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Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-Building [Paperback]

David Chandler

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Book Description

20 July 2006
David Chandler argues that state-building, as it is currently conceived, does not work.

In the 1990s, interventionist policies challenged the rights of individual states to self-governance. Today, non-Western states are more likely to be feted by international institutions offering programmes of poverty-reduction, democratisation and good governance.
States without the right of self-government will always lack legitimate authority. The international policy agenda focuses on bureaucratic mechanisms, which can only instutiutionalise divisions between the West and the non-West and are unable to overcome the social and political divisions of post-conflict states. Highlighting the dangers of current policy -- including the redefinition of sovereignty, and the subsquent erosion of ties linking power and accountability -- David Chandler offers a critical look at state-building that will be of interest to all students of international affairs.

Praise for From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond:
'A fine book.' Edward S. Herman
'Anyone concerned with world events should read this book.' Global Dialogue

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Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-Building + Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World + The Dilemmas of Statebuilding: Confronting the contradictions of postwar peace operations (Security and Governance)
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More About the Author

David Chandler is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, London, UK. He is the founding editor of the Taylor & Francis journals Intervention and Statebuilding and Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses. He is the author of a number of books and numerous articles and book chapters on the shifting paradigms of international intervention - particularly those of humanitarian intervention, statebuilding and resilience - and how these can be critically engaged with. His website is at and his email address is

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Chandler's work is a most valuable contribution to the debate on state-and peace-building interventions. It moreover hints at the inadequacy of literature that lumps Western states, intervening agencies and post-conflict societies into one analytical field. (Alex Veit, Development and Change)

A provocative and insightful study which raises many important questions about how the international community employs its power and resources. Chandler's perspective, regarding the limits of foreign state builders’ interventions and their mixed motives and rationales, is a cautionary tale that deserves to be carefully considered by both policy-makers and analysts alike. At a time when the literature on democracy promotion and on fragile and failed states is a growth industry, Empire in Denial carefully and clearly explores important and original issues that require fresh debate and resolution. (Lenard Cohen, Professor of Political Science, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia)

David Chandler’s book is a very important one, with a powerful and convincing thesis. It stands out from a field dominated either by narrow, technical and depoliticised policy pieces or by leftist critiques which assume that state-building is driven by the disciplinary drives of neo-liberal ideologues. For Chandler, new forms of international regulation are driven by the desire to avoid political accountability and policy responsibility; it is this logic of avoidance which is at the heart of Empire in Denial. (Didier Bigo, Professor of International Relations, Sciences-Po (Institut d'Etudes Politiques), Paris)

Western-supported 'state building' in places like Bosnian and Kosovo has produced 'governments' without the institutional capacity to govern and disempowered local officials who were chosen in relatively 'free and fair' elections, mainly in the name of spreading democracy. David Chandler reveals the mechanisms through which these dysfunctional 'states' are constructed, but more importantly, he links their creation to the spread of ideologies that devalue politics and self-government in favor of administration by experts and bureaucracies. The result is a strong, original critique of the Western ideologies of rule that threaten to destroy democracy in order to save it. (Robert M. Hayden, University of Pittsburgh)

About the Author

David Chandler is Professor of International Relations, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster. He has written widely on democracy, human rights and international relations and is also the author of From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (Pluto Press) and Constructing Global Civil Society: Morality and Power in International Relations (2004), editor of Rethinking Human Rights: Critical Approaches to International Politics (2002) and Peace without Politics: Ten Years of State-Building in Bosnia (2005), and co-editor of Global Civil Society: Contested Futures (2005).

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