The Atlantic Philanthropies – a study of the enactment of philanthrocapitalism in Ireland

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Feely, Naomi
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University College Cork
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This research is concerned with the contemporary manifestation of philanthropy known as philanthrocapitalism. Characteristics of this model include the application of business language and methods to philanthropic giving and the assumption that government alone can no longer solve social issues. Of central concern to this study is the argument that the rise of philanthrocapitalism is undermining democracy, whereby certain philanthropic organisations have ‘taken on the role of the state – essentially setting and implementing policy through their independent funding choices’ (Eikenberry, 2006a: 588-9). Irish philanthropic giving operates at a comparatively lower level to other European countries. To date there has been little research on the operation of foundations within the model of philanthrocapitalism in Ireland. One foundation, which adopted this approach, The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP), disbursed $1.3 billion in funding to Irish organisations over a period of three decades. The enactment of a philanthrocapitalist model of giving by AP, in its operating characteristics and its use of discourses, is the focus of this thesis. Selected texts written by AP about its funding for prevention and early intervention approaches to children’s services forms the empirical research conducted as part of this study. An analysis of the discourses used in these texts identifies children and parent’s individual behaviour as problematic and this is the cause and result of wider social problems. Previous responses to the identified problems, by other actors, are framed as insufficient and the support of philanthropy (i.e. AP) is required. In its self-representation of its own role, AP adopts the triple role of helper-investor-governor. As a governor, AP exerts philanthropic governing capacity by shaping not only their own but the Irish government’s response to these identified problems.
Philanthropy , Philanthrocapitalism , Foundation , The Atlantic Philanthropies , Discourse analysis , What is the problem represented to be?
Feely, N. 2022. The Atlantic Philanthropies – a study of the enactment of philanthrocapitalism in Ireland. DSocSc Thesis, University College Cork.
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