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In this episode we hear from author Amy Schiller about her fascinating and thought provoking new book The Price of Humanity: How philanthropy went wrong and how to fix it.


  • Has our understanding of philanthropy has become too centred on the idea that it is solely about funding things that make human life possible, rather than those that make it worthwhile?
  • Is there a danger that philanthropy which becomes too focussed on seeing human life in terms of basic existence ends up “othering” poor people and seeing them as a distinct group (to be pitied/helped), and thereby dehumanises them?
  • Is it difficult to argue for the value of beauty, love, transcendent experience etc in a philanthropy and nonprofit sector that has becoming increasingly technocratic and instrumentalist?
  • What is the Aristotelean notion of magnificence, and why should philanthropy embrace it?
  • Is there any danger that in emphasising philanthropy’s role in funding the transcendent we allow wealthy people off the hook for their responsibilities to society and just allow them to donate to what they wanted to anyway?
  • The book argues that we should not view philanthropy as something which backfills or replaces state provision, and that in an ideal world, basic welfare needs would be met by the state and philanthropy would then focus on things that add value to human life above and beyond bare existence. In the present we still seem quite far from that, however, so does philanthropy also need to play a role bringing this ideal world about? (And does this take short-term precedence over it funding things that are transcendent? Or do we need to do both?)
  • Why were justice and inequality-centred arguments against the philanthropic response to the Notre Dame fire potentially misguided?
  • Are current paradigms of measurement in philanthropy and the non-profit world too focussed on economic utility as the core criterion?
  • The book argues for the idea of a “giving wage” – why is it so important that universal state support factors in the need to enable people to act philanthropically?
  •  Is philanthropy inherently a child of capitalism (and the resultant inequality it creates), or can it be used to create spaces that sit outside the capitalist system?

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Learn from our past to better understand our future.

Philanthropy has a long and varied history. We’ve created bite-size chapters that you can jump in and out of to better understand philanthropy.