A year-end collection of interesting and insightful passages.
Extending nationwide, changing emphasis
“Over time,” Hull House founder Jane Addams and other settlement leaders “looked well beyond their neighborhood boundaries, envisioning and working toward policy prescriptions to improve the lives of their neighbors through ‘wholesale reform,’ and extending their reform focus nationwide.
“This platform would be the backbone of the liberal social welfare agenda of the twentieth century. Addams herself, once religiously inspired, became an agnostic and discontinued prayer services at Hull House. In essence, she became the original secular Progressive. Her emphasis had changed, to say the least.”
-- Howard Husock, Who Killed Civil Society?: The Rise of Big Government and the Decline of Bourgeois Norms, reviewed in “What the Anti-Poverty Activists Hath Wrought,” January 6, 2020
“Earning” progressive influence
“Over the fifty years leading up to the election of 2016, those who found ways to use … newly unleashed powers flourished.
“Much of the influence that the very richest sought to exercise was in the form of charitable gifts. It was thus assumed the rich were ‘earning’ their power by providing something useful. …
“Over time, the law evolved so that ‘charitable gifts’ were understood to include not just buying soup for the homeless but also ‘educating’ the public about such contentious political issues as abortion, education, health policy, or gun control. …
“Harry Hopkins, a top advisor to FDR who was himself a veteran of the foundation world, warned the president that private interests backed charitable organizations mostly as a means of running them, and could take his programs over.
“The Kennedy and Johnson administrations invited philanthropists back. …
“The most effective giving leveraged private fortunes into government power, and the most effective government power leaned more and more on private fortunes. …
“Carrying out various progressive functions would, for a half-century after the civil rights revolution, do much to raise the morale of the rich.”
-- Christopher Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties, reviewed in “Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement places progressive philanthropy among those to blame for our current period of conflict,” January 21, 2020
“Community activists” among the managerial elite
“Overall, the shift of the center of gravity from local chapter-based member associations and church congregations to foundations, foundation-funded nonprofits, and universities represents a transfer of civic and cultural influence away from ordinary people upward to the managerial elite. Many of today’s so-called community organizations are not so much grass roots as AstroTurf (an artificial grass). A contemporary ‘community activist’ is likely to be a university graduate and likely as well to be rich or supported by affluent overclass parents, because of the reliance of nonprofits on unpaid interns and staffers with low salaries. Success in the nonprofit sector frequently depends not on mobilizing ordinary citizens but on getting grants from the program officers of a small number of billionaire-endowed foundations in a few big cities, many of them named for old or new business tycoons, like Ford, Rockefeller, Gates, and Bloomberg. Such ‘community activists’ have more in common with nineteenth-century missionaries sent out to save the ‘natives’ from themselves than with members of local communities who headed local chapters of national volunteer federations in the past.
-- Michael Lind, The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite, reviewed in “Michael Lind’s The New Class War includes foundations in its criticism of ‘the managerial elite,’” January 21, 2020
Crude and Christianity, corporates and clerics
Frederick Gates, philanthropic advisor to John D. Rockefeller, Sr., “urged Rockefeller to approach his giving like the big-time oilman that he was. Rather than continue as a wildcatter in the business of evangelism, Rockefeller needed to let his managerial grasp of capitalism and bureaucratic sensibilities translate to his charity. By 1900, Gates and his boss were ready to branch out and use Standard’s profits for more dramatic service to society.”
Howard Pew “was as aggressive about giving his money way as he was about making it.” Nearing the end of his life, “he would devote his whole energy to financing a vast network of schools, churches, social agencies, and media outlets that could help him roll back the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rockefellers.
“Already in the 1950s, the breadth of Pew’s funding was staggering. Howard had plugged himself into overlapping circuits of antiliberal crusading in the 1930s, and as he shifted his vocational focus at the dawn of the 1950s, those circuits remained of top concern to his checkbook. He was particularly drawn to agencies that reflected his preoccupation with free enterprise capitalism and Christian libertarianism, values he saw entrenched in his family’s roots, undermined by the Roosevelt administration, and now in desperate need of protection against what he perceived as America’s slide toward socialism. On that score, he sought out organizations run by clerics and corporate types whose expressed purposes were to defend his brand of the American way.”
