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Just Another Emperor? The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism Perfect Paperback – April 5, 2008
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"In this important and insightful book, Michael Edwards lays bare the mythologies surrounding philanthropy and shows it to be exactly what it is--an essential part of our capitalist system, with all the flaws and foibles found elsewhere--good at what it does best but bad at what it's sometimes expected to do. Anyone who wants the truth of philanthropy in America should read this book." --Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley
About the Author
Michael Edwards is a widely respected author of books and articles on civil society, including Civil Society and Future Positive: International Cooperation in the 21st Century, which was nominated for the Chadwick Alger Prize for best book on international affairs. Dr. Edwards is currently the director of the Governance and Civil Society Program at the Ford Foundation, though he has written "Just Another Emperor?" in his personal capacity. From 1998-1999, he was the Senior Civil Society Specialist at the World Bank. Prior to that, he spent fifteen years as a manager in international relief and development NGO's, including Oxfam-UK and Save the Children-UK.
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While it's true that international aid and the organizations that control it (the World Bank, the IMF) have not been wildly successful, it seems to me a big jump to claim that wide-scale development can be accomplished by setting the world's poor up in business. Edwards makes the case for stepping back a bit and fully analyzing the impacts, especially the long-term ones, that philanthrocapitalism is having, and is likely to have, on the way we understand and manage economic and social policy. His caution makes good sense.
That's not to say that for-profit social ventures haven't been a positive force. Some certainly have, particularly those that are created by offering micro-credit to individuals and communities through institutions such as the Grameen Bank and more recently Kiva. But Edwards' encouragement to look deeply at these hybrids before fully embracing them as the best approach is welcome, and should give pause to those making broad claims for capitalism as a solver of a very complex set of problems.