Amy Schiller, "The Price of Humanity: How Philanthropy Went Wrong—And How to Fix It" (Melville House, 2023)


Amy Schiller's The Price of Humanity: How Philanthropy Went Wrong—And How to Fix It (Melville House, 2023) makes an attempt to rescue philanthropy from its progressive decline into vanity projects that drive wealth inequality, so that it may support human flourishing as originally intended. The word “philanthropy” today makes people think big money—Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and Andrew Carnegie come to mind. The scope of suffering in the world seems to demand an industry of giving, and yet for all the billions that are dispensed, the wealthy never seem to lose any of their money and nothing seems to change. 

Journalist, academic and consultant Schiller shows how we get out of this stalemate by evaluating the history of philanthropy from the ideas of St. Augustine to the work of Lebron James. She argues philanthropy’s contemporary tendency to maintain obscene inequality and reduce every cause to dehumanizing technocratic terms is unacceptable, while maintaining an optimism about the soul and potential of philanthropy in principle. For philanthropy to get back to its literal roots—the love of humanity—Schiller argues that philanthropy can no longer be premised around basic survival. Public institutions must assume that burden so that philanthropy can shift its focus to initiatives that allow us to flourish into happier, more fulfilled human beings. Philanthropy has to get out of the business of saving lives if we are to save humanity.

Amy Schiller is a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College in the Society of Fellows. Twitter. Website.

Brian Hamilton is chair of the Department of History and Social Science at Deerfield Academy. Twitter. Website. Anna Dyjach is a senior at Deerfield.  

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Brian Hamilton

Brian Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he is researching African American environmental history. A Maine native, he lives in Western Massachusetts and chairs the History and Social Science Department at Deerfield Academy.

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