With novel charitable and philanthropic opportunities emerging at an astonishing rate, it is rarely necessary today to draw the reader’s attention to the cultural politics of philanthropy; the word philanthropy is associated with nearly every celebrity personality, as well as nearly every market transaction and community activity—from buying shoes to wearing them to a charity gala at the local donor-funded museum. These practices activate action through vocabulary, or through a productive relationship to what Raymond Williams ([1976] 1985) described as keywords. In this article I view philanthropy in terms of its relation to cultural politics and positivist culture in order to understand more specifically how philanthropy has achieved such a high level of diffuseness as a social and political relation. I begin by demonstrating how, as a keyword, philanthropy has become part of what Miranda Fricker described as the “collective hermeneutical resource.” I then investigate how the power of this hermeneutic circulation has encouraged the recent association of philanthropy with a particular argument for how logics order society, which in turn reinforces Fricker’s “hermeneutic marginalization.” Finally, I criticize the discrepancy between hermeneutic practices and logic in the practice of “actually existing philanthropy.”

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