The Globalization of Foreign Aid: Developing Consensus, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

The Globalization of Foreign Aid

Developing Consensus, 1st Edition

By Liam Swiss


174 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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Why do aid agencies from wealthy donor countries with diverse domestic political and economic contexts arrive at very similar positions on a wide array of aid policies and priorities? This book suggests that this homogenization of policy represents the effects of common processes of globalization manifest in the aid sector. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative analysis of policy adoption, the book argues that we need to examine macro-level globalizing influences at the same time as understanding the micro-level social processes at work within aid agencies, in order to adequately explain the so-called ‘emerging global consensus’ that constitutes the globalization of aid.

The book explores how global influences on aid agencies in Canada, Sweden, and the United States are mediated through micro-level processes. Using a mixed-methods approach, the book combines cross-national statistical analysis at the global level with two comparative case studies which look at the adoption of common policy priorities in the fields of gender and security. The Globalization of Foreign Aid will be useful to researchers of foreign aid, development, international relations and globalization, as well as to the aid policy community.


"This long-awaited book provides a compelling account of why foreign aid donors engage in herd behaviour and how the process plays out in specific cases. In it, Liam Swiss makes a very insightful and nuanced contribution to the literature on foreign aid and policy diffusion."Stephen Brown, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada

"Based on sustained personal and professional experience, Liam Swiss provides a meticulous analysis of the many forces that produce convergence in international development policy, norms and priorities. Swiss manages the rare combination of compelling detail, clarity, and theoretical innovation."Emma Mawdsley, Reader in Human Geography, University of Cambridge, UK

"Combining mixed-methods research with his insights as a former international aid worker, Swiss offers a compelling explanation of how donors get stuck in inflexible approaches to development. This books gives us a glimpse into both the dark side of global consensus, and how to break free of it."Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, USA

"This book is an indispensable contribution to our understanding of how aid works. Swiss deftly explores the challenges faced by the development industry today and blazes new trails into the global politics of bilateral assistance. I know of no other comparative study of aid agencies that takes a sociological approach as sophisticated as this."Jeffrey T. Jackson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Mississippi, USA, and author of The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action

Table of Contents

PART I: Emerging Global Consensus?

1. The Globalization of Foreign Aid?

2. Global Influences and the Diffusion of Aid Priorities

PART II: Donors Think Alike?

3. The Donors: Canada, Sweden, and the United States

4. Women and Gender: World Society and Bureaucrat Agency

5. Security Sector Reform: Catalytic Policy Processes and Donor Autonomy

PART III: Globalization’s Influence on Aid Agencies

6. Processes of Globalization: Linking Micro and Macro

7. The Globalization of Aid: Conclusions on Consensus

About the Author

Liam Swiss is Associate Professor of Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Canada.

About the Series

Routledge Global Cooperation Series

The Routledge Global Cooperation series develops innovative approaches to one of the most pressing questions of our time – how to achieve cooperation in a culturally diverse and politically contested global world?

Many key contemporary problems such as climate change and forced migration require intensified cooperation on a global scale. Accelerated globalisation processes have led to an ever-growing interconnectedness of markets, states, societies and individuals. Many of today’s problems cannot be solved by nation states alone and require intensified cooperation at the local, national, regional and global level to tackle current and looming global crises.

We favour books that take an interdisciplinary approach and appeal to an international readership comprised of scholars and postgraduate students.

To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd ([email protected]).

Series Editors:

Tobias Debiel, Dirk Messner, Sigrid Quack and Jan Aart Scholte are Co-Directors of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Their research areas include climate change and sustainable development, global governance, internet governance and peacebuilding. Tobias Debiel is Professor of International Relations and Development Policy at the University of Duisburg-Essen and Director of the Institute for Development and Peace in Duisburg, Germany. Dirk Messner is Director of the Institute for Environment and Human Security at the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany. Sigrid Quack is Professor of Sociology at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Jan Aart Scholte is Professor of Peace and Development at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Patricia Rinck is editorial manager of the series at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Intergovernmental Organizations
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries