Private capital’s voluntary commitments meet demands from marginalized communities: Financing social reproduction through a “racial justice” lens

Authors: Emily Rosenman*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: social reproduction, racial justice, philanthropy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 5:35 PM / 6:50 PM
Room: Columbine, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Terrace Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The “all in it together” narrative of austerity as a homogenous exercise of collective belt-tightening is increasingly refuted by research highlighting the uneven impacts of the 2008 financial crisis and accompanying austerity policies (Bhattacharyya, 2018; Clement and Kanai, 2014; Pulido, 2016). In the US, cuts in public and social services – alongside the effects of the economic downturn – entrenched racialized geographies of inequality: wealth gaps, wage gaps, employment gaps, and so on. Continued constraints on state provisions for social reproduction have prompted claims that private and charitable capital can (and must) fill these gaps. In practice, these capital flows piggyback off state efforts to incentivize social investment in dis/underinvested areas, coupled with voluntary commitments from private and philanthropic capital to shrug off a racist past in favor of revitalizing disinvested communities with investments guided by a “lens” of racial justice. While at first glance these efforts might simply seem like another pretext for private profiteering, they partially align with the demands of marginalized communities and organizations like the Movement for Black Lives: demands for reinvestment in health, education, and social services in historically disinvested communities.

This paper asks how social reproduction is understood when claims and demands are addressed not to the state but to private and philanthropic actors that claim an anti-racist mission. Based on an analysis of the burgeoning array of social services investments constructed along these lines, I explore the impacts – and limits – of marketized social reproduction based on the reconfiguration of investment portfolios.

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