What The Rich Don’t Tell The Poor

The new book from Roman Krznaric telling the remarkable story of Guatemala’s wealthy economic elite or ‘oligarchy’ – in their own words.

“An important book that fills a big void in progressive thinking about elites, privilege and power.”

Professor Duncan Green, London School of Economics

This book is independently published by Blackbird Collective. Buy the book from:

paperback and ebook

ebook only

About the book

How does oligarchic power work in practice?

In this fascinating and original study of Guatemala’s economic elite or ‘oligarchy,’ Roman Krznaric explores the inner workings of the country’s wealthy business sector and how they have maintained power and privilege in the face of change. Based on extensive personal interviews, What The Rich Don’t Tell The Poor reveals the oligarchs speaking candidly in their own words on issues ranging from political violence and civil war to race and inequality. The result is a pathbreaking work of political and sociological analysis that offers unique insights into the global phenomenon of oligarchic power.

What The Rich Don’t Tell The Poor was written in 2006 and is now published for the first time in its original version. As Krznaric writes in a new 2022 preface to the book, although much has changed in Guatemala in the intervening years, the oligarchy remains a formidable and largely unchallenged economic and political force.

Read a sample.

About Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric is a public philosopher and former political scientist who writes about the power of ideas to change society. His bestselling books such as The Good Ancestor and Empathy have been published in more than twenty languages. Roman studied at the universities of Oxford, London and Essex, where he wrote his PhD on the Guatemalan oligarchy, and taught politics and Latin American Studies at the universities of Cambridge, Essex and City University, London. He is currently a Research Fellow of the Long Now Foundation and a member of the Club of Rome.

Selected Media and Reviews

“A revealing set of interviews with Guatemala’s power-brokers, people who generally never speak.” Rachel Nolan, London Review of Books

‘Want to Challenge the Elite? Then first Understand What Makes Them Tick’: article at Oxfam’s From Poverty To Power blog on three lessons for challenging elite power

Praise for Roman Krznaric’s previous books

‘A fascinating rattlebag of intelligent, stimulating essays’

Financial Times

‘Krznaric’s seamless and magical prose delights on every page’

Professor Tim Jackson

‘Krznaric writes with passion and lucidity’

Wall Street Journal

‘A unique combination of teaching, storytelling and practical action’

Professor Brené Brown

About the cover photo

The photo on the book cover is one of the most iconic images of Guatemala’s thirty-six-year armed conflict. Titled ‘Para que todos lo sepan’ (‘So That All Shall Know’), it was taken by celebrated Guatemalan photographer Daniel Hernández-Salazar. Following is the original caption he wrote for the photo:

‘The image of an Angel who shouting, breaks the silence and denounces the atrocities that occurred during the internal war in Guatemala, was constructed from the combination of two film negatives. The first one showing the shoulder blades of a murdered victim during the conflict and buried in a clandestine cemetery. It was photographed by the author in the forensic laboratory of the FAFG. The second negative presents the portrait of a young mestizo Guatemalan. The name of this photograph owes its origin to the title that Monsignor Juan Gerardi suggested for the report of the Recovery of Historical Memory Project-REHMI. After the presentation of that report, finally titled Guatemala: Never Again and the murder of Monsignor Gerardi, this photograph became an icon of the struggle for memory, historical clarification and justice in Guatemala.’

Para que todos lo sepan (‘So That All Shall Know’) ©1998 Daniel Hernández-Salazar.