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Aid(s) politics and power: a critique of global governance

Journal article
Authors Håkan Thörn
Published in Politikon
Volume 38
Issue 3
Pages 433-451
ISSN 0258-9346
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Sociology
Gothenburg Centre for Globalization and Development (GCGD)
Pages 433-451
Language en
Keywords HIV/AIDS, aid, governance, South Africa, civil society
Subject categories Social Sciences


ABSTRACT This article provides a case study of overseas development assistance for AIDS to South African civil society; it analyses how power is exercised as well as resisted in the context of international aid. While it is argued that governance theory tends to underestimate power inequalities in the context of policy networks, this case is instead related to the theoretical debate regarding whether current global power structures can be analysed in terms of a (US-led) neoimperialism, or whether they should rather be understood in terms of postimperialist power constellations based on ‘regulation of self-regulation’ through market mechanisms, and with an emphasis on ‘civil society participation’. While the case demonstrates how US aid under the Bush administrations to a certain extent involved a ‘civilising mission’, it is argued that ‘regulation of self-regulation’ was the more significant form of governing AIDS aid networks, contributing to a development through which AIDS activism went through a process of ‘NGO-isation’, de-politicising the AIDS issue.

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