Three Books That Reveal How Global Corruption Makes the World Go Round

February 6, 2023

Money makes the world go round. What happens when the ones at the very top of the money chain are corrupted?

The saying “Money makes the world go round” takes a more powerful meaning in a globalized capitalist economy. But what happens when the ones at the very top of the money chain are corrupted? In this month’s book bundle, we share with you three books that explore the influence of the rich and powerful, discuss how the world really goes round, and expose the staggering cases of how corruption hides itself often in plain sight with its effects rippling into the depth of systems, societies, and the lives of each one of us.

Peter S. Goodman, Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World (Custom House 2022) Book cover

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he COVID19 pandemic revealed to many an eye-opening trend of wealth centralization: the rich are getting richer, and governments around the world are hardly able to protect those who are most vulnerable from the detrimental economic and social effects of a crisis. Who is the culprit?

The New York Times‘s award-winning global economics journalist Peter S. Goodman presents a page-turning exposé of the global billionaire class, the “Davos Man,” and its hostile takeover of the world. Davos Man documents billionaires’ exploitation of the COVID19 pandemic, which turned “taxpayer-financed bailout packages into corporate welfare schemes.” This global billionaire class instrumentalized its power to conceal the truth by hiring lobbyists, PR managers, and journalists in media.

Furthermore, Goodman uncovers the concealed impacts of their oligarchic control reaching into every branch of society and modern life, from wages to housing, healthcare to everyday products and taxation. He argues that their systematic plunder ultimately destabilized democracy by widening wealth inequality, leaving governing systems vulnerable, and triggering the rise of anti-democratic nationalism. He provides the answer to the problem of wider context: how did the liberal democratic order become a breeding ground for the right-wing hate?

Goodman not only provides a vividly written description of the realm of the ultra-rich but more importantly the realities of those who are dissipated by their appropriation all around the world including accounts from a blue-collar worker in Buenos Aires, a Bangladeshi migrant in Qatar, a doctor in Seattle during the COVID19 pandemic, an African immigrant in Sweden, a textile manufacturer in Italy, and an Amazon warehouse employee in New York City. Davos Man is a must-read for those concerned about inequality, economic justice, the resilience of societies, democracy, and the great challenges of our time.

Peter S. Goodman, Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World (Custom House 2022) ISBN: 9780063078314, 472 pages

Kimberly Kay Hoang, Spiderweb Capitalism: How Global Elites Exploit Frontier Markets (Princeton University Press 2022) Book cover

The anonymous leak of the Panama Papers in 2016 revealed millions of financial and legal documents that show how ultra-high-net-worth individuals hide their money using complex webs of offshore vehicles. How were these structures set and who plays a role?

Spiderweb Capitalism uncovers the shadow economy and the mechanics behind the illicit movement of wealth across borders through the invisible, complex networks of lawyers, accountants, company secretaries, and fixers.

Sociologist Kimberly Kay Hoang traveled the globe to follow the money through a web-like supersystem and conducted hundreds of in-depth interviews with these ultra-high-net-worth individuals, private wealth managers, fund managers, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, bankers, auditors, and other financial professionals to find an answer.

Hoang reveals the strategies behind spiderweb capitalism and examines the moral dilemmas of making money in legal, financial, and political gray zones as she traces the flow of capital from offshore funds in places like the Cayman Islands, Samoa, and Panama to special-purpose vehicles and holding companies in Singapore and Hong Kong and risky markets in Vietnam and Myanmar. How are these smaller markets interconnected in a broader system of global capitalism?

Spiderweb Capitalism sheds critical light on how global elites capitalize on risky frontier markets.  Hoang argues that spiderweb capitalism explains the rapid rise of foreign capital in risky markets with low levels of trust and cooperation. Economic growth in such markets is a consequence of tightly embedded relations between the economic elite and political elites that result in a variety of corruptions.

Contrary to the “economic mantra that development can only occur in economies with a strong rule of law,” Spiderweb Capitalism shows a paradox of global economic growth sustained through states where the line separating the legal from the corrupt is not always clear. Hoang’s research further reveals that old paradigms like First World/Third World and Global North/Global South are no longer useful for framing the global economy.

Spiderweb Capitalism is a unique and worthwhile read, not only uncovering the dynamics of a global system of corruption but also the sociological backgrounds of playing in the grey.

Kimberly Kay Hoang, Spiderweb Capitalism: How Global Elites Exploit Frontier Markets (Princeton University Press 2022) ISBN: 9780691229119, 288 pages

Vandana Shiva, Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy: A Global Citizen's Report on the Corporate Control of Technology, Health, and Agriculture (Synergetic Press 2022) Book cover

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n Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy, activist Dr. Vandana Shiva compiles essays and articles from more than 20 authors and organizations to show how ruthless capitalistic exploitation branded as philanthropic altruism forges a direct path to global destruction. According to David Orr, philanthrocapitalists are those who “promise to solve hunger, disease, poverty, and a rapidly destabilizing climate often by selling us more of the same things that made them very rich,” which oftentimes ignores the root causes and inequities.

How do global capitalists wield philanthropy to monopolize and privatize land use, food production, and the public health sector effectively? Through various initiatives, suborganizations, development schemes, and funding mechanisms. The book points out that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s empire, in particular, is an intricate network of power and influence solidified by targeted and well-financed PR campaigns to shape public opinion in pursuit of profit and market expansion.

Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy criticizes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and similar organizations’ many privileged relationships with private companies, governments, and the World Health Organization that allow them exclusively to set the global agenda on health. The book argues that simplified solutions based on technical and scientific developments introduced by these organizations are often narrow in scope and remain insufficient in solving complex problems. Furthermore, they corrode the integrity of democratic institutions guised under a banner of future-oriented innovation.

Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy reveals the destructive power of overly capitalistic systems that enable mass human suffering and environmental catastrophe via the entanglement of private investment and public policy, and aims to bring forward democratic discussions about transparency, accountability, and inclusivity.

Vandana Shiva, Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy: A Global Citizen’s Report on the Corporate Control of Technology, Health, and Agriculture (Synergetic Press 2022) ISBN: 9780907791911, 240 pages

Dilara Özer graduated from Bahçeşehir University with a B.A in Political Science and International Relations. Her areas of interest are Middle East politics and regional power politics.

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