Extreme Philanthropy: Philanthrocapitalism, Effective Altruism, and the Discourse of Neoliberalism
by Angela M. Eikenberry, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Roseanne Marie Mirabella, Seton Hall University
Philanthropy has long been criticized for being unaccountable and having unequal influence on public and social policy, eroding support for governmental programs, and exacerbating the same social and economic inequalities that philanthropists purport to remedy. These concerns are worsened by the influence of neoliberal discourse on donors, who increasingly seek out new approaches to philanthropy that are dedicated to “solving the world’s problems” through market-like, individualized means, and data-driven solutions with measurable outcomes—what has become known as “effective” philanthropy. This article examines two approaches to “effective philanthropy”—specifically philanthrocapitalism and effective altruism—and their implications in the neoliberal, voluntary state. The concerns of effective philanthropy are not unlike those claimed of philanthropy in the past; however, the context and its more central role in governance make effective philanthropy all the more important to pay attention to by political scientists and theorists. Compared to earlier forms of philanthropy, the paper discusses how effective philanthropy may have an even greater effect on social policy, influencing who decides on and provides social services, as well as the degree and type of services provided. With an enlarged emphasis on metrics in the neoliberal context, private actors maintain support for the status quo.