Effective Altruism and Anti-Capitalism: An Attempt at Reconciliation

Essays in Philosophy 18 (1):68-90 (2017)

Abstract

Leftwing critiques of philanthropy are not new and so it is unsurprising that the Effective Altruism movement, which regards philanthropy as one of its tools, has been a target in recent years. Similarly, some Effective Altruists have regarded anti-capitalist strategy with suspicion. This essay is an attempt at harmonizing Effective Altruism and the anti-capitalism. My attraction to Effective Altruism and anti-capitalism are motivated by the same desire for a better world and so personal consistency demands reconciliation. More importantly however, I think Effective Altruism will be less effective in realizing its own ends insofar as it fails to recognize that capitalism restricts the good we can do. Conversely, insofar as anti-capitalists fail to recognize the similarity in methods which underlie Effective Altruism thinking about the world, it too risks inefficiency or worse, total failure in replacing capitalism with a more humane economic system. I first argue that Effective Altruism and anti-capitalism are compatible in principle by looking at similarities between Effective Altruist theory and some Marxist writing. I then go on to show that the theoretic compatibility can be mirrored in practice. I demonstrate this by considering and replying to objections to anti-capitalism as they might be raised by Effective Altruists and by replying to objections to Effective Altruism as they might be raised by anti-capitalists. I conclude by suggesting that their reconciliation would lead to better outcomes from the perspective of a proponent of either view. In short, an “Anti-Capitalist Effective Altruism” is not just possible, it’s preferable.

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Author's Profile

Joshua Kissel
Northwestern University

References found in this work

Effective Altruism and its Critics.Iason Gabriel - 2016 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (3).
The Fallacy of Philanthropy.Paul Gomberg - 2002 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (1):29 - 65.

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