Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 295–309 | Cite as

When elites and outlaws do philanthropy: on the limits of private vices for public benefit

  • Tereza KuldovaEmail author


In the last decade, elitist philanthropy exploded in certain parts of the West and so did philanthropy of outlaw motorcycle clubs. The question is, under what conditions does philanthropy become an effective strategy of legitimization of one’s power in society? Neoliberalism did not only result in extreme inequality, weakening of the state, and emergence of increasingly disillusioned population, but also enabled philanthropy to become an effective strategy of legitimization of the informal power of both billionaires and criminal organizations alike. Philanthropy became instrumental both to image management in face of crises of reputation and to the insertion of these transnational non-state actors into governance. The destructive effects of neoliberalism allowed both groups to grow, and to reproduce and accelerate the very conditions in which they thrive, thus further weakening the state and fuelling inequality. The argument counters popular narratives about how private vices and greed can serve public benefit.


Philanthropy Outlaw motorcycle clubs Crime Non-state governance 



This study was funded by The Research Council of Norway through a FRIPRO Mobility Grant, contract no 250716. The FRIPRO Mobility grant scheme (FRICON) is co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Marie Curie grant agreement no 608695.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

Author, Tereza Kuldova, declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.ViennaAustria

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