Beyond Capital

Polemics, Critique and Analysis

Corporate Philanthropy?

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Why are corporate lords big philanthropists? Just now I read an article on “corporate responsibility in India”, where the author says:

The notion of corporate responsibility in India has traditionally been tied up with philanthropy and community development…“Philanthropy has been important in India since the middle of the 19th century, largely due to a strong heritage of community influence and paternalism among traders-turned-entrepreneurs,” say authors Atul Sood and Bimal Arora in “Political Economy of Corporate Responsibility in India”, a 2006 paper for the UN Research Institute for Social Development.

Philanthropy has now taken the form of foundations within companies that follow the Gandhian ideology of “giving back to society”. Such giving is the sole manifestation of corporate responsibility for many firms.

Why this desperation to “giving back to society”? Definitely, “Philanthropy” is a pre-capitalist element that capitalism has inherited – it transforms class division based on exploitation into an ideologico-ethical hierarchy. However, it additionally helps in suppressing the starkness of the fallacy that characterises capitalist ethics, which Duncan Foley calls Adam’s Fallacy –

The specific fallacy is Smith’s claim that the pursuit of self-interest, which has to be balanced against regard for others in other human interactions, can be trusted to lead to good outcomes both for oneself and others in the context of competitive market interactions.

Of course, the political economy of Aid is also there which is literally buying off the oppressed (meaning their ‘representative’) to normalise/naturalise capitalism and its exploitative nature – politically, economically, culturally, morally… Normalising Corporate Misanthropy is the Responsibility of Philanthropy. Distrust is inbuilt in philanthropic action – “give back” something or they will “take away” everything.

How true was Blake:

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody poor;
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we.

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 28, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Economy

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