The Active Citizen in the Digital Age: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

April 25th, 2018 - 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

SIEPR/Gunn Building John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Building, 366 Galvez St
Stanford, CA 94305

The Elite Charade of Changing the World – a Conversation with Anand Giridharadas, Rob Reich, and Hilary Cohen

Democracy depends on citizens coming together to make change. Yet as more leaders than ever aspire publicly to “change the world,” profound hypocrisies lurk behind these aspirations.

The global elite, including many here in Silicon Valley, has co-opted the idea of “changing the world,” driving change without confronting their role in creating and perpetuating the very problems they purport to solve. The new barons of technology claim to be building the infrastructure of a new digital age, operating in service of civilization itself and improving lives at unprecedented scale. In doing so, they are promoting a fantasy that the world is best changed privately, through technology and innovation, not democratically, through political reform.

Are we ready to hand over our future to the elite, one supposedly world-changing initiative or startup at a time? Or is meaningful democracy, in which we all potentially have a voice, worth fighting for?

Anand Giridharadas is a writer and author of the forthcoming book “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” to be published by Knopf in the fall of 2018. He is an on-air political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is a former columnist and correspondent for The New York Times.

Rob Reich is professor of political science and, by courtesy, professor of philosophy and at the Graduate School of Education, at Stanford University. He is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. His recent research focuses on the relationship between philanthropy, democracy, and justice.

Hilary Cohen is a pre-doctoral research fellow at Stanford University, where she focuses on the intersection of ethics, technology, and public policy. She was previously at the Obama Foundation and McKinsey & Company.


  • Anand Giridharadas - Writer and Author of the Forthcoming Book "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World"
  • Hilary Cohen - Pre-doctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University
  • Rob Reich - Professor of Political Science at Stanford, faculty codirector for Stanford PACS, and faculty director of the Digital Civil Society Lab, faculty director for Center in Ethics and Society


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