Abstract: This essay reviews three books: Larissa MacFarquhar, Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help (Penguin Press 2015); Jennifer Rubenstein, Between Samaritans and States: The Political Ethics of Humanitarian INGOs (Oxford University Press 2015); and Peter Singer, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically (Yale University Press 2015). The essay traces some similarities and differences between various modes of altruism and humanitarianism, arguing that the shared moral vision that animates much altruistic and humanitarian action tends to neglect the need for politics.

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