What’s Love Got to Do with It?

A Critical Look at American Charity

A groundbreaking critique of American charity which Barbara Ehrenreich says “demolishes the conventional wisdom that private philanthropy is innately superior to public welfare measures”

What’s Love Got to Do with It? is an insightful debunking of the way charitable giving disguises American neglect of the public welfare. Award-winning professor of social work and sociology David Wagner points out that while the United States prides itself on being one of the most generous nations, it provides its citizens with the lowest public benefits of any Western society and has rates of poverty and inequality among the highest in the industrialized world. These two facts, Wagner argues, are not unrelated: independent philanthropy actually provides a cover for the harshness of America’s free-market capitalism.

In a book that Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, says “raises sobering questions for all of us who want to live in a just society,” Wagner offers a provocative contribution to our thinking on philanthropy and social welfare.


“With charities’ influence growing, the time is right to raise red flags—and Wagner’s are largely on target.”
The Baltimore Sun
“Clear, lively . . . wonderfully readable. Wagner cuts through the self-congratulation that accompanies charity-giving in the United States. He points, rightly, to the need for a change in the way our economic system distributes its benefits.”
—Howard Zinn
“A stinging critique that exposes the dark side of private benevolence in America.”
—Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward
“Well-reasoned analysis.”
“This book will do more to end poverty than any number of contributions to elite charities.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich
“A concise and vivid chronicle of the rise of paternalistic American charity.”
—Frank Browning, Salon

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