Humanitarian movement, charity and moral imagination
Sociology University of Bologna Bologna, Italia
Our starting point is: the myth of development as economic and moral emancipation (Sachs
1991, Rist 1997), humanitarian assistance as a substitute for political initiatives and solutions
(Vaux 2001, Rieff 2002).
The session will explore the influence of that the "spectacle of suffering" - the images of
human misery dramatized by the media and upon which the humanitarian movements wish to
focus attention - (Boltanski 1999, Cohen 2001) has on our "moral imagination".
As soon as the social imaginary shift from cooperation to humanitarian aid occurred, the
paradoxes of globalization came out. As a consequence the boundaries of nations, markets,
the common good, private interests, governing institutions and civil society have become
confused. At the same time it has increased the distance between viewers and sufferers, the
heroes? and the victims, between "us" and "them".
In our "social construction of reality", what relationship exists between the old imperialism and
the new responsibility to protect victims? What difference is there between the "victim" to be
helped, and the "illegal immigrant" to be rejected?
Moreover, globalization creates an integrated world and a cosmopolitan society (Beck 2002) in
which we have a growing awareness of living in a world at the same time remarkably
comfortable and absolutely poor (Sen 2000). The session therefore focuses on the relationship
between our commitment as spectators-benefactors and our responsibility as citizenconsumers.
When did Business become Solidarity? What is the link between our style of
consumption and the misery of "others"?