THE ALMS RACE: The Impact of American Voluntary Aid Abroad by Eugene Linden

THE ALMS RACE: The Impact of American Voluntary Aid Abroad

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Not a simple study of corruption and inefficiency in voluntary aid agencies, Linden's is a far more fundamental, radical analysis of the motives and effects of almsgiving. Linden (Apes, Men, and Language, 1975) focuses on one agency of spotless pedigree, CARE, and one country, Lesotho--the tiny African nation born of ""pity"" in the British Foreign Office which has become everybody's favorite charity case. CARE, founded to feed starving postwar Europe, has long since shifted its mission from relief to ""development""--a wholly different concept, and one which inevitably introduces the natives to the charms of consumerism. Lesotho (""a basket case among nations"") is a perfect example. In the wake of European and American bounty and ""managerial skills"" have also come soil erosion, overpopulation, the beginnings of social breakdown. As a wedge into white-dominated South Africa, black Lesotho is a politically popular cause. CARE, staffed by Peace Corpsmen turned businessmen, today receives 85 percent of its money from the US government. It functions--much like the 19th-century Christian missionaries--as the cutting edge of free enterprise. While the popular image of food packages for hungry waifs persists, CARE and organizations like it are, in effect, a camouflage for Cold War aims. At home CARE's ""redemptive giving"" acts as a ""psychic pacifier"" to guilt-ridden Americans. It is a beautifully argued and convincing book, and Linden's somewhat foggy anthropological embellishments do not really mar it in any serious way.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1976
Publisher: Random House