The Philanthropist: Reconciling Capitalism

The Philanthropist is a drama/action show that started in late June in the US as a mid-season replacement for Rome. The wikipedia summary: The title character, Teddy Rist (portrayed by James Purefoy), is a billionaire playboy haunted by the death of his only child. His life changes when he rescues a young boy during a hurricane in Nigeria; Rist begins using his fortune to personally change the lives of others. Some people may think, oh good, someone is breaking out of the capoitalist old and trying to do good in the world.

The singular pursuit of accumulating capital and the maintenance and functioning of socio-commercial machinery further accumulation never come into question. The way each episode runs is that there is this massive company trying to make a deal of some kind, but the deal isn’t happening or it is in jeopardy. Then Teddy Rist comes along with a bleeding heart and sees some kid suffering and decides they need to have a new home/liver transplant/repatriated to France. Teddy’s seemingly ridiculous personal attempt to make this kid’s life better further jeopardises the business venture.


We find out that the real bad guys are currupt government officials/Russian mobsters and currupt government officials/freedom fighters and currupt government officials. Teddy comes in and saves the day AND makes money. Wow, he is awesome. (Italics from now on will denote sarcasm.) If maybe a little hypocritical…

The show has a really weird notion of ‘doing good’. I haven’t quite figured this out. Similar to a ‘law and order’ type cop show there is a larger than life moral problem played out through the drama. The baddies and the goodies get justice. In The Philanthropist the needy are given ‘good’ by ridiculously wealthy Westerners. It is like there is an alternative economy of ‘good’ in effect. The capitalists use all their money and guilt not to create alterntive distributions of capital, but spontaneous out-pourings of this thing called ‘good’. The philanthropist does ‘good’, he brings ‘good’ to people who need it. The socio-economic systems that create the deficits of ‘good’ in the first place are not questioned. So the ‘real baddies’ are set up as a foil for the structural ‘bad’ of the capitalist machinations.

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