Philanthropy in European welfare states: a challenging promise?

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Philanthropy is growing rapidly in Europe and in most of the countries in the industrialized world. A well-known phenomenon from history, philanthropy has made a come-back in recent years and is finding new form and meaning in an emerging 'civil society'. But how do we define this new 'modern' philanthropy? Does it differ from concepts such as 'charity' and the 'third sector'? Has it already earned a place at the table of EC policymakers? Is this 'old' but 'new' phenomenon awakening scholarly interest? These questions are discussed in this article. Philanthropy is defined by applying theoretical insights on the concept of philanthropy. Scholarly interest is measured by using the attention paid to philanthropy in leading English-language political science journals between 2000 and 2008 as a yardstick. The results show that though philanthropy is a distinct concept, it receives very little scholarly attention in these journals. The article concludes by arguing that the growth of philanthropy today offers a promising challenge for policymakers in welfare states provided that 'private actions for the public good' can be incorporated in the welfare-state paradigm. Points for practitioners Philanthropy is playing an increasingly stronger role in welfare states. However, governments and public administrators searching for new ways to fund welfare services have still to fully recognize the potential of philanthropy. In addition to commercialization and the market, a non-profit sector based more on philanthropic revenue could be an interesting option for delivering services. Public administrators will therefore have to rise to the challenging task of creating a legal, economic and cultural framework that will stimulate and enhance philanthropy. © The Author(s) 2010.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-789
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Review of the Administrative Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Article first published online: December 21, 2010


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