Anne Monier & Luna Glucksberg: Wealth and philanthropy
In this seminar, we bring together Anne Monier (ESSEC) and Luna Glucksberg (LSE) for a joint seminar on elite philanthropy.
Transnational elite philanthropy as a « social cachet » : the American Friends of French cultural institutions
Dr. Anne Monier, Researcher, Philanthropy Chair, ESSEC Business School
On March 5th 2020 – just a few days before the first lockdown in France – a couple of Americans made a donation of 20 millions of euros to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, anonymously. This is not an isolated gift. Americans gave to Notre-Dame after the terrible fire, they gave to Versailles to restore it after WWI, they gave to the Louvre Museum to restore the decorative arts galleries. Why do American elites give money to French cultural institutions? This was the starting point of the 4-year research I conducted for my Ph.D dissertation. Besides the pioneer work by Francie Ostrower, elite philanthropy is quite understudied in sociology, and even in philanthropy studies. It is even more the case for transnational elite philanthropy. Based on a qualitative study conducted in the U.S and in France, this study offers to penetrate behind the scenes of elite philanthropy, and shows how the transformation of economic capital into symbolic capital that is at the heart of philanthropy becomes more complex in a transnational setting. It also underlines the importance of considering intra-elite dynamics to understand elite power relations.
Elites and Inequality: A Case Study of Plutocratic Philanthropy in the UK
Dr. Luna Glucksberg, Research Fellow, International Inequalities Institute, LSE
This paper investigates the role of elite philanthropy in the context of rising global inequality, asking whether large-scale philanthropic donations by elites are well placed to help tackle structural inequality. The challenges posed by such “plutocratic philanthropy” are explored through analysis of a network of the top 30 philanthropists in the United Kingdom and their connections to businesses and foundations, which shows their financial scale and connectivity. This new data is embedded into a review of the most recent social science literature on elites, which focuses on elite reproduction, how wealthy families perceive inequality, and how and why they engage in philanthropic activities. From this data, the paper develops an analysis of the current landscape of inequality, based on the work of British sociologist Mike Savage (2015), arguing that elite philanthropy as an ecosystem—made up of capital, people and institutions—is not well placed to systemically challenge inequalities, because the financial size of elites’ philanthropy tends to be dwarfed by their business activities, and the social functions of philanthropy help maintain the advantaged positions of elites. The paper concludes with informed policy considerations on the role of elite philanthropy in light of the results of the analysis.
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