This book is a path-breaking effort to analyze state disintegration, focusing on African cases, the editor says, not so much to learn about them as from them in exploring a wide range of contemporary political issues. What have been the causes of collapse in countries as diverse as Somalia, the former Soviet Union, and Haiti? How have some countries prevented, arrested, or reversed the "degenerative disease" of state failure? When is civil society part of the solution, and when is it part of the problem? Eleven country studies of generally high quality (on Chad, Uganda, Ghana, Somalia, Liberia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Angola, Zaire, Algeria, and South Africa) are accompanied by a concluding set of thematic essays that examine "potential agents of reconstruction": multilateral and bilateral foreign intervention, strongman rule, and, in the book's best piece, by Marina Ottaway, the complex and vexed "solution" of democratization. The authors suggest that in many cases power-sharing in governments of national unity offers the best short-term chance of rescuing weak systems from disaster.