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The "Big 3" Foundations and American Global Power

Parmar, I. (2015). The "Big 3" Foundations and American Global Power. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 74(4), pp. 676-703. doi: 10.1111/ajes.12115


Although large American foundations have not sold arms overseas, toppled foreign governments, or sought to govern other countries, their influence is felt around the world. It is easy to imagine that foundations act entirely out of charitable impulses, designed to help people and nations to overcome poverty, illiteracy, and illness. That is how many people think foundations operate, and that is how they want us to perceive them. In fact, philanthropic foundations have shaped American political culture and assisted in imposing an American imperium upon the world, a hegemony constructed in significant part via cultural and intellectual penetration.

Not all of the work of the "Big 3" foundations (Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie) was oriented toward foreign influence. They also operated many domestic programs. In a sense, the purpose was the same at home and abroad: to attain hegemony on behalf of elite interests by shaping the symbols of everyday life. That aim was carried out by influencing publications, civic organizations, and, above all, higher education. I will not attempt to deal with the domestic side of foundation programs except insofar as those activities were conducted to gain tacit support by Americans for active intervention in the affairs of other government, corporations, banks, and foundations. Instead, I will focus on the role played by the major foundations in shaping a global consensus around modernization and the maintenance of institutions that perpetuate elitism and inequality.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Parmar, I. (2015), The “Big 3” Foundations and American Global Power. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 74: 676–703., which is published in final form at http:// This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Subjects: J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
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