Sunday, December 19, 2010

1 for 1 Philantrophy

So I know TOMS are really popular. And I think philanthropy in general is part of the mission for mx+b. But would it work to have a 1 for 1 day at mx+b (e.g. you buy a loaf and we give a loaf to someone who can't afford it)? I pose the question because cynics, like Slavoj Zizek below, think that this type of feel-good philanthropy is actually a microcosm of everything that is wrong with our approach to dealing with class inequities today. Have a look and say what you think.


  1. I recently Zizek speak at Duke last year, and his critique of certain corporate responsibility programs -- such as those at Starbucks -- were spot on in certain respects; by purchasing a cup of fair-trade coffee from Starbucks, consumers may gloat in the false satisfaction that they have committed a political act as engaged citizens, interconnected to the rest of our global society. Yet this cynicism also strikes me as completely dangerous -- big companies should give more of their money away, and corporate responsibility programs should be encouraged. If we are to believe Zizek (and Althusser), we can't escape our position as agents of ideology, no matter what position we take up. That is a powerful recipe for inaction, as one can commonly witness in the cynicism prevalent to theory classrooms on college campuses across the country. If being an activist just means you are supporting the dominant ideological framework, why bother doing anything?

    A good response to this sort of cynicism is that we should take action because there are people who need help who can't wait for an economic revolution. Give bread to someone who is hungry. It sounds like a great idea. You should do it.

  2. true true. i like the idea that this venture might be able to carry on a dialogue about what is responsible, justified philanthropy, and whether it could be a catalyst for real change.

  3. who cares if Starbucks consumers get a warm and fuzzy feeling from buying fair trade coffee? the key here - that Zizek misses - is that Starbucks' purchasing of fair trade coffee helps it internalize some of the social costs of its production of lattes by paying farmers higher prices that approximate living wages. same with buying organic.
    absolutely while sitting in Starbucks on our laptops we should be working towards a substantive overhaul of a system in which people in the US and abroad toil all day every day and do not earn a living wage.
    but in the meantime, there is a real role for market-based incentives that enable immediate internalization of social and environmental externalities.
    as for Toms, I agree - probably a lot of effort is going into a charitable program that will likely effect zero systemic or even individual-level change.
    as for the point about Soros: until it is considered a gross breach of ethics to work for and/or invest in firms with whose actions you wholeheartedly disagree, any progress towards a resilient, sustainable future for the global human enterprise is effed. the solution will necessarily require crowdsourced, firm-by-firm, employee-driven change.
    meanwhile, nice graphics. better than UPS guy fo sho.