This article is adapted from the book Philanthropy in Democratic Societies.
Moving philanthropy from the margins to the center of scholarly inquiry permits a task at the heart of any inquiry about democracy: understanding the complex division between what is public and what is private, tracing the evolution of that division over time, identifying the public dimensions of private wealth and power, and recognizing when private action supports or, alternatively, threatens the public interest.
Philanthropy in Democratic Societies provides an integrated, multidisciplinary exploration of philanthropy’s role and legitimacy in a democratic society, revealing how such a focus can open up powerful analytical vistas or conceptual possibilities for understanding shifts in the pursuit of the public interest and under what circumstances private action and the public interest are aligned. We are at once appreciative and critical in outlook, motivated by the idea that the broadest understanding of democratic life requires an engagement with the historical development, institutional embodiments and moral grounds and limits of philanthropy.
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Robert Reich, Chiara Cordelli, Lucy Bernholz
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