Here is a contemporary social paradox: Modern liberal democracy rests upon a platform of a pluralistic civil society. Philanthropy, by providing vital resources, is an essential feature of that civil society. Yet philanthropy also plays an ambiguous role in democracy. Therefore philanthropy potentially both supports and detracts from democracy. This essay explores the nature of this paradox and its implications for the practice of contemporary philanthropy.Neither "civil society" nor "democracy" has a single, universally accepted meaning in the contemporary world. In differing historical and philosophical contexts, civil society has been used to describe a broad spectrum of social phenomena—the realm of social ..