Fleishman critiques Marxist and Gramscian theories that condemn foundations (and philanthropists) for using their money to perpetuate their networks and companies and to benefit those in their own socioeconomic status. However, being a believer in some of these theories, I do think there are elements within philanthropy that perpetuates ones’ own situation and status. The question is whether this is really a problem if you are doing ‘good’. (C and his finance mind says, of course everyone works in their own interest. Why are you making a big deal about it?)
Fine. In some ways I can accept that – ok, we will all do things in within our own interest. Companies. Families. Neighborhood Organizations. A capitalist mentality – that might also have good social benefits. However, I do think that the Marxists and Gramscian make a good point if you consider the lack of accountability and transparency in a lot of these organizations. Who is the money affecting? Have they been asked? Have they consented? Are they engaged? Who is picking up the pieces on mis-steps? Who is monitoring? Who is sustaining? Who is following up to ensure that things are better than before?
This history of philanthropy has shown the mis-steps occur. After all, grantmaking is done by humans. Theories of change and strategies are developed from the human mind, and are by default, imperfect. The question will be whether philanthropists can get better at figuring out the factors that go into answering the whole picture – the who, what, why, how, and when. If not, then I don’t think Marx and Gramsci are so far off – and the question returns to the role of civil society, hegemony, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat…and why these rich folks are afforded this special tax priviledge if they are not asked to be more transparent and accountable for their actions.
I love theory – it makes perfect sense. But it doesn’t translate well in practice.