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Volume 80 No. 2 (Summer 2013) Giving: Caring for the Needs of Strangers

Volume 80 No. 2 (Summer 2013) Giving: Caring for the Needs of Strangers

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Volume 80, Number 2 (Summer 2013)
Arien Mack, Editor

(Proceedings of the Social Research conference at The New School,
December 6-8, 2012)

For the conference program, please click here.

Table of Contents

Part I: Caring for the Needs of Strangers

Deogratias Niyizonkiza and Alyssa Yamamoto
Grassroots Philanthropy: How a Community in Rural Burundi is Fighting the Power Asymmetries of Aid

Analyses of existing philanthropic activities rarely consider contributions made by recipients of aid, i.e. grassroots philanthropists. The authors of this paper advocate for the inclusion of grassroots philanthropists in social-public-private partnerships. Such partnerships engage local communities and indeed request their guidance on allocating aid. Using the grassroots health care organization Village Health Works as anecdotal evidence, the authors demonstrate the role of grassroots philanthropy and community-driven development in rural Burundi and the need to replicate the model globally.

Part II: Religious and Philosophical Grounds for Giving

Richard Bernstein

Amy Singer
Giving Practices in Islamic Societies

Charity is an integral part of Muslim life at every level of society, in every era, and across the entire lifespan of individuals. Obligatory alms and voluntary donations are acts that concern all Muslims. Charitable endowments have sustained and promoted Muslim cultural and social institutions alike. Unhappily, Muslim charity has received some very bad press since September 11, 2001, with analysts and observers frequently emphasizing the links between charity and extremist violence. Few have stopped to consider seriously why it is that the discourse and practice of charity are so prominent in Muslim communities, historically and today. Yet even a brief inquiry reveals an entire world of belief and practice in which giving is fundamental. In the varying historical circumstances of Muslim states and societies, giving has been part of a Maussean system of entitlement and obligation, creating and reflecting networks of responsibility and dependence.

Diana L. Eck
The Religious Gift: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Perspectives on Dana

This talk examines our understandings of wealth and charity in the context of a traditional culture that value renunciation as a religious ideal.

Part III: The Development and Psychology of Altruism

Emanuele Castano

Michael McCullough and Eric J. Pedersen
The Evolution of Generosity: How Natural Selection Builds Devices for Benefit-Delivery

Darwin’s great scientific contribution was to reveal how a blind, mindless, purely physical process can cause the complex functional design we see all around us in the biological world. By introducing the concept of natural selection, Darwin explained how evolution builds devices. Here, we explain how natural selection can build devices whose function is to cause organisms to take actions that boost the welfare of other organisms, which we might call benefit-delivery devices. Benefit-delivery devices come in two broad types: (a) Those that evolve because the genes that assemble them during ontogeny increase the direct reproductive success of the organism in whom those genes reside, and (b) those that evolve because the genes that assemble them during ontogeny increase the reproductive success of exact replicas of those genes that reside in other organisms (most recognizably, in the organism’s genetic relatives). In this paper, we catalogue some of the benefit-delivery devices with which natural selection might have outfitted human beings and illustrate how they seem to work.

Emma Seppala, Timothy Rossomando and James R. Doty
Social Connection and Compassion: Important Predictors of Health and Well-Being

At the root of altruism lie empathy and compassion. While some may think that we are mostly driven by selfishness, more and more research is showing that social connection is a fundamental human need and that we are wired to experience empathy and compassion. We thrive with greater social connection, resonate deeply with others emotions and experiences at the level of our physiology and brain, and experience pleasure and transcendence helping others and observing others being helped.

Felix Warneken
The Development of Altruistic Behavior: Helping in Children and Chimpanzees

It is often assumed that humans are inherently selfish, and cultural norms and practices have to override these tendencies to enable altruistic behavior. Specifically, young children are thought to be driven mainly by immediate selfish motivations, acquiring altruistic behaviors through the internalization of social norms or being rewarded for socially desired behavior. Moreover, it has been argued that our closest evolutionary relatives are motivated by selfish interests alone, not caring about the needs of others. This comparative evidence would lend further support for the notion that human-unique cultural factors are foundational. However, I present recent work with young children and chimpanzees that indicates that human altruism might have deeper roots in ontogeny and phylogeny. I will summarize these studies to entertain the possibility that human altruism is not due to cultural practices alone, but reflects a biological predisposition that we might share with our closest evolutionary relatives.

Part IV: Solving Public Problems Through Private Means

Michele Kahane

Helmut K Anheier and Diana Leat
Philanthropic Foundations: What Rationales?

Foundations are among the oldest existing institutions. They have existed, in various forms, across many cultures throughout history, and have been experiencing a veritable renaissance over the last two decades, both in the United States and elsewhere. What are the rationales for foundations in modern societies, and what propels their growth in scale and scope in the early 21st century? Posing fundamental questions, the present essay, written in the form of theses and counter-theses, assesses various reasons for the continued existence and relevance of foundations by pulling in perspectives from the US, Britain and Germany. The questions posed assume policy relevance as the present foundation boom takes place in an era of reduced state capacity to respond to public problems, and changes in the democratic fabric of society.

Matthew Bishop

The term "philanthrocapitalism" was coined by Matthew Bishop in a 2006 article in The Economist, to describe a new entrepreneurial private sector led approach to solving public problems. In the years since, despite initial skepticism, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, philanthrocapitalism has gone from strength to strength and is now regarded increasingly as an essential part of any solution to a significant public problem.

