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A Study of Land, the State, and War in Afghanistan Raises Some Big Questions. For Starters, Could It All Have Gone Differently?

Land, The State, and War: Property Institutions and Political Order in Afghanistan

By Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili and Ilia Murtazashvili

Cambridge University Press

 

 

Reviewed by Steven Boyd Saum

 

Could it all have gone differently in Afghanistan? That was the premise for a conversation last September with Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili about her recently published book, Land, The State, and War: Property Institutions and Political Order in Afghanistan. Surveys, fieldwork, and historical analysis point to this conclusion, among others: Imposing Western-style institutions is not a panacea. Rather, as Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili distilled in another conversation: “It wasn’t because Afghan social norms don’t support democracy. They do. And Afghans understood darn well what they were supposed to have. But they never even got the minimum of what they were promised in the constitution.”

 

“It wasn’t because Afghan social norms don’t support democracy. They do. And Afghans understood darn well what they were supposed to have. But they never even got the minimum of what they were promised in the constitution.” 

 

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samarqand, Uzbekistan, 1997–99. She is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is also the author of Informal Order and the State in Afghanistan (2016).

Her involvement with Afghanistan is far from only academic. In August 2021, she was at the center of efforts at University of Pittsburgh to coordinate work by dozens of volunteers to assist refugees fleeing Afghanistan as the U.S. withdrew.

 

This review appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine.


Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView.