Mirek Karasek and Jennifer P. Tanabe present a book that uses simple algebra and statistical analysis to map, analyze and present possible solutions to a very serious problem the world is facing today, namely how to resolve and reduce the risk of conflict between developed (Donor) countries and developing (Recipient) countries. In particular, the conditions leading to success or failure of international aid from donor to recipient countries are studied in detail. The results offer valuable insight into the dangers the world faces if these efforts fail, and lead to a paradigm that promises success.
The basis of the study lies in ranking societies along a number of characteristics which are economic, political and cultural in nature. It is proposed that the most important factor is not the absolute value of any of these measures, but rather the level of similarity or difference, both within each society and between societies engaged in the donor-recipient relationship. These cultural, political and economic differences—called “heterogeneities” in the text—stem from vastly different foundations of cultural, ethical, cognitive and religious histories experienced by the different societies.
The analysis shows that high levels of inter-societal homogeneity between donor and recipient provide the basis for successful aid transactions. On the other hand, recipient societies with high levels of intra-societal heterogeneity pose a significant problem, the most serious occurring when an impoverished country is under the control of militant ethnic or religious zealots to whom wars and terrorism are not unknown political tools.
These findings warn us that:
(1) Throwing billions of US dollars into developing countries which the donor countries have little in common with and equally little understanding of their cultural, political and cultural structures and goals, is not just a waste of money but adds fuel to fires of discontent in both recipients and donors.
(2) Doing nothing is even more dangerous, as an increasing number of countries slide dangerously toward political and economic chaos, resulting in violence that can spread domino-like throughout the world.
Fortunately, such a “Doomsday Scenario” is not inevitable. This study provides a paradigm which offers hope, provided it is taken seriously and acted upon before it is too late. The book suggests a way to analyze, assess and understand the inner workings of the developing and/or the world poorest societies’ ruling classes. In reality, however, it is up to the governments and NGOs to make sure that donor-recipient aid transactions are carried out successfully. The paradigm developed here offers a possible solution to the difficulties and dangers encountered in the past, and also a way of avoiding future disasters.