Philanthropy in the World's Traditions

Philanthropy in the World's Traditions

Philanthropy in the World's Traditions

Philanthropy in the World's Traditions


"The cross-cultural understandings this book provides can do much to help us determine the distinctive shape and form American religious philanthropy might take in the future." --Christian Century

"The provocative information challenges the assumptions that philanthropy is a primarily Western or Christian tradition, and it clarifies the need for additional study." --Choice

An investigation of how cultures outside the Western tradition understand philanthropy and how people in these cultures attempt to realize "the good" through giving and serving. These essays study philanthropy in Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish, and Native American religious traditions and in cultures from Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.


Warren F. Ilchman, Stanley N. Katz, and Edward L. Queen II

This book represents a significant addition to the comparative study of philanthropy and culture. in no other volume have a variety of area specialists been asked to turn their attention to the role of philanthropy—of giving and sharing beyond the family—in the life of a particular culture at a particular time. That so little attention has been paid to this subject is surprising. One need only consider the role that philanthropy has played in defining and sustaining numerous religious traditions, e.g., Buddhism, in the establishment of a wide range of educational and cultural institutions, and, perhaps most visibly, the construction of innumerable public buildings and facilities—roads, khans, fountains, etc. the sheer magnitude of this construction undertaken throughout history should have made that activity a prime candidate for study. However, such has not been the case.

The presumption at the outset of this work was that something called “philanthropy”—rooted in the ethical notions of giving and serving to those beyond one’s family—probably existed in most cultures and in most historical periods, and that it often was driven by religious traditions. in making this presumption, however, the editors recognized the difficulty in choosing an appropriate generic term for the activities we hoped the authors would examine. in dealing with many cultures in a variety of historical periods, the editors realized that we would run up against the problem of overidentifying what was culturally possible. Just as it would be inappropriate to condemn those in the fourteenth century for failing to make the necessary hygienic responses to the outbreak of the Black Death, so it would be inappropriate to look for nineteenth/ twentieth-century North Atlantic understandings of philanthropy in other times and places. For that reason, we have dispensed with the charity/philanthropy distinction. the distinction is of recent invention, linked with a belief in instrumental rationality, progress, and profession-

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