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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Our latest issue of Humanity is out! It features essays on refugee theory and the necessity of trespass in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year; the Balfour declaration as an instrument of imperial protection and Palestinian dispossession; late-Soviet economic thought and global debates over the role of state planning in development; the role of Brazilian Liberation Theology in framing Western European human rights media coverage of Brazil’s military dictatorship; the Standing Rock protests as offering a language of human rights not oriented towards the state; and a review of three recent books that theorize human rights in the face of critique.View entire issue >
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