Running down "do-gooders" has become a popular pastime in recent years. Lampooning, criticizing and even attacking philanthropists for their charitable activities has become sport for journalists and academics alike. Big donors have been subjected to specific vilification as their acts are characterized as a means to self-aggrandisement or tax evasion. Yet, it is widely acknowledged that philanthropy has played a critical role in both developed and developing societies from the establishment of Carnegie Libraries in Victorian England to the global health interventions of the Gates Foundation. Arguably without philanthropists – big or small – society would be greatly impoverished and projects beyond the scope of government and the market would never receive funding.
In an impassioned defence of the role of philanthropy in society, Beth Breeze tackles the main critiques levelled at philanthropy and questions the rationale for undermining, disparaging and trivialising philanthropic acts. She contends that although it might be flawed, philanthropy is a sector that ought to be celebrated and championed so that an abundance of causes and interests can flourish.
Beth Breeze is Director of the Centre for Philanthropy and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Kent.