The Selfish Altruist

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $14.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 66%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (6) from $14.99   
  • New (2) from $39.92   
  • Used (4) from $14.99   


Provides an analysis of some of the most traumatic situations involving famine and war of the last two decades, helping us to understand what it takes to be an aid worker and how important humanitarian action is today. Famine and war evoke strong emotional reactions, and for most people there is a limited amount they can do. But the relief worker has to convert emotional responses into practical action and difficult choices - whom to help and how. Their own feelings have to motivate action for others. But can they separate out their own selfish feelings and prejudices in such an emotive climate? How do they avoid being partial among those they are helping? Are they motivated by altruistic concern, or the power they experience or the attention they receive? Tony Vaux brings over 20 years experience as one of Oxfam's leading emergency managers to the exploration of the conflicts between subjective impulses and objective judgements and the dilemmas relief workers contend with.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This is an absorbing book.'
Daniel Wolf, writer and producer, The Hunger Business, Channel 4

'Highly informative, often provocative.'
Development Policy Review

'A searching self-examination by someone who has been on the front lines of emergency responses.'
James Boyce, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts

'Vaux's book is as much an examination of himself as of the agency and industry he worked for.'
The Healthy Exchange

'[Tony Vaux] discusses very difficult and emotional topics with wonderful clarity and courage.'

'The Selfish Altruist highlights the key issues and quandaries that relief staff and policy makers have grappled with over the past 15 years. As someone with personal experience of a wide range of emergency situations, Tony Vaux has not shied away from confronting some awkward truths.'
Will Day, director, CARE International

'Most original is the clarity of thought that helps us to understand what it takes to be an aid worker.'
The Ecologist

'The book is a 'must' not only for enthusiasts and critics of humanitarian aid, but also for those ambivalent towards it. Whatever the reader's point of view, it is bound to be questioned.'
Development Policy Review

'Vaux's work has thrown open questions for discussion.'
International Sociology

'This book surveys the emotional well-springs behind the doing of relief work and suggests that they are not determined by our cultural or biological heritage.'
Aslib Book Guide

'The strength of the book lies in Vaux's passion and the breadth of his experience which enable him to explore with great insight the urgent developmental questions.'
Methodist Recorder

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781853838798
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

After studying English at Oxford, Tony Vaux worked with Oxfam GB from 1972 until 1999. He spent nearly seven years in India developing Oxfam's work with community based projects. From 1984 he was coordinator of Oxfam's global emergency programmes, and became particularly closely involved with Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique and Somalia—all of which feature as chapters in this book.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he turned to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, building up new Oxfam programmes in response to conflict and poverty. Since writing this book on a sabbatical year in 1999-2000, he has been working as an independent consultant, focusing on areas of conflict.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jean Dreze
• Introduction
• Kosovo: The Loss of Impartiality
• Ethiopia: A Golden Age of Humanitarianism?
• Sudan: Impartiality and Self-respect
• Mozambique: Vulnerability and Power
• Afghanistan: Pride and Principle
• Somalia: Emotion and Order
• Azerbaijan and Bosnia: Responsibility and Rights
• The Rwanda Genocide: Man's Inhumanity
• The Selfish Altruist
• Notes on the Sources
• Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)