Rob Reich - "Just Giving" - Elisabeth S. Clemens and Chiara Cordelli

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Rob Reich

Unlike most studies of charitable giving, which focus on an individual’s motivations or proper objectives, Reich investigates philanthropy from the perspective of the state and society. He seeks to make it a compelling topic for political theory, and in this he succeeds admirably. Anyone engaged in serious philanthropy needs to wrestle with Reich’s analysis, and all will be made—appropriately—uncomfortable by what he has to say.”—Larry Kramer, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Rob Reich discusses Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better. He will be joined in conversation by Elisabeth S. Clemens and Chiara Cordelli. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

At the Co-op

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested but not required.)

About the book: Is philanthropy, by its very nature, a threat to today’s democracy? Though we may laud wealthy individuals who give away their money for society’s benefit, Just Giving shows how such generosity not only isn’t the unassailable good we think it to be but might also undermine democratic values and set back aspirations of justice. Big philanthropy is often an exercise of power, the conversion of private assets into public influence. And it is a form of power that is largely unaccountable, often perpetual, and lavishly tax-advantaged. Philanthropy currently fails democracy in many ways, but Reich argues that it can be redeemed. Differentiating between individual philanthropy and private foundations, the aims of mass giving should be the decentralization of power in the production of public goods, such as the arts, education, and science. For foundations, the goal should be what Reich terms “discovery,” or long-time-horizon innovations that enhance democratic experimentalism. Philanthropy, when properly structured, can play a crucial role in supporting a strong liberal democracy.

About the author: Rob Reich is professor of political science and, by courtesy, professor of philosophy and at the Graduate School of Education, at Stanford University. He is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society and faculty co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review), both at Stanford University. Most recently, he is the author of the forthcoming book, Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better (Princeton University Press) and Philanthropy in Democratic Societies (edited with Chiara Cordelli and Lucy Bernholz). His current work focuses on ethics and technology, and he is editing a new volume called Digital Technology and Democratic Theory (with Lucy Bernholz and Helene Landemore). He is the recipient of multiple teaching awards and is a board member of GiveWell.org and the magazine Boston Review. 

About the interlocutor: Elisabeth S. Clemens is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Her research explores the role of social movements and organizational innovation in political change. Clemens' first book, The People's Lobby: Organizational Innovation and the Rise of Interest Group Politics in the United States, 1890-1925 (Chicago, 1997) received best book awards in both organizational sociology (1998) and political sociology (1999). She is also co-editor of Private Action and the Public Good (Yale, 1998), Remaking Modernity: Politics, History and Sociology (Duke, 2005), Politics and Partnerships: Voluntary Associations in America's Past and Present (Chicago, 2010; winner of the 2012 Virginia Hodgkinson Research Prize from ARNOVA), and the journal Studies in American Political Development. She is now completing Civic Nation which traces the tense but powerful entanglements of benevolence and liberalism in the development of the American nation-state.

About the interlocutor: Chiara Cordelli is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science & the College at the University of Chicago. She works in moral and political philosophy, with a particular interest in questions of distributive justice, and the ethics of philanthropy and assistance. Her work has appeared in Ethics, the Journal of Political Philosophy, The Journal of Politics, Political Studies, Political Theory, The British Journal of Political Science, and The Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy, as well as in several edited volumes. She co-edited Philanthropy in Democratic Societies (the University of Chicago Press, 2016). Cordelli has held visiting positions at Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford. 

Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637