Making goods philanthropic

Philanthropic enterprises
The second life of food products in a rural area
By Sylvain Bordiec


This article examines the relationship between a commercial company and an organization focused on solidarity that together are involved in distributing food to poor people. The forms of this relationship are considered through a fieldwork study conducted in the Médoc peninsula, in southwest France. In this area, within the wine production sector, both “precarious” workers and those with great fortunes coexist. This study looks at the transformation of market goods into “philanthropic goods” in stores, a duty vehicle, and in the establishment of an association. Understanding this process also requires interviews to be conducted with its protagonists, in both the commercial realm and that of the solidarity organization. The sociological investigation is at first enlightening regarding the professional logics and calculations that make it possible for a good initially intended to be sold to become a donation. After all possibilities for them to be sold have been exhausted, goods that are entrusted to the volunteers of the solidarity organization can avoid being thrown away. The research then goes on to show the plural dimension of this “second life.” All at once, the donations have a “fiscal life” (they allow the company to benefit from increased tax deductions), an “association life” (the solidarity organization is able to function because of the existence of donations), and a “communication life” (the foundation that the company has created presents the donations as actions of solidarity). The dependence of the company, in implementing financial and fiscal strategy, on the solidarity organization allows the latter to avoid being dominated by the former. Unlike many academic works placing a greater emphasis on the imbalance between grantors and grantees, this article shows that, ultimately, a situation of interdependence may form, leading to a kind of symmetrizing of their relationship.


  • company
  • organization
  • foundation
  • solidarity
  • interdependence
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