At the Risk of Being Naive

As I continue working on my case study, I have become increasingly aware that my argument runs the risk of seeming very naive. I have knowingly dismissed a spectrum of critiques that can be leveled at philanthropy and wealth. For the sake of my argument, I feel like it is necessary to acknowledge this and to elaborate upon the reasoning behind doing so.

There seems to be a negative connotation that is associated with extreme wealth and giving. A more critical Marxist critique would highlight this. Giving on this scale and magnitude can easily be argued as just another means of dominance. By illustrating the inherent power relationship that comes with philanthropy, especially when the philanthropic  dollars are coming from the elite of the elite, the case study lends itself easily to this kind of critique.

You could argue that those who sign the Giving Pledge control not only the business and economic sectors, but by entering philanthropy that they are now moving into the social sphere, merely extending their total dominance of society. They use their power to set the agenda of philanthropy excluding issues that they see as unimportant. This is problematic and an exercise of power relationships and one that a more critical Marxist would highlight.

Yet, I find it problematic to see philanthropy this way. By defining philanthropy as merely an exercise of power by the super-wealthy and a means to control and dominate the lower classes takes away from the goal of philanthropy. There is a disjuncture between a Marxist critique and the objective good that a private philanthropist can do for the world. By this I mean that how can someone see philanthropy as insidious when someone like Gates is mere years away from eradicating polio from the world and that in the last ten years malaria has been cut down almost 50%.

When you understand that philanthropic dollars are utilized for the good and betterment of the world, it is extremely hard and increasingly uncomfortable to use a more critical theory. Yet, I feel like it is necessary to acknowledge within my argument and my paper as I move forward, otherwise, I run the risk of being naive.

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