2014 Lepgold Book Prize: Networks of Rebellion by Paul Staniland

Paul Staniland

November 4, 2015
by Aislinn McNiece


The Mortara Center for International Studies awarded the 2014 Lepgold Book Prize to Professor Paul Staniland, University of Chicago, for his book Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse.

“The number one point I hope [readers] take away is that relying on sweeping statements about what kinds of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism doctrines and strategies ‘work’ is not a smart way to make policy,” said Staniland in an interview after his lecture.

Insurgent Groups’ Organizational Patterns

Networks of Rebellion explains the origins, change, and breakdown of insurgent groups and their organizational patterns as well as the resulting policy implications. As the importance of insurgent groups as political actors increases, it has become crucial for policymakers to understand the effects of insurgent groups’ organizational cohesion on patterns of violence, civil war, and the potential for counterinsurgency.

“Insurgents, whether as our enemies (as in Afghanistan) or our allies (as in Syria) are smart, savvy, and committed actors who have their own resources and constraints that need to be carefully factored into U.S. policies when operating abroad,” said Staniland. “They need to be taken seriously in their [own] right, not treated as secondary or easily malleable to American power.”

Lepgold Book Prize

Lepgold Book Prize coverThe Lepgold Book Prize is awarded to researchers providing an exceptional contribution to the study of international relations with an emphasis on critical current policy challenges. The prize honors Joseph S. Lepgold, a Georgetown School of Foreign Service and Government professor who tragically passed away in a fire in December 2001.

Staniland serves as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he is co-director of their Program on International Security Policy and co-founder of their Program on Political Violence. He studied at the University of Chicago before receiving his PhD in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The research for his prizewinning book grew out of his dissertation in security studies on the initial organization of rebel groups: “Explaining Cohesion, Fragmentation, and Control in Insurgent Groups.” After 10 years of research and writing, Networks of Rebellion was published.

“I realized around 2006 or so that despite a growing spate of research on counterinsurgency and civil war, both scholars and analysts were paying far too little attention to the inner workings of insurgent groups. Too much attention was being paid to either government (often U.S.) policies or to huge categories of identity – Islamist, ethnic, etc. – that did not map very easily onto actual patterns of insurgent organization and behavior,” said Staniland. “One contribution of the book is to offer a new way of describing and analyzing insurgent groups to address this limitation.”