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The Avant Garde of Western Civ. By David Holdridge. Los Angeles: Press Americana, 2017.

The Avant Garde of Western Civ. By David Holdridge. Los Angeles: Press Americana, 2017. Global Governance 24 (2018), 307–308 BOOK REVIEWS The Avant Garde of Western Civ. By David Holdridge. Los Angeles: Press Americana, 2017. Usually, when I start to read an autobiography, I anticipate dramatic stories about glory days. But this new book by David Holdridge is unusual in com- bining autobiography with philosophy about humanitarian aid while also offering practical advice. It is a critique of humanitarian aid provided by Western governments and of “big charity” that follows in its wake. Holdridge has thirty-five years of humanitarian experience working in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Haiti. From his seven years in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, he distills the West’s theory of change, reflecting a post-Enlightenment naïveté defined by such terms as “rationality, secular, and modern” that inform projects aimed at an eventual “assimila- tion into a Western-inspired global order” (p. 65). Aid workers “were being indulged by a culture much older than ours” (p. 33). Practical advice is woven throughout the book. For example, when a host seems nervous, leave. Don’t automatically call factional fighting “terrorism” in locations in which nations have been inappropriately bundled together as states. Find staff members who will stick with you over the long run. Arguably, the most insightful part of the book is on migration. Holdridge argues that development has been driven by migration throughout human his- tory, which brings new talent to where workers get paid enough to send money back home. Expatriate remittances far outweigh the meager dribbles of aid provided by Western governments. Restrictions to migration work against development that is led by the “beneficiaries” themselves. This book should be read by development practitioners and scholars alike. It does not offer detailed road maps or comprehensive policy pre- scriptions. Instead, it provides color to the humanitarian picture, a picture painted by an artist who passionately, poetically, and irreverently critiques foreign aid. Its first-person narrative comes from someone who wants to have a genuine impact in bringing right relationships across and within bor- ders while being deeply disappointed by our current business as usual. Readers will no doubt take exception to some of the acerbic criticisms leveled against aid organizations. But this is a book that is important for humanitarian professionals to read, offering a sharp perspective by some- one with a brilliant philosophical mind and a broken heart. Yet there is hope. According to Holdridge, civil society organizations that ask difficult questions, focused on bringing right relations, deserve the brightest of all paint.  Reviewed by Joseph G. Bock http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations Brill

The Avant Garde of Western Civ. By David Holdridge. Los Angeles: Press Americana, 2017.

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1075-2846
eISSN
1942-6720
DOI
10.1163/19426720-02402009
Publisher site
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Abstract

Global Governance 24 (2018), 307–308 BOOK REVIEWS The Avant Garde of Western Civ. By David Holdridge. Los Angeles: Press Americana, 2017. Usually, when I start to read an autobiography, I anticipate dramatic stories about glory days. But this new book by David Holdridge is unusual in com- bining autobiography with philosophy about humanitarian aid while also offering practical advice. It is a critique of humanitarian aid provided by Western governments and of “big charity” that follows in its wake. Holdridge has thirty-five years of humanitarian experience working in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Haiti. From his seven years in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, he distills the West’s theory of change, reflecting a post-Enlightenment naïveté defined by such terms as “rationality, secular, and modern” that inform projects aimed at an eventual “assimila- tion into a Western-inspired global order” (p. 65). Aid workers “were being indulged by a culture much older than ours” (p. 33). Practical advice is woven throughout the book. For example, when a host seems nervous, leave. Don’t automatically call factional fighting “terrorism” in locations in which nations have been inappropriately bundled together as states. Find staff members who will stick with you over the long run. Arguably, the most insightful part of the book is on migration. Holdridge argues that development has been driven by migration throughout human his- tory, which brings new talent to where workers get paid enough to send money back home. Expatriate remittances far outweigh the meager dribbles of aid provided by Western governments. Restrictions to migration work against development that is led by the “beneficiaries” themselves. This book should be read by development practitioners and scholars alike. It does not offer detailed road maps or comprehensive policy pre- scriptions. Instead, it provides color to the humanitarian picture, a picture painted by an artist who passionately, poetically, and irreverently critiques foreign aid. Its first-person narrative comes from someone who wants to have a genuine impact in bringing right relationships across and within bor- ders while being deeply disappointed by our current business as usual. Readers will no doubt take exception to some of the acerbic criticisms leveled against aid organizations. But this is a book that is important for humanitarian professionals to read, offering a sharp perspective by some- one with a brilliant philosophical mind and a broken heart. Yet there is hope. According to Holdridge, civil society organizations that ask difficult questions, focused on bringing right relations, deserve the brightest of all paint.  Reviewed by Joseph G. Bock

Journal

Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International OrganizationsBrill

Published: Aug 19, 2018

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