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Reconceptualizing Foreign Aid

Tomohisa Hattori
Review of International Political Economy
Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 633-660
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4177404
Page Count: 28
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Reconceptualizing Foreign Aid
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Abstract

What is foreign aid? This deceptively simple question has not been adequately addressed because aid scholars have tended to emphasize practitioners' concerns and thus have favoured the conceptualization of foreign aid in terms of security or development policy objectives. This article attempts to reconceptualize foreign aid in a larger systemic context of international relations, focusing first on the nature and conditions of the key social relation involved in foreign aid practice and then on specifying its functions and effects. It argues that what most clearly defines foreign aid is the symbolic power politics between donor and recipient. Aid practice transforms material dominance and subordination into gestures of generosity and gratitude. This symbolic transformation, in turn, euphemizes the material hierarchy underlying the donor-recipient relation. In this process, recipients become complicit in the existing order that enables donors to give in the first place.

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