Accepted paper:

Philanthropy in Brazil: Promoting a market-based agenda for local development


Jessica Sklair (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

While philanthropy in Brazil does not exert the influence it does in the USA, it has played a notable role in setting the agenda for local development. This paper examines how Brazilian philanthropy overlooks issues of rights and inequality in promoting the market-based models informing this agenda.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the nature of local philanthropic engagement in the Brazilian development agenda. While the influence of Brazilian philanthropists has not reached the material scale or significance of that achieved by their North American counterparts, I argue that foundation philanthropy in Brazil has played a notable role in setting the recent ideological agenda for local development. This pro-market agenda is based on the promotion of entrepreneurship among the poor, and their incorporation into the capitalist marketplace. In this context, I argue that the 'bridging' function of philanthropy in Brazil has been characterised more by the 'bypassing' metaphor than by one of 'connection'. The relationship between philanthropy and Brazil's NGO sector has historically been a hostile one, as the latter emerged during Brazil's dictatorship (1964-85) in opposition to military rule and the abuse of social, economic and human rights, at a time when most philanthropic elites were closely aligned to the military government. This saw local philanthropy evolve independently of Brazil's NGO sector, which was funded by foreign philanthropic and development agencies. Since Brazil's return to democracy, NGOs that continue to focus on issues of human rights and structural inequalities have been 'bypassed' by a local philanthropic sector now increasingly interested in promoting the market-based models for development advocated by the global philanthrocapitalist movement. In the context of Brazil's recent political swing to the far right, this focus also sees Brazilian philanthropy 'bypassing' active opposition to the brutal wave of human rights suppression currently sweeping the country.

panel C1
Philanthropy and international development: bridging epochs, geographies, imaginaries, and institutions