Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Philosophy, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Joshua Goode

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

David Luis-Brown

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Robert Klitgaard

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2021 Kelsey Picken


Campaign, Cultural Studies, Development, Fundraising, Los Angeles, Philanthropy


This dissertation will examine philanthropy and capital in Los Angeles in two parts: the first to produce a breakdown of the ideological assumptions of the most dominant forms of philanthropy in the United States—big philanthropy, voluntary associations, and mass campaigns. The second part offers case studies for each of these forms to illustrate how the various institutional applications of philanthropy within the unique context of Los Angeles contribute to the transformation of the philanthropic model through the exchange of capital. Together, these chapters uncover distinct site-specific efforts that led to the successful active engagement of the citizenry in philanthropy, reducing the fundamental inequities of participation in the exchange of capital, resulting in the increased potential of serving the public good. By expanding beyond the criticisms of the exploitative foundations of philanthropy, I offer a reinterpretation of the notion that philanthropy is a technology of power that disseminates economic, social, and cultural control. Instead of upholding the values of the elite through reproducing a system that serves to remedy the exploitation of the relations of production, I reimagine philanthropy’s methodologies as a means to include the citizenry more openly as an active social subject.

Ultimately, this dissertation evaluates the comparative efficacy of the three major philanthropic forms—big philanthropy, voluntary associations, and mass campaigns—as they adapt to the dispersed social landscapes of Los Angeles during the 20th century. By expanding a

cultural studies theoretical framework to investigate the understudied field of philanthropy, this dissertation illustrates a genealogical approach to philanthropy facilitated by Los Angeles’s foundational cultural institutions: the Hollywood Bowl, the Music Center, and the Los Angeles Public Library. Tracing each form of philanthropy through these institutions provides the opportunity to question and compare how their respective philanthropic efforts have contributed to the adaptation of applied transference of capital as a methodology to engage multiple subsets of the citizenry for the public good.