Investing for Impact: Philanthrocapitalism and the Rise of Ethical Finance


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


American Studies


Since the outset of the 2008 global financial crisis, many have asked with renewed urgency: what are the ethics of finance? Impact investing, an emergent philanthro-capitalist sector of socially and environmentally responsible finance, claims to re-moralize money markets by saving the world from extreme poverty and climate change at a profit. Engaging ethnographically with impact investors and social entrepreneurs concentrated in New York, this research connects their ideas about ethical markets with investment projects in Ghana, examining how these investments affect local communities. As the fastest growing economy in Africa, Ghana is an important case study in the investor-led privatization of development in the region. By converting social and environmental spheres of life into profitable markets, impact investing raises the critical question of how, and to whose benefit, ethical engagement with the world is transformed into a new frontier for creating wealth.