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Why Real Change Won’t Come From Billionaire Philanthropists

In his new book Winners Take All, Anand Giridharadas argues that plutocrats have co-opted the language of social change while reinforcing their own power.
In 2013, then-CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein (far left) and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (second from right) joined Detroit car dealer Pamela Rodgers and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert to discuss bringing Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses initiative to Detroit.
In 2013, then-CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein (far left) and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (second from right) joined Detroit car dealer Pamela Rodgers and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert to discuss bringing Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses initiative to Detroit.Rebecca Cook/Reuters

When wealthy elites embrace issues such as inequality, poverty, climate change, women’s empowerment, and LGBTQ rights, are they spurring change—or reinforcing the status quo? In his new book Winners Take All, the writer Anand Giridharadas says it’s the latter. Giridharadas persuasively argues that when they adopt pressing social and economic issues as causes, plutocrats simply reinforce their position atop the hierarchy.

I spoke with Giridharadas by phone about how members of the global elite came to see themselves (and be seen as) the people who could remedy systemic societal problems, and where we go from here. Our conversation has been lightly edited.