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The author develops an original interpretation of foreign aid by analysing it as a particular domain of international government. She demonstrates how foreign aid practices are contemporary forms of gift-giving that have made recipient countries and populations governable due to a continuously renovated and expanded debt of development.




This chapter illustrates the main characteristics of the analytical perspective adopted within the study. It starts by comparing this perspective to other approaches dealing with the same matter, and goes on to illustrate the hermeneutical challenges posed by the analysis of foreign aid. ‘The Foreign Aid Regime’, this chapter argues, represents an original, though preliminary and self-consciously limited, attempt to investigate the specific regime of governmental practices that is established and maintained by and through North-South foreign aid.

Annalisa Furia

1. Foreign Aid Is Gift

The concept of gift is a precious hermeneutical tool that serves to analyse the notion of foreign aid and its practices. Using as a starting point the analysis of the history of this concept, the chapter draws attention to its demotion in the modernised economic and political domain, and to its many possible interpretations and intrinsic epistemological challenges. By looking at the ways in which the notion of gift may be of use in international relations, Furia argues that foreign aid constitutes an international gift that produces a particular regime of practices that is not comparable with the existing models of gift-giving practices. ‘Foreign Aid Is a Gift’ concludes with an illustration of the specific methodology adopted for the investigation of this contemporary regime of practices.

Annalisa Furia

2. The Foreign Aid Regime

Foreign aid practices constitute a particular regime of government: with its own truth, discourse and knowledge, its own explicit aims and programme; and its own intrinsic logic and strategy. Adopting a historical perspective, this chapter illustrates how the foreign aid regime has emerged after the end of the Second World War as a regime of government of North-South relations, and how it has increasingly expanded to a regime of government of South countries and selected groups of populations within and across them. Although Furia acknowledges that foreign aid practices carry a function in the conservation of economic and geopolitical/strategic power relations, she argues the reason for doing so lies in their peculiar and continuous potential for transformation of the same relations.

Annalisa Furia

3. Dis/Ordering the World

This chapter investigates in which ways the notion of sovereignty together with its shifting conceptions form part of the foreign aid regime governmental rationality. Distinguishing between the conservative/conflictual and the transformative/cooperative potential intrinsic to any gift-giving practice, Furia then uses these categories to analyse the ways in which foreign aid practices have been interpreted and themes such as poverty, inequality and the obligation to extend aid, have been constructed and put into practice in the operations of the foreign aid regime. In conclusion, the same categories are applied to the notions of community/immunity and order/disorder, to show how the foreign aid regime proliferates through the continuous interplay between the one(s) and the other(s).

Annalisa Furia


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