Tina Rosenberg
Harnessing Positive Peer Pressure to Create Altruism

Peer pressure is generally considered a negative influence, one that can pull people into anti-social behavior. But it can be an equally powerful force for encouraging altruistic acts. Pressure from peers can set a social norm of altruism and can inspire people to act heroically or altruistically in order to win the group’s respect. Most broadly, positive peer pressure is an organizing tool that can be used to create social movements for good causes.

Part V: Giving and the State: Legal, Political, and Economic Perspectives

James Allen Smith

Rob Reich
Philanthropy and Caring for the Needs of Strangers

People have been giving away their money, property, and time to others for millennia. What’s novel about the contemporary practice of philanthropy is the availability of tax incentives to give money away. Such incentives are built into tax systems in nearly all developed and many developing democracies. More generally, laws govern the creation of foundations and nonprofit organizations, and they spell out the rules under which these organizations may operate. Laws set up special tax exemptions for philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, and they frequently permit tax concessions for individual and corporate donations of money and property to qualifying non-governmental organizations. In this sense, philanthropy is not an invention of the state but ought to be viewed today as an artifact of the state; we can be certain that philanthropy would not have the form it currently does in the absence of the various laws that structure it and tax incentives that encourage it. This paper specifies and assesses three possible justifications for the existence of tax incentives for charitable giving, identifies a distinctive role for philanthropy in democracies, and argues for a fundamental redesign of the current legal framework governing philanthropy.

Lew Daly
Plural Sovereignty for the Common Good: Faith-Based Initiatives and the Social Question Today

In the era of welfare reform since the mid-1990s, social policy has become increasingly intertwined with developments in church-state law that seem to encourage more cooperation between government programs and faith-based organizations. George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative—his signature domestic policy initiative—was an important effort to advance this trend in a structural way, but the Obama administration, despite initial signals of support, has reverted to a liberal-secularist approach that is not only constitutionally obsolete, but politically damaging for the future of the social safety net.

Jon Bakija
Tax Policy and Philanthropy: A Primer on the Empirical Evidence for the United States and Its Implications

Tax policies in the U.S. increase the incentive to donate to charity among those who itemize their deductions, and most of the tax revenue cost goes to subsidize donations made by relatively high-income people. Several types of empirical evidence which I review here suggest that the donation behavior of high-income people in particular is probably rather responsive to these tax incentives. Economic theory helps clarify what factors affect the optimal tax subsidy for charitable giving, and I summarize some of the key insights. Among other things, the theory suggests that the optimal subsidy is likely to be higher when donation behavior is more responsive to tax incentives, but this is just one important piece of a larger puzzle.

Part VI: The Impact of Giving on the Recipient

Lopamudra Banerjee

Michael A. Cohen
Giving to Developing Countries: Controversies and Paradoxes of International Aid

According to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of OECD, US$2.2 trillion dollars have been provided in various forms to developing countries since 1950. This paper serves to highlight that while the topic of aid has been a highly controversial one in both donor as well as recipient countries, there has been little long-term evaluation of the impacts of aid and its effectiveness in contributing to the capacities of countries to improve their incomes and human development over time. This paper begins by breaking down aid flows since 1960, describing the magnitude and composition of those flows, before posing a set of philosophical questions regarding aid. These questions highlight the controversial nature of aid architecture by inquiring about the level of leverage aid has on policy decisions, the extent to which aid should rely on local versus global comparative knowledge, and if aid should be conditioned on the fulfillment of prior conditions. The paper also explores the institutions, mechanisms and impacts of aid, concluding by asserting that negative evaluations of the impact of aid in developing countries do not match the facts. Impact assessment is complicated and there have not been enough long-term evaluations conducted to be able to definitively argue that “aid is dead.”

Nicolas De Torrenté
The Relevance and Effectiveness of Humanitarian Aid: Reflections about the Relationship between Providers and Recipients

In the past decades, the provision of vital assistance to ‘strangers’ caught up in disasters has significantly expanded in scope and in scale. But to what extent does the aid provided to persons whose lives have been endangered and upended by war, natural catastrophes or other major crises meet their critical needs and aspirations? While the ideal of universal needs-based humanitarian aid remains elusive, efforts to improve the quality and standards of assistance and to increase ‘downward accountability’ towards affected persons by involving them more effectively in the management of the response are underway. Yet humanitarian aid’s ‘externality’, the large power asymmetry between providers and recipients and enforcement deficits all set inherent limits to what these ‘self-improvement’ processes can achieve. Ultimately, despite its shortcomings, humanitarian aid’s most significant limitation from the point of view of affected persons is when it is either absent or terribly insufficient, in part because access and acceptance are especially difficult to negotiate in politically-charged crises.

Joanne Barkan
Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy

Since their first appearance in the United States a century ago, large private foundations have been seen as a threat to democracy and civil society: they apply wealth to solve social problems according to their own values with minimal democratic control and almost no public accountability. In our age of immense concentrations of wealth, insufficient public resources, dominant market ideology, and unlimited private financing of political campaigns, “big philanthropy” is—more than ever—an instrument of plutocracy, of power derived from wealth. For a dozen years, some of the largest private foundations have been co-opting democratic control of public education in the United States to the detriment of both education and democracy.

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