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Detail of Trust is the Coin of the Realm
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Trust is the Coin of the Realm

Lessons from the Money Men in Afghanistan

Author(s): Edwina A. Thompson
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Pakistan
Publication Year: 2011
Pages: 372
Binding: Hardbound
ISBN: 9780195473520
Weight: 0
Shipment time: 2-5 business days
Subject Area
Following a new US administration entering office, and revision of strategies for international support to Afghanistan, Trust is the Coin of the Realm fills an urgent gap in the debate on how to make a ‘bottoms-up’ approach to state-building work. Academic, press and policy accounts suggest the current ‘top-down’ paradigm is inappropriate to the task; none, however, appears to offer the kind of rigorous insights necessary to understand why. Based on extensive field and archival research into the workings of ‘hawala’—an ancient financial system operating throughout the Muslim world, accused of bankrolling the bulk of today’s terrorist operations, but central to development in fragile states—this book shines a rare light on local-level institutions in Afghanistan and tribally-controlled areas of neighbouring Pakistan.
Important dynamics emerge around the legitimacy of externally-imposed change in complex humanitarian and stabilisation environments; the bargain of foreign aid and financial regulation; and the challenge of how to reconcile broad models of state-building with specific and unique contexts. Parties with the strongest hand are proven to be those typically considered to lie at the margins: they are most able to win the trust of the local population, and by association accrue legitimacy. Trust is the Coin of the Realm indicates that the future reconstruction of Afghanistan hinges on whether the international community can engage genuinely with indigenous socio-economic networks like those of the ‘money men’, for it is trust that emerges ultimately as the ‘coin of the realm’, not only in the bazaar, but also against the backdrop of counter-insurgency and state-building efforts within the region.
Thompson offers an analysis which boasts a rare combination of theoretical and policy relevance. While scholars will find much to learn from her approach to the interplay of institutions, networks, and practices, her empirical analysis of the interplay of development trends, state failure, Islamic financial networks, and money laundering challenges a number of assumptions that have both shaped approaches to the War on Terror and perhaps even undermined its effectiveness.
– Dr Wesley W. Widmaier, Senior Research Fellow, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University, Australia
The highly topical nature of the research and subject matter clearly came at a heavy personal price given that a white, Western foreigner was conducting interviews at the height of the War on Terror on Afghanistan within Afghanistan. ... such interviews entailed a high degree of trust between her and the interviewee, which would have been a vital pre-requisite even in the absence of the War on Terror. Fortunately, her efforts have been richly rewarded given that this is a remarkable piece of work.
– Professor John M. Hobson, Professor of Political Science, University of Sheffield, UK
Dr Edwina A. Thompson is a leading global expert on the hawala system and its particular historical and sociological dynamics in Afghanistan. She has had a diverse career working with INGOs, the UN, Red Cross, and the military, tackling head-on some of the great ethical challenges of operating in complex environments—from Somalia, Sudan and Sri Lanka to Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, and of course Afghanistan. Her academic work is original and inter-disciplinary, pushing forward on a number of theoretical and policy debates that have implications for the very meaning of social capital in ‘failed states’.
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