Comment on foundations

There were a couple of calls on Twitter for a transcript of what I said on last week’s radio show, following my interview with Benjamin Page. Page had said in the interview that he couldn’t find any foundations interested in funding research by him and his collaborators into the opinions of the top 1%. I’ve added a link to the Leah Gordon interview, which has a link to her book. I’ve expanded a bit on the original in this version.

It’s interesting that the foundations don’t want to support research into the opinions of the upper classes. Page, of course, is too careful a scholar to put it bluntly, but I’m not inhibited by those sorts of constraints. Foundations, almost without exception, exist to put a friendly face on plutocracy, and the last thing that plutocrats want is scrutiny of themselves. They’re interested in melioration but quite opposed to anything too structurally radical. Their role in shaping social science research is profound: recall my interview with Leah Gordon last June about how elite foundations shifted the emphasis in research on race relations away from structural issues towards individual psychology, “from power to prejudice,” as the title of her book put it. Questions interest them far more than answers.

Philanthropy doesn’t get anywhere near the critical attention it deserves, in large part because the kinds of intellectuals who could do that work are dependent on those philanthropies for funding. (I don’t blame the grantees—it’s hard to get by in this world.) I’m not dependent on their generosity, so I’m doing my best to fill in that gap.

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