The Power of Giving: Philanthropy debated

Book List
Publishing information: 
Tony Curzon Price and David Hayes (eds.) Milton Keynes: OpenDemocracy/Lightening Source UK, June 2009. 72pp. Softback. ISBN 978-0-9556775- 2-6 £9.99

This short collection of 10 essays begins and ends with contributions by Michael Edwards, whose essay Philanthrocapitalism: after the goldrush raised questions about mixing business principles with philanthropic objectives. It sparked the debate on the Open Democracy website that is captured between these covers. The other eight authors are thinkers and activists spurred to write in defence of philanthropic approaches that, in various ways, harness market forces to achieve social ends, But as the introduction by Tony Curzon Price makes clear, this is a collection of reflections, not opposing views. Edwards’ core argument is that philanthrocapitalism is a symptom of a profoundly unequal world and its proponents have not yet provided evidence that their approach will result in the stronger civil society and systemic change needed to transform society. He argues that, “the logics of business and social transformation are not just different – they pull in opposite directions in many important ways and there is long experience of the risks involved in mixing them together”. By combining the original argument with reflections that agree with parts of Edwards’ polemic but also suggest it is, at times, overstretched, unfair or just plain wrong, this short pamphlet makes a substantial contribution to furthering this important debate.