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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

The book and the author 

Last year, Pankaj Mishra and Nail Ferguson quarrelled on the pages of London Review of Books over Mishra’s review of Fergusson’s Civilization: The West and the Rest (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man). 

It was a fascinating debate that didn’t end conclusively.

Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against theWest and the Remaking of Asia is a response to Ferguson’s book, and was one of the books shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber prize this year.

Eventually Canadian Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Riseof the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else won the prize. 

Freeland is the digital editor at Thomson Reuters. She has worked at the Financial Times both in New York and in London and has been the deputy editor of The Globe and Mail.  Freeland has reported for The Financial Times, The Economist, and The Washington Post.

Brian Stewart, eminent journalist interviewed Freeland at a packed Munk Centre on April 15.

Thoughtfully, the organizers had made arrangements for a webcast of the interview at an adjacent venue to accommodate the overflow of participants.

Freeland’s book is a pithy commentary of the battle between democracy and plutocracy. It’s about the rising band of the world’s superrich who are steadily taking over the world, leaving everyone behind.

In her book, Freeland says, “Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who haven’t succeeded quite so spectacularly. They tend to believe in the institutions that permit social mobility, but are less enthusiastic about the economic redistribution—i.e., taxes—it takes to pay for those institutions. Perhaps most strikingly, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.

The prize was presented by Patricia Rubin, Chair, Lionel Gelber Prize Board, Professor Janice Gross Stein, Director, Munk School of Global Affairs and Susan Glasser, Editor in Chief, Foreign Policy.

Besides Freeland’s and Mishra’s books, the other books on the shortlist were:

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum 

The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics by Paul Bracken 

Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World by Kwasi Kwarteng

Lionel Gelber Prize is awarded to “the world's best non-fiction book in English (or English translation) that seeks to deepen public debate on significant global issues. The Economist has described the Lionel Gelber Prize as 'the world's most important award for non-fiction.' It is worth $15,000.”

Images from Google.

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