In Private Wealth and Public Life, historian Judith Sealander analyzes the role played by private philanthropic foundations in shaping public policy during the early years of this century. Focusing on foundation-sponsored attempts to influence policy in the areas of education, social welfare, and public health, she addresses significant misunderstandings about the place of philanthropic foundations in American life.
Between 1903 and 1932, fewer than a dozen philanthropic organizations controlled most of the hundreds of millions of dollars given to various causes. Among these, Sealander finds, seven foundations attempted to influence public social policy in significant ways-four were Rockefeller philanthropies, joined later by the Russell Sage, Rosenwald, and Commonwealth Fund foundations. Challenging the extreme views of foundations either as benevolent forces for social change or powerful threats to democracy, Sealander offers a more subtle understanding of foundations as important players in a complex political environment. The huge financial resources of some foundations bought access, she argues, but never complete control. Occasionally a foundation's agenda became public policy; often it did not. Whatever the results, the foundations and their efforts spurred the emergence of an American state with a significantly expanded social-policy-making role.
Drawing on a wealth of archival materials, much of it unavailable or overlooked until now, Sealander examines issues that remain central to American political life. Her topics include vocational education policy, parent education, juvenile delinquency, mothers' pensions and public aid to impoverished children, anti-prostitution efforts, sex research, and publicly funded recreation. "Foundation philanthropy's legacy for domestic social policy," she writes, "raises a point that should be emphasized repeatedly by students of the policy process: Rarely is just one entity a policy's sole author; almost always policies in place produced unintended consequences."
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 680 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 26 mm