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The ethics of entrepreneurial philanthropy

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Charles Harvey



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


A salient if under researched feature of the new age of inequalities is the rise to prominence of entrepreneurial philanthropy, the pursuit of transformational social goals through philanthropic investment in projects animated by entrepreneurial principles. Super-wealthy entrepreneurs in this way extend their suzerainty from the domain of the economic to the domains of the social and political. We explore the ethics and ethical implications of entrepreneurial philanthropy through systematic comparison with what we call customary philanthropy, which preferences support for established institutions and social practices. We analyse the ethical statements made at interview of 24 elite UK philanthropists, 12 customary and 12 entrepreneurial, to reveal the coexistence of two ethically charged narratives of elite philanthropic motivations, each instrumental in maintaining the established socio-economic order. We conclude that entrepreneurial philanthropy, as an ostensibly efficacious instrument of social justice, is ethically flawed by it unremitting impulse toward ideological purity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harvey C, Gordon J, Maclean M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Business Ethics

Year: 2021

Volume: 171

Pages: 33-49

Print publication date: 01/06/2021

Online publication date: 02/03/2020

Acceptance date: 25/02/2020

Date deposited: 24/02/2020

ISSN (print): 0167-4544

ISSN (electronic): 1573-0697

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s10551-020-04468-7


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