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Social Policy Review 20Analysis and debate in social policy, 2008$
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Tony Maltby, Patricia Kennett, and Kirstein Rummery

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781847420763

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847420763.001.0001

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The problem of riches: is philanthropy a solution or part of the problem?

The problem of riches: is philanthropy a solution or part of the problem?

(p.151) Eight The problem of riches: is philanthropy a solution or part of the problem?
Social Policy Review 20

Beth Breeze

Policy Press

This chapter is a response to the call for research agenda focusing on the ‘problem of riches’. It suggests that the topic of philanthropy fits within this agenda yet is under-researched in the social sciences. In this chapter, original research into the distinctive features of contemporary UK philanthropists is presented, based on a secondary analysis of the governing documents, annual reports and other documentary evidence relating to the philanthropic acts of 150 of the most significant major UK donors in the 2006. Drawing on the literature, the chapter then discusses the ways in which philanthropy can both solve and contribute to the problem of riches. Both the data and literature review are used to evaluate the extent to which significant charitable gifts made by wealthy people can tackle the ‘problem of the riches’ such as inequality, the tension between private affluence and public squalor and the promotion of happiness. The chapter ends by concluding that philanthropy is often perceived to be part of the problem of the riches, but at the same time, it also has the potential to become a viable solution.

Keywords:   problem of riches, philanthropy, UK philanthropists, charitable gifts, wealthy people, inequality, private affluence, public squalor, promotion of happiness

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