- Hardcover: 374 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 10, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1442222719
- ISBN-13: 978-1442222717
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,233,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Vanishing Coup: The Pattern of World History since 1310
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In a well-reasoned analysis, the author of this book describes and explains a decline in military coups over the past eight centuries in certain nations . . . .His argument is persuasive. . . .Perkins's Vanishing Coup constitutes the best study currently in print on what produces military coups and what prevents them. (Historian)
By the end of the book . . . it is clear that Perkins’ overall thesis is sound and significant. . . .Vanishing Coup will make valuable reading for diplomats, scholars, or NGO leaders working in disputed areas. . . .Perkins . . . has identified an essential element to the remarkable peace that seems to have contributed to the cessation of the historical bellum omnium contra omnes in the last 50-150 years. (Global Policy)
Ivan Perkins has identified a momentous yet underappreciated development in human history and has assembled a vast amount of evidence and a coherent narrative around it. Vanishing Coup is a major contribution to history and political science and a fascinating read. (Steven Pinker, Harvard University; author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined)
Perkins makes a significant contribution with this well-written and interesting book. Surveying a far broader range of historical circumstances than most scholars attempt, he arrives at sweeping conclusions relating to both international warfare and domestic violence. His emphasis on elements of political culture, notably rule of law and transparency, deserves a prominent place in discussions on how to preserve governments and foster peace. (Spencer Weart, author of Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another)
About the Author
Ivan Perkins is assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, where he teaches law and international affairs.
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Perkins answer, in brief, is that the military play by the political rule-book to the extent that there is a widely accepted political rule-book to play by. Coups d'etat do not happen in states where there is rule of law. The law provides a commitment which is prior to each individual's commitment to his or her own self-interest, and under such circumstances only fools talk about coups. There are indeed fools. In a meeting with his Joint Chiefs of Staff in December 1973, Richard Nixon floated the idea of "resistance" against "the Eastern liberal establishment," but the assembled generals were clearly shocked at the suggestion and the issue was never raised again. A coup, Perkins estimates, will require the collaboration of hundreds of people, but among those hundreds there will always be someone who spills the beans. Instead of winning converts, you are more likely to be turned over to the authorities or your intended co-conspirators will think you are mad or at least inappropriately joking. It was a state of this rule-governed and coup-free kind, says Perkins, which first was established in Venice in the fourteenth-century, in England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and in the United States after independence, and it is states of this kind that have been so rare in other, non-Western, parts of the world.
Perkins does indeed ask a first-rate question, but his answer is not convincing. The general problem is that too many of the relevant factors co-vary. States that are coup-free are also far more likely to be democratic, economically prosperous, to espouse liberal rights, to be located in Europe or to have been settled by Europeans. To call a country coup-free is just another way of calling it Western. That the rule of law is an important feature of this Western mix is beyond doubt, but how the mix itself came to be established Perkins cannot even begin to tell us, and he cannot even say why it is that certain states came to embrace the rule of law. To say that rules are followed in states where rules are followed is not to say very much. What is needed here is a far bolder historical sociology. We need to know why it is that some states have institutions that are able to accommodate conflicts and spur social and economic change. Establishing such a sociology is a tall order to be sure, yet constant references to "the rule of law" are not nearly enough. Perkins just did not think hard enough about the problem he set himself.
In the end he could never decide what sort of a book he wanted to write. Perkins presents it as a serious historical sociology but he relies at the same time far too heavily on historical anecdotes. Inspired by both Arnold Toynbee and by Malcolm Gladwell, he misses both by miles. Perkins gratuitously introduces individuals into the analysis - George Washington, he says, exuded a "virtue charisma" which made a great difference to the outcome of the constitutional settlement of 1787 - yet such references tell us nothing except how lucky Americans are to be Americans. Perkins' most glaring omission, however, concerns the Absolutist states that developed in Continental Europe in the course of the eighteenth-century. It was in Germanic Europe more than anywhere else that constitutionalism and the rule of law came to be established. Democracies, according of the wisdom most current at the time, have no need for law since they make up for it by civic virtue. It was consequently in Prussia and Austria that the first constitutions were written and where the king himself could be taken to court. That Germanic Europe until very recently appears on Perkins' maps of coup-prone states damns his analysis.