Morality under anarchy: neorealism and the foreign aid regime


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    This article argues that neorealist theory can be properly maintained against a neoidealist critique that stresses the moral impact of the ‘foreign aid regime’. Neoidealists have attacked neorealism, claiming that aid is best explained by considerations of humanity and distributive justice, rather than strategic and economic interests of donor states, and thereby embodies (the potential for) moral transformation of the international system. A threefold argument is to show that the neoidealist attack on neorealism only has limited success. First, the neoidealist argument of moral factors being foundational to aid may be more convincing than a standard neorealist argument of security-related factors being the main direct causes, but neorealism is not automatically silenced by this. Second, as basically a ‘second image’ explanation, neoidealism overlooks a progressive/conservative discontinuity in the morality behind aid that reveals neoidealism’s overall internal incoherence. Third, the typically conservative character of the aid regime can be properly explained by ‘third image’ neorealist propositions about states as primarily egoistic security-seekers under anarchy. While neoidealism clarifies the implausibility of an extreme neorealism that assumes states to maximize their security and also to use aid directly for this purpose, it is wrong to regard itself as superior to neorealism per se. Rather, the aid regime suggests the plausibility of a ‘mixed neorealist’ theory that assigns clear priority to national security but also expects states, if once secure, to show altruistic behavior depending on the nature and development of their domestic moral-political systems.
    Keywords: neorealism; neoidealism; foreign aid; development assistance; international anarchy; global distributive justice
    Originele taal-2English
    Aantal pagina's17
    StatusPublished - 2007

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