Accepted Paper:

Three faces of global power: the case of AIDS aid intervention in Sub-Saharan Africa  


Håkan Thörn (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses three ‘theoretical families’ - global governance, neo-imperialism and governmentality - in relation to a AIDS development cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa. It is argued that the complexity of power relations requires theoretical synthesis.

Paper long abstract:

In the social sciences, the concept of political power has most often, explicitly or implicitly, referred to the nation state as the most important unit of analysis. Responding to the latest phase of economic, cultural and political globalization however, a number of attempts have recently been made to re-conceptualise power as a transnational, or even global, phenomenon. This paper discusses three theoretical families that in different ways represent such attempts: global governance theories, emphasizing the emergence of self-organized policy networks across borders; neo-imperialist theories, which argue that aid politics in the 2000s has implied a return of bilateral aid and that the US, as the dominant state, has used aid to legitimize its foreign policy in a manner resembling 'the civilising mission' of classical cultural imperialism; and theories of global governmentality, arguing that political power is exercised through regulations that emphasize responsibilization through 'self-regulation', market-mechanisms, and civil society participation. These three theories are in the paper 'tested' in relation to a case study of international aid interventions in sub-Saharan Africa; more specifically aid to civil society in Rwanda, Mozambique and South Africa. It is argued that since relations of power in the context of international aid have become increasingly complex, and none of the three theories discussed can grasp this complexity, there is a need for theoretical synthesis

Panel P013
Governing AIDS through aid to civil society: power, responsibilization and resistance