Hiding Relations

Published on 1 June 2010

The present vogue of ‘managing for development results’ is an expression of a historically dominant mode of thought in international aid – ‘substantialism’ – which sees the world primarily in terms of ‘entities’ such as ‘poverty’, ‘basic needs’, ‘rights’, ‘women’, or ‘results’. Another important mode of thought, ‘relationalism’ – in association more generally with ideas of process and complexity – appears to be absent in the thinking of aid institutions. Drawing on my own experiences of working with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), I illustrate how despite formally subscribing to the institution’s substantialist view of the world, some staff are ‘closet relationists’, behaving according to one mode of thought while officially framing their action in terms of the other, more orthodox mode. In so doing, they may be unwittingly keeping international aid sufficiently viable – by the apparent proof of the efficacy of results-based management – to enable the institution as a whole to maintain its substantialist imaginary.

Publication details

published by
Palgrave Macmillan
Eyben, Rosalind


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