Philanthropy is undergoing a classic paradigm shift—a particular kind of historical change, which has a usefully intelligible character and direction. The generic phenomenon was identified by Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962), and was readily applied in other fields of historical scholarship, especially to describe revolutionary change. More broadly applied, it refers to the total transformation of a mature field of human endeavor—“mature” in the sense of fully and coherently organized in its conceptualization, methodology, technology, and demographics, and fitting into its broader historical milieu, including technology, economy, societal infrastructure, cultural norms, and institutions.
The very core of philanthropy is the desire to do something, and rightly so. But sometimes we need to pull back and let individuals work to form their own associations, based on their own goals and taking advantage of their dispersed knowledge and diverse talents.
Alexis de Tocqueville's Memoir on Pauperism can help us understand the unintended consequences of apparently benign “solutions” and can help us become more fully aware of the difficulties of solving the problem of need in the modern world.
Will the ties of community based on mutual need continue to fray thanks to centralized charity (welfare) and the comfort of the coming plenty? Or will abundance lower the costs of each of us to become a superphilanthropist?
For the Western pioneers, justice was a concrete action to be taken in specific circumstances, not an abstraction; happiness was a pursuit, not a right; and democratic decisions were a practical more than a political responsibility.
A selection of articles exploring various aspects of polycentric innovation and the conditions necessary that allow entrepreneurs of all stripes to pursue ways to improve their industry, the culture, and their communities.
While policymakers have a role in building a proper scaffolding for workers, what role might philanthropy, business, and social entrepreneurs play in ensuring that the individuals of our society not only survive the transition, but thrive in the midst of it?