[ASIDE: We ran an article by Laura Raynolds of Colorado State University not too long ago discussing a similar moment in the evolution of Fair Trade. Raynolds argues that Fair Trade's new position in the marketplace—due to success in scaling up and expansion into new products—puts it in conflict with its social goals.]
Edwards believes that civil society's shift from community organizing to services provision represents an erosion of the sector's power to participate in social transformation: "The accumulated outcome is that civil society may be getting larger—but not stronger or more effective in leveraging fundamental changes in society."
What are the changes Edwards wants to see?
Systemic change has to address the question of how property is owned and controlled, and how resources and opportunities are distributed throughout society.
How do we get there?
[C]ollaboration among separate organizations may be better than blending or competition. It preserves the difference and independence required to lever real change in markets (not just extend their social reach), and to support the transition to more radical approaches that might deliver the deeper changes that we need, like new business models built around "the commons" such as open-source software and other forms of "non-proprietary production"; and community economics and worker-owned firms, which increase citizen control over the production and distribution of the economic surplus that businesses create.
How do we keep nonmarket civil society motivated?
What separates good and bad performers is not whether they come from business or civil society, but whether they have a clear focus to their work, strong learning and accountability mechanisms that keep them heading in the right direction, and the ability to motivate their staff or volunteers to reach the highest collective levels of performance.
I think the most important critique Edwards makes is that market-style projects shouldn't be the sole logic of civil society—social entrepreneurism has hit the scene with a fair amount of zeal. If civil society acts as a social immune system, as Paul Hawken puts it, then that system should have several curative options. Plus, people are more and more motivated to find meaning in their work—social entrepreneurs are filling a niche.
When critiquing the new unity of philanthrocapitalism, Edwards sets it in comparison to the diversity of actors that was required in successful social movements of the past. But right now there is no unified movement. The only thing comparable is the set of actors that are pushing the shift to an environment-friendly lifestyle—though goals may overlap, they are loosely bonded at best in their actions. And the problem they are trying to solve is so inherently tied to our existence as consumers, making it no surprise that fast-acting market forces have swooped into the new environmental gap in our political consciousness.
Has philanthrocapitalism only flourished because civil society becomes too calcified when it is based on institutions instead of a broad social struggle?