-- Darren Dochuk, Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America, reviewed in “Philanthropy plays part in Darren Dochuk’s history of how oil-industry leaders transformed America,” March 3, 2020
Some conservatives’ separate culture
“[M]any elite conservatives draw their sustenance from organizations generally controlled by the center-left, such as newspapers, magazines, and universities. As a consequence, the legitimacy of conservatism outside of the right is of paramount concern to them in a way it simply is not to those who preach to the converted. Even conservative public intellectuals who work for conservative magazines, think tanks, and public interest organizations find themselves in contact with a relatively small and self-selected group of wealthy conservative donors. That provides a material foundation for their work that serves as a buffer from the conservative mass public and also as the basis for a separate culture of elite conservatism—a culture in which Never Trump flourished. In 2016 that culture of elite conservatism was shown to have been more isolated than anyone had thought, as its organs struggled—it turns out unsuccessfully—to purge what intellectuals on the right thought to be a cancer in their movement.”
-- Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles, Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites, reviewed in “Philanthropy-related notes from Never Trump: The Revolt of the Elites,” April 9, 2020
New network of nonprofits
“One form of diversity that did gain more recognition from philanthropists was ideological: the 1970s witnessed the development of a network of conservative nonprofit institutions devoted to promoting the principles of limited government, anti-communism, free enterprise, and ‘traditional’ social values. Of course, voluntary organizations dedicated to these causes and fueled by a militant opposition to the perceived moral failings of the dominant institutions in public life were not new. They had proliferated in response to the New Deal and had been sustained through the support of a handful of conservative donors, such as members of the du Pont and Pew families. Yet these funders and organizations had previously exhibited little political sophistication or coordination.”
-- Benjamin Soskis, “A History of Associational Life and the Nonprofit Sector in the United States,” in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook’s third edition, edited by Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley and reviewed in “Conservative philanthropy in The Nonprofit Sector,” May 11, 2020
Beginning in the 1970s, “[a] new generation of conservatives sought to redeem philanthropy and public philosophy more generally by offsetting the intellectual stronghold of liberalism with an intellectual countermovement. A strident, tendentious, and politically focused philanthropic agenda began to grow in reaction to the progressivism exhibited at Ford and other foundations. William Simon and Irving Kristol reached out to new and newly invigorated foundations such as Olin, Bradley, DeVos, Scaife, Smith Richardson, and Walton, as well as individuals like Joe Coors and the Koch brothers, and encouraged them to cultivate a base of support for conservative causes. This countermovement mimicked the modus operandi of more centrist and left foundations: it funded individuals, research organizations, demonstration projects, and evaluations in an effort to cultivate knowledge and intelligence. Rather than reject the weapons of their ideological adversaries, conservatives engaged liberal philanthropic advocacy in a war of ideas.”
-- Aaron Horvath and Walter W. Powell, “Seeing Like a Philanthropist: From the Business of Benevolence to the Benevolence of Business,” in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook’s third edition, edited by Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley and reviewed in “Conservative philanthropy in The Nonprofit Sector,” May 11, 2020
The religious and the secular
“[W]hen religious organizations are compared to secular organizations performing equivalent functions, the faith-based organizations appear to do so marginally more effectively, likely because of the additional resources available to FBOs through their close associations with congregations. However, because FBOs and secular organizations tend to provide slightly different services in overlapping realms, they need not be approached as competitors. Although more comprehensive comparisons of the organizational performance of religious and secular organizations would be valuable, the ways in which these classes of organizations collaborate is also an important area for further study.”
-- Brad Fulton, “Religious Organizations: Crosscutting the Nonprofit Sector,” in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook’s third edition, edited by Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley and reviewed in “Religious organizations in The Nonprofit Sector,” May 21, 2020
(Part 2 is here.)