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Is Philanthropy a Way for the Wealthy to Convert Wealth into Happiness? Preliminary Exploration in France

Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS,volume 76)

Abstract

This study aims to understand the diverse views and perceptions of philanthropy among the wealthy and their possible links with happiness. It is based on a qualitative approach. Some of our findings on the mindsets of the rich towards philanthropy and the use of wealth hold true in other national settings when compared to previous literature on “major donors.” Some results may be more specific to French society, whose relation to money and wealth and to private initiatives for the public good (i.e. “philanthropy”) is complex. Notwithstanding these peculiarities, happiness appears to be a more or less explicit driving force for rich people’s philanthropy. In practical terms, focusing on happiness might be a fruitful lever to promote, strengthen and drive philanthropy among the wealthy in France.

Keywords

  • Altruism
  • France
  • Giving
  • Happiness
  • Major Donors
  • Philanthropy
  • Wealth
  • Well-being

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Fig. 12.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    And still no French billionaire has joined the initiative as of December 2018—with the notable exception of Pierre Omidyar, who grew up in France but who is now a U.S. citizen living in Hawaii.

  2. 2.

    Irène Inchauspé, “Le Giving Pledge des Américains laisse les Français de marbre,” Challenges, 7 July 2011 [URL https://www.challenges.fr/magazine/le-giving-pledge-des-americains-laisse-les-francais-de-marbre_349392 Accessed 30 September 2018].

  3. 3.

    In Breeze and Lloyd’s (2013: 77) wheel of motives, the “pleasure of appreciation” appears as a sub-facet among many others. They also briefly evoke the “joy out of giving” (pages 100–101).

  4. 4.

    As appeared in the recent debates at the Assemblée Nationale on the intention of taxing the “signes extérieurs de richesse” (the external signs of wealth) (2017).

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Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to each of the interviewees who offered us precious moments in their busy lives, and showed benevolent attention to our inquiry. This study was initiated under the auspices of La Fabrique Spinoza, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to happiness and wellbeing. Several volunteers helped us in the interview meetings or transcripts. We acknowledge the institutional sponsoring from CerPhi (the oldest independent French research center on philanthropy) whose founder endorsed the study ab initio, as well as two foundation executives who accepted to put us in contact with some of their major donors. We received valuable comments from participants at the ERNOP 2013 Conference in Riga. I am also grateful for the helpful remarks of four anonymous academic referees, one linguistic advisor, and this present book’s editors.

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Sellen, C. (2019). Is Philanthropy a Way for the Wealthy to Convert Wealth into Happiness? Preliminary Exploration in France. In: Brulé, G., Suter, C. (eds) Wealth(s) and Subjective Well-Being. Social Indicators Research Series, vol 76. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05535-6_12

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