“One of the most profound and illuminating studies of this century to have been published in recent decades.”—John Gray, New York Times Book Review
"A powerful, and in many insightful, explanation as to why grandiose programs of social reform, not to mention revolution, so often end in tragedy. . . . An important critique of visionary state planning."—Robert Heilbroner, Lingua Franca
Hailed as “a magisterial critique of top-down social planning” by the New York Times, this essential work analyzes disasters from Russia to Tanzania to uncover why states so often fail—sometimes catastrophically—in grand efforts to engineer their society or their environment, and uncovers the conditions common to all such planning disasters.
“Beautifully written, this book calls into sharp relief the nature of the world we now inhabit.”—New Yorker
“A tour de force.”— Charles Tilly, Columbia University
The Institution for Social and Policy Studies
James C. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science and codirector of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University.
"A magisterial critique of top-down social planning that has been cited, and debated, by the free-market libertarians of the Cato Institute (which recently dedicated an issue of its online journal to the book), development economists, and partisans of Occupy Wall Street alike."—Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
"One of the most profound and illuminating studies of this century to have been published in recent decades. . . . A fascinating interpretation of the growth of the modern state. . . . Scott presents a formidable argument against using the power of the state in an attempt to reshape the whole of society."—John Gray, New York Times Book Review
"Illuminating and beautifully written, this book calls into sharp relief the nature of the world we now inhabit."—New Yorker
"Seeing Like a State is an important work. It will, I believe, be used widely in university courses and by a wider reading public who seek to understand the broad contours of our recent history."—Jane Adams, Rural History
"To my mind, Seeing Like a State is one of the most stimulating and ambitious synthetic works of recent years."—John Agar, British Journal for the History of Science
Winner of the 2000 Mattei Dogan Award
2015 Wildavsky Award for Enduring Contribution to Policy Studies, from the Public Policy Section of the American Political Science Association
"The 'perfection' Scott so rightly and with such tremendous skill and erudition debunks in his book he himself has nearly reached, as far as positing and presenting the problem is concerned. The case of what the order-crazy mind is capable of doing and why we need to stop it from doing it has been established 'beyond any reasonable doubt' and with a force that cannot be strengthened."—Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor, University of Leeds
"A tour de force. . . . Reading the book delighted and inspired me. It's not the first time Jim Scott has had that effect."—Charles Tilly, Columbia University
"Stunning insights, an original position, and a conceptual approach of global application. Scott's book will at once take its place among the decade's truly seminal contributions to comparative politics."—M. Crawford Young, University of Wisconsin, Madison
"James Scott is one of the most original and interesting social scientists whom I know. So it is no surprise that Seeing Like a State is a broad ranging, theoretically important, and empirically grounded treatment of the modern state. For anyone interested in learning about this fundamental tension of modernity and about the destruction wrought in the twentieth century as a consequence of the dominant development ideology of the simplifying state, high modernism, Seeing Like a State is a must read."—Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University and author of Hitler's Willing Executioners
"A broad-ranging, theoretically important, and empirically grounded treatment of the modern state and its propensity to simplify and make legible a society which by nature is complex and opaque. For anyone interested in learning about this fundamental tension of modernity and about the destruction wrought in the twentieth century as a consequence of the dominant development ideology of the simplifying state, this is a must-read."—Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners
Sign up to the Yale newsletter for book news, offers, free extracts and more
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.