The key question addressed in the book is: Why have so many large-scale schemes to improve the human condition failed so badly? And James Scott is the right person to have asked this question. Scott is the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Anthropology at Yale University. He is also the author of The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (1977), Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (1987), and Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (1992). All of the above have given him an excellent understanding of the nature of conflict in societies and the means of survival for the poor. Often the protagonists in the conflict have been people on one side and governments on the other. This is essential background for the book under review.