A Savage Order
A Savage Order cover
Available November 6th, 2018
This is a brilliant analysis of societies that appear to be intractably violent, but in fact are not— including our own. A Savage Order is original, penetrating, and filled with gripping history and reporting.
Steven Pinker
How the World's Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security

An urgent and provocative look at how extreme violence can cripple democracies, including our own, and how they can regain security.

The most violent places in the world today are not at war. They are buckling under a maelstrom of gangs, organized crime, political conflict, and state brutality. More people have died in Mexico in recent years than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Such devastating violence can feel hopeless. Yet multiple places once suffused with bloodshed have since recovered.


    View a Q&A with Rachel and a short video of A Savage Order


In this powerfully argued and essential book, Rachel Kleinfeld examines why some democracies are so violent, and provides an ultimately optimistic assessment of how others have reclaimed security. Drawing on fifteen years of study and firsthand field research—interviewing generals, former guerrillas, activists, politicians, mobsters, and law enforcement in countries around the world—Kleinfeld tells the stories of societies that successfully fought massive violence. She then offers penetrating conclusions about what must be done to build governments that protect all their people.

Taking on existing literature and popular theories on war, crime, and foreign intervention, A Savage Order is a blistering yet inspiring investigation into what makes some countries peaceful and others war zones, and what we can do about it.​


    Read an Excerpt from Rachel's appearance at the LA Pacific Council 

"An unflinching eye... powerful arguments, riveting case studies, rigorous scholarship, great writing – a brilliant combination" Review by Duncan Green, Oxfam's Strategic Advisor



One of the best books of 2018 – Kirkus starred review


“Valuable insights into why some governments allow violence to fester and what societies can do to end it… Kleinfeld does away with the idea that violence is the product of culture, religion, or poverty… [Says] publicly what many will only whisper behind closed doors.” - Foreign Affairs Review


"A Savage Order encourages us to abandon untethered idealism, middle class apathy, and partisan devotion that blinds us to unorthodox solutions, and to join the ranks of pragmatic reformers working to protect innocent lives around the globe... In the words of a Ghanian police officer Ms. Kleinfeld meets, 'We can start this now.'" Review by Ann Towes, The Wall Street Journal 


"Kleinfeld is a gifted storyteller... this work establishes her amongst the top thinkers in the field of governance and violence."  Review by Dr. Tammy Schultz, Director of National Security at U.S. Marine Corps War College, War on the Rocks

"A powerful account [and] timely perspective as right-wing populism takes hold in unexpected places worldwide." Review by Mary Caldor, the Washington Post

"Kleinfeld will make you see America--and the world--anew. Her accounts of the driving role of violence in sociopolitical life are as harrowing as they are illuminating. Not to be missed.” Tom Carothers, Senior Vice President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

A Savage Order gives us a comprehensive survey of countries that have overcome extreme violence and shows how there is a common thread to their recoveries, one that could be of tremendous help to countries currently in the grip of deadly violence. Rachel Kleinfeld’s analysis is both analytically rigorous and accessible, and will be required reading for those players and policymakers who are actually trying to deal with such terrible problems today.”
Francis Fukuyama, author of Political Order and Political Decay

A Savage Order is a fascinating, moving, and deeply important study that will be widely read by scholars, activists, policy makers and ordinary citizens who seek a more peaceful and just world.” 
Larry Diamond, author of The Spirit of Democracy

“Simply put, A Savage Order is the most insightful analysis so far on how violence emerges within societies, and the path to breaking its seemingly endless vicious circle. From my experiences growing up amid bloodshed and bombs in Colombia, to my work in some of the world’s most violent places, nothing has resonated with me more than Dr. Kleinfeld’s masterpiece—and an easy read too.”  - Juan Carlos Botero, former Executive Director of the World Justice Project and former member of the Colombian Government

"Before reading this book, I thought I understood why many nations fail at providing security. After reading it, I have a radically different perspective on the topic, both in terms of causes as well as cures. Rachel Kleinfeld’s book is as original as it is thorough and engaging. It will change the way you think about this important topic." – Ricardo Hausmann, Director, Center for International Development at Harvard University


“Chock-full of surprising statistics, vignettes and the fascinating observations that Rachel Kleinfeld has gathered in two decades studying violence, A Savage Order is an obligatory reference to those interested in understanding and solving one of the defining problems of our time.”
Moises Naim

“I’ve worked on conflict for a long time. A Savage Order made me think about violence in a new way. I came away feeling like I’d been on a journey of discovery — and surprisingly, I came away with hope.” Sarah Holewinski, Former senior advisor, Pentagon Joint Staff Chairman’s Action Group

“In this exhaustively researched and deftly reasoned volume, Rachel Kleinfeld shows us why durable solutions to bloodshed lie not with repression or dirty deals, but with an engaged middle class and political leadership framing demands for reform in rigorously nonpartisan ways.” Sarah Chayes, author of Thieves of State

“A Savage Order is an essential antidote to present-day pessimism… In this timely and brilliant book, Kleinfeld argues that even societies suffering from long-standing cycles of violence can forge a path to peace.  It is an ambitious and uplifting argument and her evidence is utterly convincing." – Aaron O'Connell, former Director of Defense Policy & Strategy, National Security Council; Associate Professor of Military History, The University of Texas at Austin, former special advisor to General Petraeus

“Some challenges are too important to be left to either the analysts or the storytellers. Thankfully, Rachel Kleinfeld deftly channels both traditions in confronting the problem of societal violence.  A Savage Order uses the evidentiary power of data and the persuasive power of narrative to pin us to our seats and keep us there, and the picture she paints of how broken we are would be heartbreaking if she didn’t also give us an abundance of detail on what we can do to fix it.” Laura E. Bailey, Global Lead, Stability Peace and Security, The World Bank

“Kleinfeld combines gripping reportage with groundbreaking scholarship and policy savvy to illuminate a promising and practical new approach to one of the most consequential challenges abroad - and here in the United States.” - Ambassador William J. Burns, former Deputy Secretary of State, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


With original reporting and probing analysis, Kleinfeld does the world a favor with this beautifully written book at a time of violence and corruption when many are looking for avenues for peace and justice.  She lays out many concerning statistics and horrendous stories, but leads us to optimistic avenues of success for leaders at all levels.  Brava!” Matthew Dowd, ABC News Chief Political Analyst and author of A New Way