Order and commerce in turbulent areas: 19th century lessons, 21st century practice

William Reno*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The recent collapse of some states, the proliferation of internal wars and of localized political authorities, so-called 'warlords', challenges the homogeneity of the international system of states at its margins. These new fragmented authorities often rely upon commercial deals with outsiders to consolidate their power. This threatens officials in strong states who depend upon organized states everywhere to control their realms and control their citizens' transactions, including with terrorists and criminals. Widespread direct rule by western powers, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, is too expensive and politically risky to apply to all disorderly parts of the globe. Instead, officials in powerful states use techniques of indirect control that utilize commercial networks to pacify disorderly areas. This strategy resembles techniques developed in 19th century European relations with stateless areas. Similar problems develop as well. This led in the 19th century to direct rule, while contemporary officials are forced to experiment with more intensive use of commercial relations to pacify unruly areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-625
Number of pages19
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development


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