What role did philanthropy play in maintaining the status quo?

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boomer-sooner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Philanthropy is commonly confused with charitable giving. The main difference is the emotional connection to the presentation. Philanthropy is generally considered to be an aloof process where donations are given to personal interests or social causes without an intense emotional connection. Charity is giving with the emotional attachment connected to the funds. For example, giving to cancer research because of a personal loss would be a charitable donation. Giving to the art museum to buy supplies because you think it is worthwhile would fall under a philanthropic donation.

Pope Benedict XVI sums up the idea of philanthropic donations contributing to the status quo quite well. He argues philanthropy is a method for the rich to shirk their obligation to finding justice for the poor by contributing to charitable organizations. The implied belief is the poor subsist via these donations therefore the rich do not have the need to find out why they are poor or invest in ways to improve their condition. The giving in essence provides the bare minimum, thereby allaying the need to investigate any social inequalities.

This philosophy is standard throughout societies. Philanthropists argue they are doing their part by freely giving money to charitable causes. They also argue the recipients are greedy if they demand more or urge the root causes of social injustice to be reviewed. There is a tendency to blame the poor. The recipients of the donations are often afraid to speak out because they need the charity to survive. By speaking out against social injustice there is the fear the donations will stop. This acceptance of patronage perpetuates the cycle and keeps the status quo.