From: Philosophers for Change:

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May 14, 2013

In a newly released book entitled The Gates Foundation and the Future of US Public Schools, author Kenneth Saltman argues that the entry into educational reform policies within the last decade by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other, what he calls “venture philanthropists”, is part of a broader ideological and economic trend.

More specifically, Saltman argues that this development is one connected to neo-liberalism and the shift from a capitalist industrial economy to a service oriented economy. Saltman continues by correctly identifying that this modification represents a shift from the public governance of education to that of the private governance of education subsidized by financial policies that squarely place the costs on the public [1].

But it is not so much the shift to a service economy but rather capitalism’s long trek from direct worker exploitation under industrialism that has morphed into placing working people in naked indebtedness and it is certainly part of the transformation of late-industrial capitalist production from a system of direct extraction of surplus value (profit) to profit extracted by ‘rent’; this is profit extraction by the accumulation of the surplus value that is socially produced.

From the captain’s seat of finance where the one percent sit with their hearts seemingly altruistic and their hands filled with largess, the exploitation of labor remains unseen, attired in monetary clothing that hides the particular nature of modern, financial capitalist exploitation. Production and surplus value extraction currently increasingly relies on pooled, socialized labor — that is, on workers who come together globally to combine their labor collectively on a large, almost unseen scale; hardly noticed even by the workers themselves.

This is very different than surplus value extraction based on one-on-one individual, capitalist exploitation. The rentier class is not on the factory floor, but remains globally aloof, alienated from the harsh realities of uber exploitation, yet profiting handsomely from the production of rent and the enlargement of debt. Saltman goes on to maintain that “venture philanthropy” differs greatly from the philanthropy of the past, such as organizations like the Ford Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation, all of which were implicated in ‘philanthropic giving’ throughout the 1900’s.

He also attributes this to the shift in capitalist production. However, Saltman additionally contends that prior philanthropic efforts of, let us say, Carnegie or Rockefeller were driven by a sense of moral obligation. This author disagrees. So-called philanthropic efforts by the captains of industry, seen most glaringly in the 1900’s and especially following the Gilded Age of capitalism, were hardly moral obligations in the sense of benefiting people; they represented instead conservative ideological efforts to harness support for industrial capitalism in general and thus served as both ideological gatekeepers and as grist for the mill in developing a cadre of capitalist administrators and managers who would oversee the collection of surplus value, or profits in an age of industrial capitalist development.

To be fair, Saltman does acknowledge the role of philanthropy historically when he points to the fact that philanthropy has always had the consequence of financial benefits for elites and the diffusion of class antagonisms for working people [2]. I certainly agree, and while this article will eventually speak of the former, it is the latter that is of particular interest here.

Philanthropic giving has always had as its intent the hegemony of elite class interests and assuring what Walter Lippmann labeled “the manufacture of consent”, specifically by casting the central characters in the ‘giving scheme’ in the light of beneficence while in reality legitimizing a system that is truly malfeasant in both character, morality, intent and ideology.

All of this contributes to the development of false consciousness among working people and the general public who begin to align their interests with those of the capitalist class. Whether it is John D. Rockefeller shown in newsreels handing out dimes to the indigent during the Great Depression of 1929 or the building of schools by Henry Ford and other philanthropists, the true nature of their so-called philanthropic intent was to assure that an exploited working class would never become class conscious and would remain dependent on the capitalist class. Thus it is this cultural and psychological factor of crass manipulation that lies hidden behind the shadows of what appears to be a charitable purpose.

Read more at the website above and thank you to Philosphers for Change for their excellent work and contributions to creating a new society!

Part two will be out next week!