No Such Thing as a Free Gift
The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy
New Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network May 4, 2016 Anna Levy
In No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy (Verso Books, 2015), Linsey McGoey proposes a new way of discussing philanthropy and, in doing so, revives associated historical debates often overlooked at present: from the ethics of clinical trials to industrial labor organizing in the early 20th century to global financial regulation.
Tracing theological and industrial origins, among others, of what is now the field of philanthropy, Dr. McGoey asks how these institutions fit into the larger global economy. More broadly, McGoey suggests that capitalism has become the bedrock of many philanthropic social change efforts, reflected in the terms philanthrocapitalism, impact investment, and social enterprise among others. What, then, are the most appropriate questions to ask about regulation, morality, well-being, accountability, and profitability? No Such Thing As A Free Gift starts by examining the industry in the language of monopolies, investments, regulation, taxes, and democratic participation.
Political philosophy and economic justice bookend several of the book’s core arguments, aiming to revisit earlier debates on the relationship between private wealth and the public good, often insisting that these questions are not only relevant to the current philanthropic landscape, but dictate it. While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the unapologetic focus of the book, its chapters frame an important set of questions about the role of transnational, largely undemocratic institutions, in local and global policy-making.
Anna Levy is an independent researcher and policy analyst with interests in critical political economy, historical memory, histories and philosophies of normalization, accountability politics, science & technology, and structural inequality. She is based in Brooklyn, NY and Amman, Jordan.