New book examines why failed policies to fight global problems persist

A new book by Ruben Andersson and David Keen examines some of the biggest issues of our era – militarised immigration policies, the war on drugs, and counterterrorism – and asks why we find ourselves locked into so many failed and counterproductive policies.

The United States' ignominious exit from Afghanistan in 2021 topped two decades of failure and devastation wrought by the war on terror. A long-running 'fight against migration' has stoked chaos and rights abuses while pushing migrants onto more dangerous routes. For its part, the war on drugs has failed to dampen narcotics demand while fueling atrocities from Mexico to the Philippines. Why do such 'failing' policies persist for so long? And why do politicians keep feeding the very crises they say they are combating?

In Wreckonomics, Ruben Andersson and David Keen analyse why disastrous policies live on even when it has become apparent that they do not work. The perverse outcomes of the fights against terror, migration, and drugs are more than a blip or an anomaly. Rather, the proliferation of wars and pseudo-wars has become a dangerous political habit and an endless source of political advantage and profit. From combating crime to the war on drugs, from civil wars to global wars and even 'covid wars', chronic failure has been harnessed to the appearance of success. Over a wide variety of spheres, problems have persisted and worsened not so much despite the 'wars' and 'fights' waged against them as thanks to these floundering endeavors.

Wreckonomics is published by Oxford University Press.

Ruben Andersson is Professor of Social Anthropology at ODID. David Keen is Professor of Conflict Studies at LSE.

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