An Animated Look at the Charade of the Global Elites: Claiming They Want to “Change the World,” They End Up Preserving the Unjust Status Quo

From Peter Kropotkin to Leo Tol­stoy to Noam Chom­sky, some of the most revered anar­chist thinkers have exhaust­ed page after page explain­ing why pow­er over oth­ers is unjus­ti­fied, no mat­ter how it jus­ti­fies itself. To those who say the wealthy and pow­er­ful ben­e­fit soci­ety with char­i­ta­ble works and occa­sion­al­ly humane pol­i­cy, Tol­stoy might reply with the fol­low­ing illus­tra­tion, which opens Time edi­tor Anand Girid­haradas’ talk above, “Win­ner Take All,” as ani­mat­ed by the RSA:

I sit on a man’s back, chok­ing him and mak­ing him car­ry me, and yet assure myself and oth­ers that I am sor­ry for him and wish to light­en his load by all means pos­si­ble… except by get­ting off his back.

The author of Win­ners Take All: The Elite Cha­rade of Chang­ing the World, Girid­haradas doesn’t make the case for anar­chism here, except per­haps by the slight­est impli­ca­tion in his choice of epi­graph. But he does call out the “win­ners of our age,” no mat­ter how much they deter­mine to make a dif­fer­ence with human­i­tar­i­an aid, for being “unwill­ing to get off the man’s back.” Unwill­ing to pay tax­es, close loop­holes and tax shel­ters, pay high­er wages, or stop lob­by­ing to slash pub­lic ser­vices. Unwill­ing to rein­vest in the com­mu­ni­ties that made them.

“What does it look like to imag­ine the kind of change,” Girid­haradas asks, “that would involve the win­ners of our age step­ping off that guy’s back? Or being made to step off that guy’s back?” Here, he leaves us with an ellipses and moves to cri­tique the idea of the “win-win” as a means of mak­ing change, rather than just exchange.

The mar­ket econ­o­my has import­ed the cri­te­ria of exchange into pol­i­tics and social action. Every­thing is trans­ac­tion­al. But in order to address the gross inequities that result in peo­ple fig­u­ra­tive­ly sit­ting on the backs of oth­ers, some must gain more pow­er and oth­ers must have less. The par­ties do not meet in a state of ceteris paribus.

One might take issue with the very terms used in “win-win” think­ing. Rather than win­ners, some would call pow­er­ful cap­i­tal­ists oppor­tunists, prof­i­teers, and worse. (The term “rob­ber baron” was once in com­mon cir­cu­la­tion.) To claim that good works and good inten­tions obvi­ate mas­sive pow­er imbal­ances is to pre­sume that such imbal­ances are jus­ti­fi­able in the first place. Answer­ing this the­o­ret­i­cal ques­tion doesn’t, how­ev­er, address the prac­ti­cal prob­lem.

In the cur­rent sys­tem of cor­po­rate mis­rule, says Girid­haradas, “when every­thing is couched as a win-win, what you are real­ly say­ing… is that the best kinds of solu­tions don’t ask any­one to get off anyone’s back.” Unfet­tered cap­i­tal­ism has brought us the “pri­va­ti­za­tion of pub­lic prob­lems.” That is to say, com­pa­nies prof­it from the same issues they help cre­ate through pol­lu­tion, preda­to­ry schemes, and undue polit­i­cal influ­ence.

You don’t have to be an anar­chist to see a seri­ous prob­lem with that. But if you see the prob­lem, you should want to imag­ine how things could be oth­er­wise.

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Saul Alinsky’s 13 Tried-and-True Rules for Cre­at­ing Mean­ing­ful Social Change

Noam Chom­sky Explains the Best Way for Ordi­nary Peo­ple to Make Change in the World, Even When It Seems Daunt­ing

Teach­ing Tol­er­ance to Activists: A Free Course Syl­labus & Anthol­o­gy

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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