Beyond the merchant and the clergyman: Assessing moral claims about development cooperation
By Peter van Dam
This article proposes to move beyond the categories of altruism and self-interest in the analyses of the motives for development cooperation. This opposition ignores the inherently moral nature of development policy. The article illustrates the shortcomings of such a perspective by tracing the metaphor of the merchant and the clergyman as archetypical figures shaping Dutch development policy. Through these images, the suggestion of an opposition between moral and amoral motives in the history of development has gained a strong foothold within the interplay of scholars, policy makers and public opinion. We go on by assessing claims about economy, security, solidarity, prestige and guilt, and ecology, which have been brought forward to legitimise Dutch foreign aid. This analysis calls for research on the dynamics of the transnational exchanges of ideas, interests and expectations, especially during episodes when the moral validity of policy was explicitly contested.