Edward C Holland
Bakke aims to integrate comparative work on decentralization and federalism with work on intrastate wars. The argument rests on three points regarding decentralization and institutional design: 1) policy autonomy in the cultural sphere, specifically for education, language, and religion; 2) fiscal policy such as taxation and transfers; and 3) political ties among elites at different levels of the state. The introduction offers several hypotheses relevant to these three points; for example, that cultural autonomy will mitigate conflict in cases where the group is organized around cultural rather than physical survival. She then tests three national-level hypotheses in a quantitative study of 22 decentralized states; the conclusion reviews multiple cases and offers policy recommendations on the applicability of decentralization to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. The case studies at the heart of the book – Chechnya, Punjab, and Québec – point to the contingency of decentralization effects across societies and aim for a more nuanced analysis of connections between institutions and intrastate conflict. Of interest given the absence of work on the region, Ingushetia is positioned as counterpoint to Chechnya. Though a number of similar preconditions obtained (i.e. deportation during World War II and shared experience in the Soviet federal structure), Ingushetia did not press its case for independence. Bakke attributes this to, among other factors, the absence of a perception of physical threat among the Ingush and reliance on transfers from Moscow. This analysis does, however, lead to some unevenness in the book’s structure; there is no comparable ‘dog that didn’t bark’ for Punjab or Québec. This is a minor critique of an excellent book that appropriately balances quantitative analyses with in-depth, contextualized case studies.