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Foreign Aid, Development Cooperation and International Relations  

Bernabé Malacalza

Despite the dominance of development economics in the study of foreign aid and development cooperation since the 1950s, particularly with the emergence of modernization theory, an examination of academic contributions to the larger debates in international relations (IR) reveals something not extensively documented in the scholarly literature. It is that the study of foreign aid and development cooperation is inherently intertwined with IR, constituting an integral component thereof. Understanding the evolution of foreign aid and development cooperation studies, as well as its interaction with IR theories, is essential for deciphering the contemporary theoretical, normative, methodological, ontological, and epistemological challenges faced by the field. Investigating the historical evolution of this field in relation to IR involves analyzing, in parallel, its development alongside shifts in the international order. The historical analysis highlights how foreign aid and development cooperation have been shaped by changing power structures, ideological shifts, and geopolitical events, underscoring its inseparable connection to broader IR dynamics and its theorization. The interconnected nature of these domains demonstrates how prevailing theoretical perspectives influence not only the methods employed but also the identification of underlying forces and the normative principles guiding research, as well as the design of foreign aid and development cooperation policies. Analyzing how epistemological approaches, such as rationalism and reflectivism, have influenced the investigation of narratives and practices within the realms of foreign aid and development cooperation reveals potential elements of theoretical complementation. Beyond mere theoretical differentiation, there are elements that contribute significantly to fostering notions of dialogue, pluralism, and interdisciplinarity within the field of foreign aid and development cooperation studies. The prevailing trend is a movement toward theoretical eclecticism, wherein researchers increasingly draw upon a variety of theoretical frameworks to better grasp the intricate dynamics of foreign aid and development cooperation. This transformation stems from the evolving nature of global challenges and the recognition that a singular theoretical approach may fall short in capturing the multifaceted dimensions of foreign aid and development cooperation. Moreover, it underscores the dynamic and evolving nature of the field, emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary approaches and theoretical flexibility to address the complex issues surrounding foreign aid and the discussion of the concept of development in times of global planetary crisis.