“How can there be anything wrong with trying to do good?” asks Anand Giridharadas in his new book, Winners Take All. “The answer may be: when the good is an accomplice to even greater, if more invisible, harm.”
Giridharadas has done his time in elite circles. His education took him through Oxford and Harvard; he spent years as a New York Times columnist; he’s a regular on Morning Joe and a TED talker. So when he mounted the stage at the Aspen Institute and told his fellow fellows that their pretensions of doing good were just that — pretensions — and that they were more the problem than the solution, it caused some controversy.
Giridharadas’s new book will make a lot of people angry. It’s about the difference between generosity and justice, the problems with only looking for win-win solutions, the ways the corporate world has come to dominate the discourse of change, and the fact that elite networks change the people who are part of them.
But for all the power of Giridharadas’s critique of elite do-goodery, does he have better answers to the problems they’re trying to solve? And what of the very real problems that have left so many disillusioned with government, or the very real accomplishments that exist in the systems we’ve built? If we are pursuing change wrong, then what needs to be changed to pursue it better?