Professor Woody Powell, Stanford University

Over the course of American history, philanthropists have been both praised and pilloried, depicted as redeemers of democracy and a threat to it. Despite the shifting social terrain in which they have operated, philanthropists – and the organisations they create – have grown in number and influence, acting as a catalytic force in the genesis and development of the modern non-profit sector. Philanthropic largesse has also played a powerful role in shaping civic life and political affairs. We argue that it is important to understand not only how philanthropists are seen, but also how they see. In narrating the development of American philanthropy from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries, our aim is to capture changes in what it means to “see like a philanthropist”- that is, to illuminate the meanings and ends of philanthropic wealth. We focus on three core influences on philanthropic visions:

  1. the sources of philanthropic wealth
  2. its organisational embodiments
  3. the criticisms levelled at its outsized influence.

We show that philanthropists have transposed the practices they used to earn their great fortunes into the organisational routines of their philanthropies and turned these into requirements for those who receive their funding. The actions of past philanthropists weigh heavily on, and intertwine with, the strategies of present-day philanthropists. Consequently, the political might of philanthropy both channels and enables the critiques to which its influence is subjected. In chronicling this long arc of history, we show how the super-rich’s perceptions of themselves and their role in public life have evolved as well as the myriad ways philanthropy has altered civic and political discourse.

Speaker bio

Woody Powell is Professor of Education (and) Sociology, Organisational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, and Communication at Stanford University. He has been a faculty co-director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society since it was founded in 2006, and currently shares the Marc and Laura Andreessen Co-directorship with Rob Reich. Prior to moving to Stanford in 1999, Powell taught at Stony Brook, Yale, MIT, and the University of Arizona. He has received honorary degrees from Uppsala University, Copenhagen Business School, and Aalto University, and is a foreign member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science. He has served on the board of directors of the Social Science Research Council since 2000, and was an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute from 2001-13. His interests focus on the processes through which ideas and practices move across organisations, and the role of networks in facilitating or hindering the transfer of ideas.

Powell is the author or editor of Books: The Culture and Commerce of Publishing, with Lewis Coser and Charles Kadushin (Basic Books, 1982); Getting into Print: The Decision-Making Process in Scholarly Publishing (U. of Chicago Press, 1985); The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, with Paul DiMaggio (U. of Chicago Press, 1991); Private Action and the Public Good, with Elisabeth Clemens (Yale U. Press, 1997); The Nonprofit Sector, with Richard Steinberg (Yale U. Press, 2006), and The Emergence of Organizations and Markets, with John Padgett (Princeton U. Press, 2012). His 1990 article, “Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization,” won the Max Weber award; “Network Dynamics and Field Evolution: The Growth of Inter-Organizational Collaboration in the Life Sciences,” (2005), received the Viviana Zelizer prize. “Technological Change and the Locus of Innovation: Networks of Learning in Biotechnology,” with K. Koput and L. Smith-Doerr (1996), was recognised by Administrative Science Quarterly as one of its most influential publications. His 1983 paper with Paul DiMaggio, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” is the most cited article in the history of the American Sociological Review.

Address

Trumpington St
Cambridge
CambridgeshireCB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Date & time

Date: 16 April 2019
Start Time: 12:30
End Time: 14:00

Audience

Open to: Members of the University of Cambridge

Category:

 

« Back to all events

Event location


Trumpington St
Cambridge
CambridgeshireCB2 1AG
United Kingdom

Event timings

Date: 16 April 2019
Start Time: 12:30
End Time: 14:00