Since 1945, the average length of civil wars has increased three-fold. What can explain this startling fact? It can't be ethnic hatreds and injustices—these have been around for centuries. In Neverending Wars, Ann Hironaka points to the crucial role of the international community in propping up many new and weak states that resulted from the decolonization movement after World War II. These impoverished states are prone to conflicts and lack the necessary resources to resolve them decisively. International aid and external military intervention from the international community often perpetuate such conflicts. And the Cold War further exacerbated the problem by providing large amounts of military aid. The continual infusion of weapons and resources can prolong such wars indefinitely.
This timely book will provide an entirely new way to look at recent, vicious civil wars, failed states, and the terrorist movements that emerge in their wake.
In Neverending Wars, Ann Hironaka sets the record straight by pointing at the responsibility of the international community. Not only have superpowers, former colonial metropoles, and regional powers often directly interfered in other countries through outright intervention—they have also done so indirectly by fostering international norms to which all states are obliged to conform. The originality of Hironaka’s argument and the strength of her book rest in the examination of the relationship between civil wars and the structure of the international system.
Most studies consider how internal factors can explain prolonged wars. Sociologist Ann Hironaka’s timely book points out that the focus has neglected an important influential drive of war: the international community. The decolonization following World War II encouraged the creation of many weak states… Hironaka argues that civil wars are prolonged not because of local factors like ethnic hatred, but that ‘the political salience of ethnic identities results from the absence of institutionalized political identities in weak states.’
This book will undoubtedly have a major impact far beyond the world of comparative sociology, and is likely to be well received by political scientists who study international relations, and by serious policy analysts who grapple with the problems of a disorderly world in a more practical way. Neverending Wars makes an important and timely argument about contemporary civil war.
Neverending Wars will be a contribution to both the discussion of civil war and the broader literature on the contemporary world system. It also provides further motivation for the engagement of sociology and political science.
- Harvard University Press
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