Revisiting the Political Nature of Corporate Philanthropic Foundations: The Case of Sweden

  • Johan Hvenmark
  • Johan von EssenEmail author
Part of the Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies book series (NCSS)


Almost a decade ago, it was argued that scholarly knowledge largely overlooked the political nature of foundations in favor of issues related to legislation, board composition, management, and societal contributions. As this argument still seems to apply, the aim of this chapter is to explore the political nature of corporate foundations (CFs). To meet this aim, this chapter draws out the contours of an emergent social imaginary concerning welfare provision from the outlook of CFs. The analysis builds on both survey data regarding CFs in Sweden and interviews with representatives from four different Swedish CFs, concerning the interlock between organizational visions and perceived contributions to welfare in this national context. A main conclusion in the chapter relates to the intermediary position of these organizations as they straddle the boundaries of corporate contexts and a public welfare system where they have a potential to influence both these worlds simultaneously, by carrying norms, values, and practices between them. It is also here that parts of the political significance of CFs can be found—both as expressions and containers of an emergent political vision of welfare in society.


Political significance Corporate foundations Welfare state Intermediary position 


  1. Åberg, P. (2012). Managing expectations, demands and myths: Swedish study associations caught between civil society, state and market. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 24(3), 537–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anheier, H. K., & Daly, S. (Eds.). (2007a). The politics of foundations: A comparative analysis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Anheier, H. K., & Daly, S. (2007b). Philanthropic foundations in modern society. In H. Anheier & S. Daly (Eds.), The politics of foundations: A comparative analysis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Anheier, H. K., & Leat, D. (2006). Creative philanthropy: Towards a new philanthropy for the 21st century. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Anheier, H. K., & Toepler, S. (Eds.). (1999). Private funds and public purpose: Philanthropic foundations in international perspectives. New York: Plenum Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. Ekström von Essen, U. (2003). Folkhemmets kommun: Socialdemokratiska idéer om lokalsamhället 1939–1952. Stockholm: Stockholm University.Google Scholar
  7. Eliasoph, N. (2011). Making volunteers. Civic life after welfare’s end. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Evers, A. (1995). Part of the welfare mix: The third sector as an intermediate area. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 6(2), 159–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garrow, E., & Hasenfeld, Y. (2014). Social enterprises as an embodiment of a neoliberal welfare logic. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(11), 1475–1493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Grubb, A. (2016). “Vi skal bare hjælpe og spise chokoladekiks” – En kvalitativ undersøgelse af unge frivilliges deltagelse i en ikke-medlemsbaseret, digitalt koordineret organiseringsform af frivilligt socialt arbejde. Aalborg: Aalborg University.Google Scholar
  11. Hartman, L. (Ed.). (2011). Konkurrensens konsekvenser. Vad händer med svensk välfärd? Stockholm: SNS Förlag.Google Scholar
  12. Hilgers, M. (2010). The three anthropological approaches to neoliberalism. International Social Science Journal, 61(202), 351–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Himmelstein, J. L. (1997). Doing good and looking good: Corporate philanthropy and Business Power. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hvenmark, J. (2008). Reconsidering membership: A study of individual members’ formal affiliation with democratically governed federations. Stockholm: EFI.Google Scholar
  15. Hvenmark, J. (2013). Business as usual? On managerialization and the adoption of the balanced scorecard in a democratically governed civil society organization. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 35(2), 224–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hvenmark, J., & Wijkström, F. (2004). The popular movement marinade: The dominant civil society framework in Sweden. SSE/EFI Working paper series, 18. Retrieved from
  17. Karl, B., & Katz, S. (1987). Foundations and the ruling class. Daedalus, 116(1), 1–40.Google Scholar
  18. Lundström, T., & Svedberg, L. (2003). The voluntary sector in a social democratic welfare state: The case of Sweden. Journal of Social Policy, 32(2), 217–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nielsen, W. A. (1972). The big foundations. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Reuter, M., Wijkström, F., & von Essen, J. (2012). Policy tools or mirrors of politics. Government-voluntary sector compacts in the post-welfare state age. Nonprofit Policy Forum, 3(2).Google Scholar
  21. Sachar, I. (2017). The making of corporate volunteering: A multi-Sited ethnography. Ghent: Department of Sociology, Ghent University.Google Scholar
  22. Salamon, L. M., & Anheier, H. K. (1996). The emerging nonprofit sector: An overview. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Shamir, R. (2008). The age of responsibilization: On market-embedded morality. Economy and Society, 37(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sivesind, K. H. (2016). Mot en ny skandinavisk velferdsmodell? Konsekvenser av ideell, kommersiell og offentlig tjenesteyting for aktivt medborgerskap. Oslo: Institutt for samfunnsforskning.Google Scholar
  25. Sörbom, A. (2010). It is merely changing: An analysis of the concept of individualization in relation to contemporary political participation. In E. Amnå (Ed.), New forms of citizen participation: Normative implications. Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  26. Svedberg, L., & Olsson, L. E. (2010). Civil society and welfare provision in Sweden: Is there such a thing? In A. Zimmer & A. Evers (Eds.), Third sector organizations facing turbulent environments: Sports, culture and social services in Germany, Italy, U.K, Poland and Sweden. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag.Google Scholar
  27. Trägårdh, L. (2012). Det borgerliga samhällets återkomst. In F. Wijkström (Ed.), Civilsamhället i samhällskontraktet. En antologi om vad som står på spel. Stockholm: European Civil Society Press.Google Scholar
  28. Vamstad, J., & von Essen, J. (2013). Charitable giving in a universal welfare state – Charity and social rights in Sweden. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(2), 285–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. von Essen, J., Frederiksen, M., & Loga, J. (forthcoming). The ambiguities of volunteering. In L. S. Henriksen, K. Strømsnes, & L. Svedberg (Eds.), Scandinavian civic engagement. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Wijkström, F. (2007). Sweden. In H. Anheier & S. Daly (Eds.), The politics of foundations: A comparative analysis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Wijkström, F. (2011). Charity speak and business talk. The on-going (re)hybridization of civil society. In F. Wijkström & A. Zimmer (Eds.), Nordic civil society at a cross-roads. Baden: Nomos.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wijkström, F. (2017). Nytt svängrum för filantropi och frivillighet. Migrerande idéer och transnationella projektioner. In F. Wijkström, M. Reuter, & A. Emami (Eds.), Civilsamhället i det transnationella rummet. Stockholm: European Civil Society Press.Google Scholar
  33. Wijkström, F., & Einarsson, S. (2004). Foundations in Sweden: Their scope, roles and visions. Stockholm: EFI.Google Scholar
  34. Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. London: SAGE.Google Scholar

Web Sources

  1. Accessed during the Spring of 2017.
  2. Accessed during the Spring of 2017.
  3. Accessed during the Spring of 2017.
  4. Accessed during the Spring of 2017.
  5. Accessed during the Winter of 2016/2017.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University CollegeStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations