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introduction ‘‘The Difficult Art of Giving’’ About the year 1890 I was still following the haphazard fashion of giving here and there as appeals presented themselves. I investigated as I could, and worked myself almost to a nervous break-down in groping my way, without sufficient guide or chart, through this ever-widening field of philanthropic endeavour. There was then forced upon me the necessity to organize and plan this department of our daily tasks on as distinct lines of progress as we did our business affairs. —John D. Rockefeller, 1909 The road to the free market was opened and kept open by an enormous increase in continuous, centrally organized and controlled interventionism. To make Adam Smith’s ‘‘simple and natural liberty’’ compatible with the needs of a human society was a most complicated affair. —Karl Polanyi, 1944 In Karl Polanyi’s classic economic analysis of the nineteenth century, he emphasizes the intervention of the state and business in constructing and enforcing what he describes as the ‘‘utopian’’ (138) fiction of the free and self-regulating market.1 The paradox Polanyi highlights—the naturalizing of a powerful and resilient narrative of free markets through radically ‘‘interventionist’’ methods—is central to this book. Polanyi analyzes not only the social necessity for such interventionism to stave off the worst excesses of ‘‘catastrophic dislocation’’ (33) caused by a market system, but also the variety of forms such interventionism takes (through the establishment of trusts, cartels, tariffs, and currency policy, as well as through collective bargaining, workers’ rights, and unions).2 This book, by contrast, 2 Introduction highlights the emergence of a much more directly expressed form of interventionism , one nonetheless closely linked to the kind Polanyi focuses on: the large-scale, corporate-based philanthropy that emerges at the turn of the twentieth century, which, as one recent study puts it, has powerfully ‘‘influence[d] the course of . . . history’’ in the United States and elsewhere.3 Corporate-based philanthropy is a complex phenomenon that cannot help but bear witness to the failures of market capitalism. Once John D. Rockefeller begins ‘‘giving,’’ he finds an ‘‘ever-widening field of philanthropic endeavor.’’ The blandness of the language, its aim at establishing philanthropy as an area of professional expertise, nevertheless fails to contain the fact of an ‘‘ever-widening field’’ of need. Indeed, this famously unreadable and private man claims he is led to ‘‘nervous break-down’’ as he ‘‘grope[s]’’ his way through the apparently numerous ‘‘appeals’’ made to him.4 Yet he is not therefore led to question the system that has created such ‘‘ever-widening’’ need. To Rockefeller the solution instead lies in the system itself, in capitalism. As he puts it, he seeks to ‘‘organize and plan’’ his philanthropic interventions and model them on his ‘‘business affairs.’’ Philanthropy must be carefully managed so that it not only supports but also resembles a market economy.5 This book focuses on the kind of largescale , corporate philanthropy Rockefeller and others helped create in order to investigate quite directly the multiple paradoxes of this form of ‘‘continuous , centrally organized and controlled interventionism’’ that enforces the utopian fiction of the free market. This book’s governing argument is that the form of philanthropy that emerges at the end of the nineteenth century is an expression of the crisis in liberal capitalism over interventionism, a crisis that led in a quite different direction as well—through Progressivism and a long bumpy road to the welfare state.6 A genuine hysteria is evident among defenders of liberal capitalism , business leaders, and intellectuals at the turn of the century that intervention will destroy the (putatively) free and self-regulating market system. At the same time, as Andrew Carnegie points out in his famous manifesto for corporate-based philanthropy, ‘‘The Gospel of Wealth’’ (1889), without intervention it is also possible that ‘‘Socialism,’’ ‘‘Anarchism ,’’ or ‘‘Communism’’ will be validated and be successful at ‘‘overturn- [ing] present conditions.’’7 Philanthropy is both a problem and an uneasy solution for defenders and proponents of liberal capitalism.8 What Polanyi refers to as the ‘‘veritable faith’’ (135) and the ‘‘militant creed’’ (137) of liberal economics is profoundly challenged by philanthropy in these years, ‘‘The Difficult Art of Giving’’ 3 even as the creed is anxiously restored through a carefully circumscribed definition of what philanthropy is, what it can do, and what it must never do at great risk of endangering the (fiction of the) free market, and thus the ‘‘progress of the people’’ (‘‘Gospel,’’ 17...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780812290035
Related ISBN
9780812246308
MARC Record
OCLC
884615827
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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