Cover image for What's love got to do with it? : a critical look at American charity
What's love got to do with it? : a critical look at American charity
Wagner, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 210 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
HV91 .W24 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A controversial debunking of the way charitable giving disguises American neglect of the public welfare.

Author Notes

David Wagner is a professor of social work and sociology at the University of Southern Maine.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Practical advice for Peace Corps volunteers and a thoughtful critique of the interaction between private charity and public policy are the subjects here. Corps veteran Banerjee understands the kinds of questions new volunteers want answered; his Q-and-A sections discuss preapplication jitters, training, packing, managing money, medical and safety concerns, adjusting to local food and customs, maintaining contact with home, rules and supervision, social concerns, traveling, and what to do after "the toughest job you'll ever love." The volume includes 11 appendixes, including general facts and a map, Peace Corps requirements and applications, and information on post^-Peace Corps resources. Wagner, a social work and sociology professor at the University of Southern Maine, traces the history of "Charity as an American `Glorifying Myth,'" arguing that "the major positive changes in the conditions of poor people have come not from philanthropy or goodwill, but from social struggles . . . [and] that America's 'virtue talk' has a great deal to do with obscuring how little we as Americans actually do for people who find themselves in adverse circumstances." In fact, Wagner urges that "claims to altruism have often coincided with cruel and even violent repression of those who were different," a phenomenon he labels "repressive benevolence." He also examines the valorization of charity and volunteerism as symbols of both Christian morality and sentimentality, and the interests (other than those of clients) served by the enormous growth of the nonprofit sector. A pungent, well-reasoned analysis. --Mary Carroll

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Introduction: Charity as an American "Glorifying Myth"p. 1
Part 1 American Altruism and Repressive Benevolencep. 15
1 Charity, Philanthropy, and the Indian: Overlooked Aspects of Genocidep. 20
2 Charity and the Poor: "Not Alms, but a Friend"p. 46
Part 2 The Surprising Success of Charity as Symbolismp. 69
3 The Symbolic Appeal of Christian Charityp. 75
4 Philanthropy: For the Greater Glory of the Richp. 89
5 The Sanctified Sector: The "Nonprofit"p. 116
6 Incorporating the Critics: Clients, Social Movements, and the "Contract State"p. 147
7 Moving beyond Clichesp. 172
Notesp. 181
Indexp. 205