Habitus, capitals, and strategies : the engagement of high-net-worth-individuals in the UK philanthrocapitalism sub-field
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This thesis examines the engagement of UK-based high-net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) in philanthrocapitalism. Conceived as the application of market- and business-based actors, methods, and motives to philanthropy (Bishop, 2006; Rogers, 2015), philanthrocapitalism has been offered as a solution to perceived failings of both philanthropy and capitalism, combining the ‘best of both worlds’ whilst avoiding common pitfalls (Bishop, 2006). Advocates present philanthrocapitalism as a means of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of philanthropy (Bishop & Green, 2008); critics argue it reinforces capitalist doctrines and accentuates power and wealth inequalities (Edwards, 2008a; McGoey, 2012; Amarante, 2018). Despite the growing policy- and agenda-setting abilities of philanthrocapitalists (Goss, 2016; Baltodano, 2017), relevant scholarly research has remained thematically, geographically, and methodologically limited. Previous empirical research has predominantly: examined the impact of philanthrocapitalist values in a narrow range of sectors, neglecting the experiences and perceptions of philanthrocapitalist individuals; focused on or stemmed from the USA, presenting a disproportionately USA-centric narrative; and been reliant on small samples, secondary data sources, and sensationalist accounts of ultra-HNWIs, limiting first-hand insights from HNWI actors. Addressing these issues, this thesis explores the perspectives of HNWI philanthrocapitalists, focusing on the UK context. This study addresses the overarching research question: what influences whether and how high-net-worth-individuals engage in philanthrocapitalism? This research is framed by an integrated theoretical framework. This framework combines insights from Bourdieu’s (1986, 1998, 2010) social theory (‘field’, ‘habitus’, ‘capital’) and a social relations theory of philanthropy (‘philanthropic strategies’) (Ostrander & Schervish, 1990). Accordingly, philanthrocapitalism is theorised as a sub-field of the philanthropy field characterised by the application of business- and market-based habitus, capitals, and strategies to philanthropy. To address the research questions posed, 42 interviews with UK-based HNWI philanthropists were conducted and analysed using a thematic approach. Findings demonstrate that participants primarily pursue one of five philanthropic strategies: charitable donation, strategic philanthropy, venture philanthropy, social investment, or socially responsible business. Participants’ philanthropic preferences, including which strategy they aim to pursue, are shaped by their professional habitus – dispositions developed during their professional experience. The strategy they take is shaped by the ongoing interplay of their habitus and relative stock of and access to capitals. These insights make several contributions, including: a nuanced theorisation of philanthrocapitalism, supporting a richer understanding of philanthrocapitalism as a sub-field of the philanthropy field; methodological insights from qualitative, first-hand accounts from the 42 HNWIs interviewed, complemented with extensive analysis of related documents; and empirical insights regarding contemporary UK-based HNWIs’ engagement in philanthrocapitalism, the philanthropic strategies they adopt, and the circumstances under which their strategy may change. Collectively these insights expand our understanding of the UK philanthrocapitalism landscape and of high-net-worth philanthropy in the UK.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2027-04-08
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 8th April 2027
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