Philanthrocapitalism and the Greed of Giving: The Adverse Effects of New Philanthropic Players in Health Funding

McGoey, Linsey (2009) Philanthrocapitalism and the Greed of Giving: The Adverse Effects of New Philanthropic Players in Health Funding. In: 4S annual meeting, 28 October - 1 November 2009, Washington, DC, USA.

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Philanthrocapitalism – the harnessing of pro-market strategies in order to increase returns on philanthropic investment – is starting to polarize opinions in the worlds of philanthropy, global health and development. With the term coined in just 2006, “philanthrocapitalism” has yet to attract significant attention among social scientists. In this paper, drawing on interviews with policy experts at places such as WHO, the World Economic Forum, and Médicins san Frontières, I examine the emergence of philanthrocapitalism, comparing it to parallel trends aimed at alleviating poverty in developing regions, such as the promotion of social investment and the rise of social entrepreneurship. I then explore the influence of these related, but distinct, phenomena on the politics of global health governance, with a particular focus on concerns with the growing dominance of the Gates Foundation on agenda-setting and advocacy efforts. Finally, I draw parallels between the new philanthropy and more traditional forms of charitable investment practiced during the 20th-century. Theorists such as Bourdieu, building on Mauss’ work, have long suggested there is no such thing as a free gift: all gifts are offered with either the assumption of eventual reciprocity, or with an eye to generating greater social prestige. This insight parallels criticisms from scholars who, pointing to Gramsci’s conception of hegemony as “intellectual and moral leadership,” argue that philanthropic projects aimed at improving social conditions or providing educational opportunities are rooted in ensuring the viability of US and European economic and foreign policy interests. I suggest the growth of philanthrocapitalism raises novel concerns, which both legitimate and surpass questions posed by earlier scholars such as Gramsci, Mauss and Bourdieu of older forms of philanthropy.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subject(s): Science & technology management
Centre: Institute for Science, Innovation and Society
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Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2010 09:23
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:05

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