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  • Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery by Jr. Robert Fatton
  • Patrick Sylvain
Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery. By Robert Fatton Jr. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2014. ISBN 9781626370364. 227pp. $55 hardcover.

The two aspects of a functioning state in political theory involve, on the one hand, the institutional exercise of power set in a central political cadre [End Page 227] within the bureaucratic state; and on the other hand, the well-defined or demarcated spaces where the state utilizes its power on behalf of the governed. The utilization or exercise of power on behalf of the governed is always a challenge for the supposed democratic and autonomous state. For social scientists considering the case of Haiti, the legal or normative functions of the state are especially challenging, since it functions within the dysfunctional zone that Robert Fatton Jr. identifies as a place of entrapment within the extreme margin. He refers to this as “the Outer Periphery,” and argues that that this is where Haiti is trapped.

Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery presents a detailed analysis of the country’s problems before, during, and after the January 12, 2010, earthquake—exposing Haiti’s tragic past, the myriad roadblocks to development, its governmental contradictions, corruption, banditry, unproductive civil society, and politics that ravage the very existence of responsible citizenship. Fatton’s work focuses on the catastrophic neoliberal agenda in Haiti and how the world economic system has contributed to encaging the country within a hyper-marginal zone. The outer periphery where Haiti is trapped has become a problem-laden region of the uttermost failure due largely to the Haitian political class’s incessant fight for power, and the profound negative impact of “imperialism in the age of globalization,” that has exacerbated acute poverty, and grotesque inequalities “brought about by neoliberalism,” which qualitatively transformed the “world system whereby the periphery itself has fragmented and spawned an outer periphery” (25). Additionally, Fatton remarks, “Haiti’s growing dependence on the Dominican Republic has all the characteristics of the typical economic relationship between peripheral and core countries” (69).

Fatton’s book is a must-read, particularly for the bleeding-heart liberals who might make matters worse by operating additional nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. Staunch conservatives would benefit from a reading of Fatton as well, because of their refusal to accept blame for policies under “the pretense of a universal defense of human rights [that] masks the realities of the core’s imperial drive” (44). The book’s blatant truth and solid analysis disclose the battered Haitian sociopolitical landscape that causes the state to be dysfunctional and extremely vulnerable to varied interests that arrest the autonomous development of the state, thus rendering it a “virtual trusteeship” (14). In relation to the new imperialistic global sphere of influence, Fatton writes, “the center wants the benefits of empire without the costs” (44). However, the cost of the empire’s desire to control without physically occupying is still devastating for the state that is controlled or meddled with by the influential, self-centered core. Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery bears witness to the falseness of nation building. [End Page 228] Fatton further argues that it “is a mimicry of an imaginary liberal world for the liberal world, as it really exists, is full of contradictions between rhetoric and reality, between the egalitarian universalism it preaches and the global calamities it unleashes” (45).

The book is, above all, a quintessential reminder of the vulnerability of deprived human beings who inhabit political and economic spaces where social justice is absent. The catastrophe of the January 12, 2010, earthquake became a visually shocking malignancy added to the illnesses that had plagued the country for centuries. “In Haiti, unproductive capitalism has transformed proximity to state power into the prime site of acquiring wealth for those not born into the elite class,” Fatton asserts (5). The author is aware of his privileged position: as “a member of the US professoriate, of the Haitian bourgeoisie, and of the diaspora who has opted to adopt US nationality, I must acknowledge that I am a privileged individual living in a cocoon of fundamental contradictions” (viii). Pointed contradictions like this have...