The Selfish Altruist

‘The Selfish Altruist –relief work in famine and war’ was published by Earthscan in 2001 and is currently available through Amazon (hardback, paperback and Kindle).

As Jean Dreze notes in the Foreword, the book sought to define the underlying motive for aid as ‘Humanity’ or ‘concern for the person in need’. It examines the practical difficulty of applying this concept as a manager of aid programmes. Dreze goes on to say that-

‘These revelations are bound to disturb those who are used to the fundraising-poster images of Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies as benign, concern-driven enterprises. Yet they are necessary to bring about greater accountability in this field…..   It is important to promote a better understanding of the dilemmas -and political economy- of humanitarian intervention among donors (and this includes the general public). That to my mind is one of the chief contributions of this book.’

The chapters of the book are each focused on a different part of the world and a different moral dilemma:

  • Kosovo: The Loss of Impartiality
  • Ethiopia: A Golden Age of Humanitarianism?
  • Sudan: Impartiality and Self-respect
  • Mozambique: Vulnerability and Power
  • Afghanistan: Pride and Principle
  • Somalia: Emotion and Order
  • Azerbaijan and Bosnia: Responsibility and Rights
  • The Rwanda Genocide: Man’s Inhumanity