Between Samaritans and States: The Political Ethics of Humanitarian INGOs

Paperback | September 17, 2016

byJennifer Rubenstein

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This book provides the first book-length, English-language account of the political ethics of large-scale, Western-based humanitarian INGOs, such as Oxfam, CARE, and Doctors Without Borders. These INGOs are often either celebrated as "do-gooding machines" or maligned as incompetents "on theroad to hell". In contrast, this book suggests the picture is more complicated. Drawing on political theory, philosophy, and ethics, along with original fieldwork, this book shows that while humanitarian INGOs are often perceived as non-governmental and apolitical, they are in fact sometimes somewhat governmental, highly political, and often "second-best" actors. As a result,they face four central ethical predicaments: the problem of spattered hands, the quandary of the second-best, the cost-effectiveness conundrum, and the moral motivation trade-off. This book considers what it would look like for INGOs to navigate these predicaments in ways that are as consistent as possible with democratic, egalitarian, humanitarian and justice-based norms. It argues that humanitarian INGOs must regularly make deep moral compromises. In choosing whichcompromises to make, they should focus primarily on their overall consequences, as opposed to their intentions or the intrinsic value of their activities. But they should interpret consequences expansively, and not limit themselves to those that are amenable to precise cost-benefit analysis. Thebook concludes by explaining the implications of its 'map' of humanitarian INGO political ethics for individual donors to INGOs, and for how we all should conceive of INGOs' role in addressing pressing global problems.

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This book provides the first book-length, English-language account of the political ethics of large-scale, Western-based humanitarian INGOs, such as Oxfam, CARE, and Doctors Without Borders. These INGOs are often either celebrated as "do-gooding machines" or maligned as incompetents "on theroad to hell". In contrast, this book suggests...

Jennifer Rubenstein is an Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, specializing in political theory.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pagesPublished:September 17, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198778694

ISBN - 13:9780198778691

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Eight Extant Alternative Approaches3. A Map of Humanitarian INGO Political Ethics4. The Problem of Spattered Hands5. The Quandary of the Second-best6. The Cost-Effectiveness Conundrum7. The Moral Motivation Tradeoff8. Conclusion: Political Political Ethics

Editorial Reviews

"Between States and Samaritans is a major contribution to the emerging field of humanitarian studies, practical ethics, and global governance. The literature on humanitarianism has now fully embraced the idea that humanitarianism is a set of walking contradictions and moral dilemmas, andRubenstein's is the first book to use the insights and tools of political theory to interrogate these tensions. Not only does she present a fresh take on these issues, but she expertly identifies what counts as "fair" and "unfair" criticism and how to move beyond critique to solution. It is alsorare for a political theorist to wander onto the terrain of international relations; unlike most who do, who tend to inhabit the realm of normative theory and thus excuse themselves from real world politics, Rubenstein makes an original contribution to our understanding of ethics as lived." --Michael Barnett, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University