Kleinfeld presents a powerful account of the 'stumbling, staggering journey' needed to reduce large-scale violence, and provides detailed and informative portraits of successful examples—what she calls 'happy stories'—from the United States, India, Colombia, Georgia and Sicily. By analyzing violence rather than an abstract notion of war, Kleinfeld offers an alternative way to understand contemporary wars distinct from the typical geopolitical perspectives of policymakers. In other words, her analysis treats war as a social problem in which political and criminal violence are intertwined ... Not all of her proposals are convincing ... Kleinfeld might have put more emphasis on the importance of justice, since attempts to achieve it appear throughout her story in the efforts of the constitutional court in Colombia, the Supreme Court in the United States and the Italian prosecutors who bravely took on the Mafia. Yet her book remains significant for the thrust of its argument: the need for complex social transformation in the struggle against the savage order ... The prescriptions Kleinfeld proposes for contending with a breakdown in norms—such as greater engagement of the middle class and the importance of political movements—offer valuable insight
[Kleinfeld's] ideas are refreshingly specific, rooted as they are in a clear understanding of the problem ... A Savage Order urges 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. Encouragingly, we have a good idea of what works.
Kleinfield...thoroughly examines the devastating effects of violence in places as varied as Baltimore, Tajikistan, Mexico, and the state of Bihar in India ... Kleinfield makes a compelling case, based both on statistical evidence and on anecdotes from her extensive travels and research. Although war receives more attention in headlines, she argues, intrasocietal violence triggered by corrupt elites is in many ways as serious a modern scourge ... The book is very erudite and a pleasure to read, full of detailed reporting. She ranges widely in the instances she examines of violence spreading within societies. While this makes for an entertaining and educational read, Kleinfeld’s approach also makes the reader sometimes wonder if the situations she describes are similar enough to make for effective comparisons ... Given her background, Kleinfield surely has a definition for democracy in mind, but her lack of a definition in the book muddles some of the analysis ... Overall, A Savage Order is a detailed, rich, and informative read that raises as many questions as it answers. It leaves the reader more aware of a dire problem and with a sense of what its underlying causes are. A Savage Order will spur interested readers to make further inquiries into how to solve intrasocietal violence.