There have always been weak or ’fragile’ states in the modern era or poorly governed and disorderly political communities in earlier times. Yet the idea of state failure has only acquired such prominence in the post-Cold War period. Why would many countries in the less-developed world be considered ’failed’ states after 1990, but not in 1965 when there is little meaningful difference in their observable empirical conditions? What counts as state ’failure’ is ultimately a subjective political judgement made by the great powers of the day. This judgement is based on the sensitivity of great powers to particular types of disorder generated from the periphery in different historical periods. This book is a comparative history of the conditions under which great powers care enough about disorder from the periphery to mount costly armed interventions to reverse what they deem to be state ’failure’.
Dan Halvorson, Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Australia.
'This is the first book to place state failure - which many assume is a contemporary issue - in detailed historical context. Lucid, hard-hitting and deeply informative, States of Disorder shows that it is not objective state weakness that causes powerful countries to react to state failure, but broader systemic concerns related to their own sense of security. A must-read for anyone who thinks the world will confront the problem of state failure again in future.’ Michael Wesley, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Australia 'This book is a consummate defence of the thesis that major powers intervene if they think that the world and their capabilities are such that they can avoid their moves being countered by other powers, and if they consider engaged publics can be convinced that intervention can be justified. Through the discussion of judiciously chosen case-studies, Halvorson further shows that these powers intervene for their own purposes or are driven by ideas of their own, so intervention never achieves its full and ostensible objectives.’ James Cotton, UNSW, Australia 'Timing could hardly be more opportune for publication of this thoroughly researched book, as the civil war in Syria has brought yet another insolubility for Western political thought. It is generally a tall order for any aspiring author to challenge mainstream academic ’wisdom’, and Halvorson gears his analysis to substantiate two points of contention. ... Halvorson’s challenges are open to criticism but the conclusion about the high probability of failure in such interventions is sobering.' Journal of Peace Research