By Marty Sulek
The academic study of philanthropy presupposes a comprehensive definition that guides inquiry into what, exactly, philanthropy is and why it matters. At present, though, no such well-thought-out definition exists. Scholars tend to explore various facets of philanthropy, according to their particular academic interests, but without a comprehensive understanding of its full meaning. This article attempts to correct this lack of synoptic understanding by surveying prominent instances of usage and definitions of philanthropy in the modern era and synthesizing them into a overall framework for understanding its full modern meaning. In so doing, philanthropy is revealed to be a signal word, the evolution in the meaning of which reflects historically dominant philosophical and cultural trends in modern Western society.
[Full story: Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly]