‘Winners Take All’: Can Elites Really Change the World?

Nandigolo Nakambale

In his book ‘Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World’, Anand Giridharadas highlights major issues associated with elitism and philanthropy and offers recommendations on how the world can form better processes of finding solutions to global challenges.

The book, described as “groundbreaking” and “provocative”, takes a deep dive into the world of philanthropic plutocrats, and asks hard questions in exploring the role of elites and philanthropy in addressing global challenges.

The author argues that while many wealthy individuals and corporations engage in charitable activities, their efforts often serve to maintain the status quo and perpetuate inequality rather than address the root causes of social problems.


Giridharadas, a former New York Times columnist, critiques the prevailing notion that market-based solutions and philanthropy by the wealthy elite are sufficient to address systemic social issues.

He argues that such approaches often serve to maintain the status quo and may even exacerbate inequality by allowing the wealthy to control the narrative and avoid addressing the root causes of social problems.

One of the central themes of the book is the need for genuine interventions in shaping social change.

In this context, Giridharadas highlights the dangers of relying on wealthy individuals and corporations to drive social progress.

He emphasises the participation of both the elite and wealthy nations in perpetuating social challenges such as the stagnation of wages for average earners around the world, while the wealth gap between the poor and the rich continues to widen.


Giridharadas further challenges the idea that solutions to social problems can always benefit both the wealthy elite and broader society equally.

He argues that in many cases the interests of the wealthy are inherently at odds with those of the majority, and that true progress requires confronting and challenging entrenched power structures.

The book examines the ways in which the wealthy elite often engage in hypocritical behaviour.

They simultaneously advocate social change while benefiting from and perpetuating the very systems that cause inequality.

Giridharadas suggests that this hypocrisy serves to maintain the status quo by allowing the elite to appear benevolent while avoiding meaningful systemic change.


In the midst of endless global challenges, Giridharadas suggests reevaluating the role of philanthropy in society.

Instead of relying solely on the generosity of the wealthy elite to address social problems, he recommends shifting focus towards structural reforms and systemic change.

This entails challenging the notion that philanthropy alone can solve complex social issues and advocating policies that address the root causes of inequality.

The book emphasises the importance of democratic participation in driving meaningful social change.

Giridharadas advocates empowering grassroots movements and community-based organisations to play a central role in shaping public policy and addressing social issues.

This involves fostering spaces for diverse voices and perspectives to be heard, rather than allowing the wealthy elite to dominate the narrative.


Giridharadas also calls for greater accountability and the regulation of corporations, particularly those that claim to be agents of social change.

He highlights the need for increased transparency and scrutiny of corporate practices, including their impact on workers, communities and the environment.

This recommendation includes advocating policies that hold corporations accountable for their actions and ensuring that they contribute their fair share to society.

Ultimately, Giridharadas argues that addressing systemic inequality around the world requires more than just individual acts of charity or corporate social responsibility.

He recommends structural changes to those economic and political systems that perpetuate inequality, including measures such as progressive taxation, increased regulation of corporate power, greater accountability for the actions of the wealthy elite, and essentially addressing and resolving the root causes of today’s global challenges.

  • * Nandigolo Nakambale is a climate advocate and the executive director of Future Africa International Namibia. She can be reached on nandi@futureafricainternational.org

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