Jun 2, 2020
In episode 77 we talk to Jon Dean, Senior Lecturer in Politics &
Sociology at Sheffield Hallam University, about his new book
The Good Glow: Charity and the Symbolic Power of Doing
- What role does the way in which our charitable actions are
viewed by others play in shaping our giving?
- Is the “warm glow” of giving always dependent on one’s acts
being visible to others, or can it be entirely personal?
- Does the symbolic power of giving diminish if others are aware
of how this functions? (i.e. once we suspect that charity is
motivated partly a desire for social status, does that reduce our
willingness to play along?)
- To what extent has the halo effect of philanthropy been
deliberately used by the wealthy to preclude or offset wider
criticism (e.g. of their tax affairs, business practices
- What happens if critiques of philanthropy undermine its
symbolic value to the donor? (i.e. if people’s default mode is
scepticism or cynicism, does this lessen the appeal to the donor of
making public gifts?)
- Does the desire for anonymity among some donors run counter to
the idea that a desire for social status is a crucial part of the
motivation for giving? (Or is it merely important that the “right”
people know you gave?)
- What happens when the social rewards/warm glow of giving become
temporally dissociated from the actual transfer of money (as with
the tendency to make “pledges” rather than outright gifts)?
- What about when this is taken to its extreme conclusion (as
with Donald Trump’s appropriation of the trappings of philanthropy
without actually giving any money)?
- How has social media changed things when it comes to using
charity to present ourselves positively to others?
- Does a focus on the outcomes/impact of giving, rather than the
act or intention, potentially lessen the importance of the social
symbolism of charity (an extreme case being that of Effective
- Do charities rely too much on the authority that comes from
their “symbolic power”? In a future where the options for doing
good are likely to be far wider (e.g. crowdfunding, online
movements, corporate purpose etc.) and charities are not the only
game in town, will they have a rude awakening?
- How do the themes in the book relate to the current context of
charity during the covid-19 pandemic? Have charities come to rely
on the enormous symbolic power of the NHS? Have views on the
responsibilities of the state vs charity shifted in ways that will
affect the perception of charitable acts in future?