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Philanthropy and the Democratic State

04.25.2023 05:00 PM

Event Summary

Faces of famous leaders on banknotes from around the world
Illustration by William W. Potter via Adobe Stock.

The panelists at this discussion explored the relationship between philanthropy and the democratic state, analyzed from both a socio-historical and an ethical perspective. What role has philanthropy played in the development of the U.S. state? How have the political uses of philanthropy shaped persisting ideas of nationhood and belonging? Are such uses compatible with basic democratic principles such as the commitment to political and social equality? Should mechanisms of democratic accountability be extended to the practice of philanthropy itself, and if so, how? More generally, how should the relationship between philanthropy and democracy be understood—ethically, historically, and institutionally? Co-sponsored by the Chicago Center on Democracy and presented as part of the Democracy and Capitalism project at the Neubauer Collegium.


Elisabeth S. Clemens (William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago)
Chiara Cordelli (Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago)
Emma Saunders-Hastings (Assistant Professor of Political Science, Ohio State University)
James T. Sparrow (Associate Professor of History, University of Chicago)