OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Stanley N. Katz

Portrait of Stanley N. Katz

An expert on American legal history, the history of philanthropy, and the history of higher education, Stan Katz is the director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy and a lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is a past president of the OAH and the Society for Legal History, and the editor-in-chief of the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (2009). He served a co-general editor of the "Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court" from 1978 to 1989 and as its general editor from 1990 to 2015. President emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies, he received the National Humanities Medal in 2010, recognizing a career devoted to fostering public support for the humanities.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The United States has one of the largest and most vigorous philanthropic sectors, in part because our state sector is so weak relative to comparable developed nations. One reason is that we have permitted almost any non-criminal activity to count as "philanthropy". The downside is that now that mega-philanthropy has come to dominate the philanthropic sector, the use of "philanthropic" funding threatens our democratic process. What can we do to avoid this historical trap?
America in 2015 has a more asymetrical distribution of wealth than at any time in our history. Meanwhile, foundation philanthropy, which blossomed during a previous era of asymetry during the first two decades of the 20th century, has now taken a new form -- dominated by megafoundations (with netassets of more than $1 billion). Americans a century feared that philanthropic foundations posed a threat to democracy. We have forgotten their fears -- but perhaps we should start worrying about whether megaphilanthropy is not dangerous to democracy?