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2016 APSA-IPSA Theodore J. Lowi First Book Award Winner
2016 ISA Ethics Panel Book Award Winner
Jennifer Rubensteins Between Samaritans and States: The Political Ethics of Humanitarian INGOs provides an excellent analysis of the ethical dilemmas met by international humanitarian actors and maps in an innovative manner the ways in which orientation is possible through these dilemmas. The book provides as a result a groundbreaking, ambitious bridge between theoretical and practical considerations of the ethics of humanitarian aid in the wider political context. The book deserves to have significant impact in the sector and is a very worthy winner of this years ISA Ethics Book Award. (Richard Beardsworth, Chair, ISA Ethics Book Award Committee)
In the growing literature on humanitarian aid by social and political scientists, this book brings one of the most systematic and thorough analysis of the moral predicaments faced by NGOs as they attempt to provide assistance to the victims of conflicts, disasters and epidemics. Showing that ethics and politics are intimately connected in these contexts, it proposes a lucid inquiry into the practices of benevolent international actors and takes the risk of normative stances to improve their interventions. (Didier Fassin, author of Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present, University of California Press)
Jennifer Rubenstein provides humanitarian actors with new, thought-provoking perspectives on their decisions and the underlying assumptions that drive them. The way she analyses the ethical predicaments that characterize NGOs field work helps reframe the issues at play and think more rigorously about their expected outcomes and drawbacks. A must-read for all aid workers. (Rony Brauman, Director of studies at MSF Foundation, former President of MSF (France))
This is a powerful and original contribution to the political theory of humanitarian aid. Jennifer Rubenstein has produced a pioneering analysis that, for the first time, gives a detailed normative account of the political ethics of NGOs in today's wars and disasters. This book will help humanitarians to understand themselves and give political theorists a more accurate insight into this growing dimension of international relations. (Dr Hugo Slim, University of Oxford)
This deeply insightful book explores the ethical reasoning behind choices aid organisations make when faced with moral dilemmas in the course of their attempts to alleviate suffering in the world. It is an enormous achievement: a highly readable and thought-provoking appraisal of the international aid enterprise that is of great value to everyone involved in or studying contemporary humanitarian action. (Fiona Terry, Author of Condemned to Repeat?)
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, and Rubenstein'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 also rare 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)
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 heroes or do-going machines or maligned as incompetents 'on the road 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 which compromises 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 measurements of cost-effectiveness. The book 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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