Susan Woodward

Position: Professor
Curriculum Vitae
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D. Princeton
Research Interests: civil war, post-conflict policies (peacekeeping, peacebuilding, statebuilding), international intervention, post-socialist transitions, the Balkans
Prof. Woodward came to CUNY from London, where she was a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College, University of London. From 1990-99, she was a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, where she also taught graduate seminars at Georgetown, George Washington, and Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. Before that she held positions in political science on the faculties of Yale University (1982-89), Williams College (1978-82), Mount Holyoke College (1977-78), and Northwestern University (1972-77). In 1994, she was Head of the Analysis and Assessment Unit in the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for UNPROFOR, and in the 1998 election period, she was a special advisor to the head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is the author of Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War (Washington: Brookings Press, 1995), selected a Choice “Outstanding Academic Book 1995” and Socialist Unemployment: The Political Economy of Yugoslavia, 1945-1990(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), winner of the 1996 Hewett Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and numerous articles on southeastern Europe, the post-communist transition in eastern Europe, state failure, peacekeeping, and post-conflict reconstruction. Her website is
Comparative Political Orders Course Syllabus
Peace and War: a Research Seminar on Peacebuilding Course Syllabus
Basic Theories and Concepts of Comparative Politics Course Syllabus

Civil War Course Syllabus
Read an interview with Dr. Woodward here, from the Fall 2018 issue of our department newsletter, Homo Politicus.


  Susan Woodward, The Ideology of Failed States: Why Intervention Fails (Cambridge Univ.  Press, 2017).
What do we mean when we use the term ‘failed states’? This book presents the origins of the term, how it shaped the conceptual framework for international development and security in the post-Cold War era, and why. The book also questions how specific international interventions on both aid and security fronts – greatly varied by actor – based on these outsiders’ perceptions of state failure create conditions that fit their characterizations of failed states. Susan L. Woodward offers details of international interventions in peacebuilding, statebuilding, development assistance, and armed conflict by all these specific actors. The book analyzes the failure to re-order the international system after 1991 that the conceptual debate in the early 1990s sought – to the serious detriment of the countries labelled failed or fragile and the concept’s packaging of the entire ‘third world’, despite its growing diversity since the mid-1980s, as one.
Susan Woodward, Socialist Unemployment : The Political Economy of Yugoslavia, 1945-1990(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1995).
In the first political analysis of unemployment in a socialist country, Susan Woodward argues that the bloody conflicts that are destroying the former Yugoslavia stem not so much from ancient ethnic hatreds as from the political and social divisions created by a failed socialist program to prevent capitalist joblessness. Under Communism the concept of socialist unemployment was considered an oxymoron; when it appeared in postwar Yugoslavia, it was dismissed as illusory or as a transitory consequence of Yugoslavia’s unorthodox experiments with worker-managed firms. In Woodward’s view, however, it was only a matter of time before countries in the former Soviet bloc caught up with Yugoslavia, confronting the same unintended consequences of economic reforms required to bring socialist states into the world economy.
By 1985, Yugoslavia’s unemployment rate had risen to 15 percent, ranging from 1.5 percent in Slovenia to more than 30 percent in Kosovo and Macedonia. How was it that a labor-oriented government managed to tolerate so clear a violation of the socialist commitment to full employment? Proposing a politically based model to explain this paradox, Woodward analyzes the ideology of economic growth, and shows that international constraints, rather than organized political pressures, defined government policy. She argues that unemployment became politically “invisible,” owing to its redefinition in terms of guaranteed subsistence and political exclusion, with the result that it corrupted and ultimately dissolved the authority of all political institutions.
Forced to balance domestic policies aimed at sustaining minimum standards of living and achieving productivity growth against the conflicting demands of the world economy and national security, the leadership inadvertently recreated the social relations of agrarian communities within a postindustrial society.
Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution After the Cold War (Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institution, 1995).
Yugoslavia was well positioned at the end of the cold war to make a successful transition to a market economy and westernization. Yet two years later, the country had ceased to exist, and devastating local wars were being waged to create new states. Between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the start of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in March 1992, the country moved toward disintegration at astonishing speed. In this book, Susan Woodward explains what happened to Yugoslavia and what can be learned from the response of outsiders to its crisis. Woodward’s analysis is based on her first-hand experience before the country’s collapse and then during the later stages of the Bosnian war as a member of the UN operation sent to monitor cease-fires and provide humanitarian assistance.
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