Praise for the book:

Cambridge Series on Comparative Politics

Cambridge Series on Comparative Politics


  • "Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States should be read by all scholars, policy experts, and practitioners concerned with political violence and civil conflicts, both for the innovative ways that the author applies insights from more than two years of intense field research, and for the clear logic of his argument concerning major problems of creating political order in recent and ongoing conflicts … The key insight is that “systemic corruption” (as critics would have it) is an integral component of state building through the harmonizing of violent predatory informal institutions with formal state structures. ... This book serves as a provocation to think more lucidly and comparatively about the real foundations of political order in other conflicts."  William Reno, Northwestern University

  • "Combining rigorous deductive logic with stunning fieldwork, Jesse Driscoll produces analytic narratives from post-communist cases that serve to challenge conventional thinking about anarchy, state building, and other fundamental concepts of political science."  Roger Petersen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • "As Driscoll shows, much about building state institutions revolves around the management of expectations.  If warlords can be convinced that they can enrich themselves by trading in their guns for a government office desk, and if those bandits who are left out face a collective action problem and come to believe that they will not win by persisting outside of state institutions, then governments can pacify.  As Driscoll documents, lucky warlords were able to cut deals, while those that failed to do so ended up being liquidated when political fortunes shifted.  But essentially state-building ... involved incorporating criminal groups directly into the state and using this incorporation as a way of gaining control over them and eliminating rivals."  Mark Beissinger, Princeton University

  • "Driscoll guides us through post-Soviet Georgia and Tajikistan to reveal larger truths about the relationships among political violence, criminality, and modern state building… Bandits, warlords, and rebel commanders have consistently recognized and seized upon the opportunities presented by the state-building project.  Driscoll, like others before him, utilizes the warlord as a medium through which to investigate and theorize about the state in its more fragile manifestations.  His evocative image of a “semipermeable state membrane” captures the absence of a clear demarcation between state and society, formal and informal institutions, the police and criminal elements, or statesmen and spoilers.  He conveys the discomfiting reality that contemporary war making and state making remain intertwined … Driscoll persuasively demonstrates that state building is a ruthless game in which strongmen have no intention — or requirement — to disarm; on the contrary, they navigate politics through the use of force." Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Columbia University

  • "[Driscoll] knows the academic field well and is fluent in its key arguments, but he also spent two years in the places where these wars occurred and among those who fought them.  This kind of firsthand research gives his analysis real heft." Robert Levgold, Columbia University

  • "Simply an extraordinary book ... nuanced and at the same time brutally compelling."  Georgi Derluguian, author of Bourdeiu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World Systems Biography

  • "Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States offers both a rethinking of the origins of the contemporary state in Eurasia and a reexamination of the relationships among secession, violence, terrorism, and political institutions.  This is state-of-the-art political science -- a book about real people grappling with matters of life and death, whose experiences we strain to understand using both abstract models and savvy ethnography.  Jesse Driscoll helps us see how post-Soviet politics sometimes emerged as the continuation of war by other means."  Charles King, Georgetown University

  • "[T]his is a rare academic book that combines theoretic rigor, rich empirical evidence, and significant policy relevance. Taken together, this combination makes this study a very important addition to the literature on conflict resolution, post-conflict stabilization, and state-building.  ... [Driscoll] deserves a tremendous amount of credit for being willing to develop new empirical evidence through extensive field work and interviews with local actors in Central Asia. This is rare, particularly among scholars also working with formal models. Driscoll’s work should be held up as a model of what a multi-methods approach can deliver when implemented by a scholar with a rigorous approach and extraordinary commitment.  ... [W]hat Driscoll does in his study is lodge an explanation of outcomes as a consequence of strategic decisions and actions of Central Asian actors in pursuit of incentives provided, in part, from outside, but still fundamentally about interests and calculation of what others have chosen to see as passive ‘human terrain.’ ” Bernard Finel, National War College

  • "Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States fills a gap in the existing literature on warlords by providing a rich, ground-level view of warlords' beliefs about their own behavior ... Driscoll's choice to live long-term among the warlords and militias he studied makes him a true anthropologist of warlordism.  ... Indispensable reading..."  Kimberly Marten, Barnard College

  • "Warlords and Coalition Politics will stand the test of time as the account of stabilization in the post-Soviet wars. ... Both political-ethnographic interviewing and formal mathematical modeling are vital to the explanation.  ... The choice of the model's variables is clearly informed by the ethnography.  The ethnography is given clarity by the underlying claims of the model.  The use of such diametrically opposed methods makes this a stand-out work of political science and allows Driscoll to reach far more readers than would otherwise be the case. " John Heathershaw, University of Exeter (UK)

  • "Driscoll impressively demonstrates the importance of local conflict dynamics and decisions by individual field commanders in his model on warlords and coalition politics in Tajikistan and Georgia."  Tim Epkenhans, University of Freiburg (GE)

  • "In light of ongoing debates on data access and research transparency, the book presents a valuable example of what it can mean to be open about the data we use, the process of data generation, and its analysis."  Anastasia Shesterinina, University of Sheffield (UK)

  • "[T]he impressive depth of the fieldwork coupled with quantitative metrics of analysis, which are combined to create Driscoll’s model of warlord games, make this book one to which scholars of Central Asia will likely turn as a key text for some time to come."  Suzanne Levi-Sanchez, Naval War College

  • "[A] truly awe-inspiring endeavor …  The book gets exactly right the dynamics of the precise question of how this process happened in a specific historical moment: the 1992–95 period in Georgia."  Timothy Blauvelt, Ilia State University (GA)

  • "[O]ne of the best scholarly texts out there about the politics of state formation in post-Soviet Eurasia."  Alexo Kupatadze, St. Andrews (UK)

  • “If he is correct, then outsiders can influence the stability thresholds and reservation values of various participants in the conflict, but only actors participating in the conflict can forge a sustainable order out of the conflict. Intervention by outsiders … will not lead to a transformation along democratic lines; rather, political forces on the ground will likely siphon off the flow of aid and assistance, thereby producing a new order that is corrupt and likely authoritarian in order to protect the system. This sobering reminder is important as we witness the conflict in Ukraine. … [R]ead this book.” Christopher A. Stephens, Misericordia University

  • "Driscoll’s path-breaking book Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States will serve as the standard bearer for scholars exploring dynamics of civil conflict across the post-Soviet space for years to come. … [T]he most enduring contribution of this book is the way it utterly decimates still nagging divisions between area studies and discipline-based approaches, particularly those in political science. This work should put a final nail in the coffin in this debate.  … Driscoll goes to extreme lengths not to glorify conflict and war, but instead speaks to the goals of the combatants with whom he engaged while in the field. These welcome moves allow him to focus with laser-like precision on the motivation of actors and their calculations rather than portraying himself as the leading figure in an action move." Jennifer Murtazashvili, University of Pittsburgh

 Winner of the "Best Book Award" from the Central Eurasian Studies Society (2016) and the Furniss Award, "given annually to an author whose first book makes an exceptional contribution to the study of national and international security," from the Mershon Center at The Ohio State University (2017).

Reflective Essays On The Book:

"Author-Critic Roundtable on Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States," Caucasus Survey, Spring 2018.

"Author-Critic Roundtable on Warlords and Coalition Politics In Post-Soviet States," Central Asian Studies, Summer 2016.

"Can Anonymity Promises Possibly Be Credible In Police States?" Comparative Politics Newsletter, Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring 2015.

You can buy the book on Amazon (ISBN: 1107063353).