Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Corey Robin

Committee Members

Carol C. Gould

Leonard Feldman

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Political Theory | Social History


Philanthropy, Hannah Arendt, Political Theory, Capitalism, Civil Society, Public Affairs


This dissertation explores multiple ways philanthropy builds and undermines the common world. Political science treatments of philanthropy have focused mainly on its role in the development of civil society, with a recent turn towards critiques of philanthropy as an instrument of elite power and tension between private wealth and democratic governance. In this dissertation, I examine how philanthropy can foster enduring spaces of human flourishing, or reduce beneficiaries to objects of pity, surveillance and domination. I trace philanthropy's evolution from ancient to contemporary contexts and propose a framework for philanthropy to, under certain conditions, build and care for the common world, where philanthropic gifts create and maintain enduring spaces and institutions that allow the public realm to be the domain of appearance and plurality. Hannah Arendt translates philanthropia as “a readiness to share the world with other men.” Using Arendt, this dissertation proposes a new framework for political theories of philanthropy, one that can determine its role in public life based on donors’ commitment to an enduring world and to sharing with others the responsibility for its care.