Abstract: This article explores two recent books on the ethics of humanitarian action from the moral perspectives of the practitioner, and the tensions between personal desires to ‘do good’ and actual outcomes for suffering populations. The first work (Hugo Slim, Humanitarian Ethics) defends humanitarianism and prescribes correctives to its unintended negative consequences; the second (Liisa Malkki, The Need to Help) gives voice to Finnish aid workers who seek global connection and wider purpose through their work. Both authors frame humanitarian action in terms of an individual ethics whose insertion into a wider nexus of cause and effect generates new moral dilemmas and insights that often surpass the practitioner’s capacity to assess, critique and shape constructively.
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In our new issue we feature a dossier on international organizations and technologies of stateness. In contains essays on Ethiopia and the League of Nations, imperial internationalism in India, constitution drafting manuals, the World Bank in Calcutta, the state and international law, and UN technical assistance in decolonializing states.View entire issue >
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