May 5, 2004
by Kenneth Prewitt
Click here to download essay (PDF format, 12 pages, 162 KB).
In this essay on the place and purpose of philanthropy (and in particular, the philanthropic foundation) in a modern liberal democracy, Columbia University professor Kenneth Prewitt considers and then dismisses as inadequate five common rationales for the existence of foundations in the liberal society. In their place, Prewitt put forward this idea: The foundation is “an institution uniquely positioned to represent liberal values… [the] attach[ment of] private wealth to public goods without encroaching on individual freedom.”
"The Foundation and the Liberal Society" was prepared for a May 2004 conference in Paris organized by the Social Science Research Council and la Fondation Mattei Dogan.
On May 5, 2004, Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal held a small roundtable discussion with Prewitt and fourteen of the most engaging minds on the subjects of philanthropy and modern liberal democracy. Prewitt’s essay “The Foundation and the Liberal Society” was required reading and served as a basis for the discussion, the transcript of which is available on this web site.
Click the "Related Publications" box in the upper-right-hand corner of this section to access the transcript of the May 5, 2004 discussion.
Kenneth Prewitt joined the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2002 as the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs. Prewitt, director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1998-2000, recently published Politics and Science in Census Taking (Russell Sage). He has also published on how the ethno-racial classification is used in national statistics, and why it is now undergoing radical change, a topic on which he has lectured widely. Among the dozen other books he has authored or co-authored are Political Socialization, Elites and American Democracy, The Recruitment of Political Leaders, and a textbook on American government. From 1976 to 1979, Prewitt served as the director of the National Opinion Research Center. He was the senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1985 to 1995, and was twice the president of the Social Science Research Council (1979-1985; 1995-1998).
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