Abstract: The Politicization of Philanthropy

Olivier Zunz


To understand the difficult encounter between philanthropy and politics, which amounted to a clash between civil society and government in the 1960s, one needs to conceive of philanthropic foundations as integral to civil society and as politically neutral organizations. In this paper, I want to argue that a politically neutral civil society cannot really exist. I want to find in the history of philanthropy some clues as to why a scientific approach, built for political and social investigations in the first part of the twentieth century, collapsed in the second.