Philanthropy since 1914
in The reputation of philanthropy since 1750
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By the outbreak of the First World War there was talk of the services offered by the state working in harmony with voluntary organisations. It was notable in such discussions that ‘philanthropy’ was rarely mentioned. In the war itself there was a huge increase in the number of charities and some attempt to give them a voice in the National Council of Social Service. Post-war the tone of discussion changed in ways damaging to philanthropy. It was seen as ‘Victorian’, condescending. The new language was about citizenship, democracy, social work, voluntary organisations and volunteering. But if philanthropy was in many ways redundant there were attempts to revive it, most notably by Elizabeth Macadam in The New Philanthropy (1934) and by William Beveridge in Voluntary Action (1948). Neither had much impact. It was easy to imagine that philanthropy and philanthropists would soon belong to the past. Revival came with growing criticism of the welfare state and, from the 1970s, the renewed confidence in markets that led eventually to the implementation of a neoliberal agenda. It was less a distrust of markets, more the accumulation of vast individual wealth that markets had made possible, that opened the door for another ‘new philanthropy’.

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