Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism is intended as a source book on the origins, workings, and consequences of modern general-purpose foundations. The text encompasses the activities of foundations—prinicpally Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford—in the production of culture and the formation of public policy. Particular attention is given to the policies of the big foundations in the fields of education and social science research.
The authors write from the perspectives of history, sociology, comparative education, and educational policy studies. Their chapters are based on original research. While the contributors do not share a uniform ideological framework, they do have in common a structural point of view—they examine foundations with regard to their functioning in society. They analyze the implications of foundations' organizational characteristics, modus operandi, and substantive decisions for social control or social change.
A distinguishing feature of Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism is its systematic, critical analysis of the sociopolitical consequences of these powerful institutions. A central thesis is that foundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society's attention.