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Why Charity Is ‘No Solution’ In Unequal Times


When Linsey McGoey was working on a book about the Gates Foundation, global health professionals warned her about the ‘Bill Chill Effect,’ which stifles critique about the man who leads one of the world’s most powerful philanthropic foundations. The University of Essex sociology professor pressed ahead anyway, and ended up writing, No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy.

Three years on, McGoey tells us that she remains concerned about the reverence with which philanthropic leaders are treated by the public, the media, and policy makers. “My fear is that the power vested in large philanthropies is leading to a situation where, if you have money, you call the shots,” she tells us. “Increasingly, I’m not seeing that marginalized voices are being respected.”

In this podcast, McGoey critiques big donors like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and explains why she’s skeptical about some of the achievements claimed by large philanthropists and ‘socially responsible’ companies. She also fears that increasingly, philanthropy is seen as a solution to deep social problems. “Charity is no solution to the demands of social justice,” McGoey says and quotes Oscar Wilde. “Why should the poor be grateful for the crumbs that fall from a rich man’s table? They should be seated at the table and are beginning to know it.”

Additional Resources:

McGoey’s bio

Financial Times review: No Such Thing as a Free Gift

What are Philanthropic Organizations Hiding?: An Interview with Linsey McGoey

Evonomics article: Does Philanthrocapitalism Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Poorer?

The Nation article: Corporate Tax Cuts Don’t Create Jobs, They Enrich CEOs

Sociology@Essex on Twitter

Featured Image: Linsey McGoey

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