity for progress, but soon reversible thanks to the fruits of that progress..
carnegie believed he could not pay workers well, could not be sentimental about how many hours of work were too may, for that would hurt the public interest. but he could give back to the workers.. he financed libraries, museums, and other public amenities for the eventual pleasure and edification of he underpaid workers
this is the compromise, the truce, distilled: leave us alone in the competitive marketplace and we will tend to you after the winnings are won.. the money will be spent more wisely on you that it would be by you.. you will have your chance to enjoy our wealth, in the way we think you should enjoy it..t
here lay the almost constitutional principles that one day would govern marketworld giving: the idea that after the fact benevolence justifies anything goes capitalism;.. that giving should not only help the underdogs.. but also and more important, serve to keep them out of the top dogs’ hair.. and above all, that generosity is a substitute for and a means of avoiding the necessity of a more just and equitable system and a fairer distribution of power..
these men have been generous and in exchange for their generosity, these issues will not come up..
walker (@darrenwalker): ‘compromising is a means of coping’..t
(darren) walker on volunteering.. to ‘help’ others.. ‘the problem w it is that it allows you to park the part of your brain and your morality and your humanity that would make you demand something else of yourself and of the system..t
7 – all that works in the modern world
dani rodrik @rodrikdani: ‘if you have an understanding of the world that’s currently faulty, how are you going to find that out?’..t
rodrik: ‘the locus of politics i think is the key issue here.. what is the right locus of politics and *who are the decision making authorities.. is it these networks and these global get togethers.. or is it at the national level.. who should make change and **where should they make it.. ..t
*has to be all of us.. so **any/everywhere
the political system that rodrik speaks of is not just congress or supreme court or governorships.. it is all of those and other things.. it is civic life.. *it is the habit of solving problems together in the public sphere thru the **tools of govt and in the trenches of civil society..t
*less about solving problems.. more about living/being.. rev of everyday life
it is solving problem in ways that give the people you are helping a say in the solutions.. that allow some kind of access to deliberations..meaningful feedback mech to tell you it isn’t working.. it is not reimagining the world at conferences
again.. not about solving problems.. imagine if we did away w all the mechs that caused them in the first place.. go there.. let’s start there.. then it’s about.. cure ios city
a panel like this (no feminist thinkers, activists, lawyers, elected leaders, labor organizers, or other varietals of women savers) was a perfect place to explore a question that rodrik raised: did this well meaning, if democratically dubious, globalist private sphere ‘complement’ nations seeking to solve their own problem, or did it inadvertently serve as a ‘substitute’..
on surface answer might seem obvious.. how could group of private people sub for democracy.. . it isn’t that simple.. a pair of stanford sociologists.. investigated the question and came up w surprising answer.. when elites solve public problems privately.. they can do so in ways that contribute to democracy and they can do so in ways that disrupt it.. can aid when supports public good provided by state.. disrupts when replaced public sphere w private initiatives..
whatever.. neither matters until we go deep enough.. ie: not about better schools.. better jobs.. better pay..
people asking big questions about the underlying system and imagining alt systems would not be attending..t
opp for change is not about attending it’s about listening
focus on mech to listen to every voice..every day
ie: tech as it could be..
to question their supremacy is very simply to doubt the proposition that what is best for the world just so happens to be what the rich and powerful think it is.. it is to say you don’t want to confine your imagination of how the world might be to what can be done w their support..t
(on clinton not being willing to call our elites or powerful).. someone will have to
or.. we just model a nother way to live.. that includes all of us.. in a way we all already crave.. ie: a quiet revolution
epilogue – ‘other people are not your children’
for the inescapable answer to the overwhelming questions – where do we go from here: – is: somewhere other than where we have been going, led by people other than the people who have been leading us.. t
a nother way.. not yet tried
if the force throbbing w/in kassoy (@AKassoy), if change itself – genuine, from the root change – was to have a shot, many people would need to be freed of these myths and remember what change actually is..t
cordelli is offering what marketworlders so adore: a solution. the solution is to return, against their instincts and even perhaps against their interest, to politics as the place we go to shape the world..t
has that ever worked..?
cordelli: i can speak maybe in the name of my child.. but other people are not your children.. this means.. to be free.. our political institutions’.. laws, courts, elected officials, agencies. rights, police, constitutions, regulations, taxes, .. only there.. ‘can act and speak on behalf of everyone.. ‘ she admitted ‘they often don’t do that’ but that isn’t the way out of marketworld .. *‘its our job.. to make them do that, rather than working to weaken and destroy those institutions by thinking that we can effectuate change by ourself.. let’s start working to create the conditions to make those institutions better’ ..t.. – cordelli
*that’s it.. ?
dang. did you mean to end with a solution that is fractal to the whole book..
great insight.. but on this ending.. going to frustrating reads.. it’s like it negates all the great insight into how we keep losing ourselves..
[so.. he ‘liked’ that last tweet.. not sure what that means.. 1\ he did mean to.. then i’d love to have a convo about any imaginings he has of another way.. 2\ he didn’t mean to.. then i’d love to have a convo about a nother way..]
latest tweet makes me think he doesn’t think of that final solution as fractal
@Ocasio2018 You know what @Ocasio2018 means to me? Less an ideology than a glimpse of what it looks like when ordinary people, not plutocrats, lead the charge to “change the world.”
When the rich run change, they defang it. We must change whom we task to make change. https://t.co/W8heUjWHk1
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/AnandWrites/status/1061004658033025025
let’s just facil daily curiosity ie: cure ios city