I am an economic and organizational sociologist studying how indeterminate ideals—such as democracy and accountability—become codified in organizational forms, practices, and technologies. Using historical, qualitative, and quantitative methods, my work explores several aspects of civil society: (1) The changing meanings and practices of accountability among charitable organizations over the first two decades of the 21st century, and the responsiveness of these organizations to community needs during the Great Recession, COVID-19 pandemic, and Black Lives Matter movement; (2) The role that civic organizations, scholars, and financial elites played in shaping the democratic implications of administrative practices in US government between 1905 and 1969, and how the lines of inclusion and exclusion codified in these practices continue to shape collective understandings of democracy; (3) How mega-wealthy philanthropists and their organizations—once viewed as “repugnant to the whole idea of democratic society”—came to be seen as rightful underwriters of public provision and as legitimate participants in democratic discourse.
I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and my research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).
See my website (linked above) for more on publications, ongoing independent and collaborative research projects, press coverage, and pieces I've written for broader audiences.
Horvath, Aaron and Walter W. Powell. 2020. “Seeing Like a Philanthropist: From the Business of Benevolence to the Benevolence of Business.” Forthcoming in The Nonprofit Sector : A Research Handbook, 3rd Edition, edited by Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley. Stanford: Stanford University Press.(PDF)