Yemen in Crisis

Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State

Helen Lackner

Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years. Fuelled by Arab and Western intervention, the civil war has quickly escalated, resulting in thousands killed and millions close to starvation. Suffering from a collapsed economy, the people of Yemen face a desperate choice between the Huthi rebels allied with ex-President Saleh on the one side and the internationally recognised government propped up by the Saudi-led coalition and Western arms on the other.

The struggle for power in the Arab world’s poorest but strategically vital nation has serious implications for the region and beyond. While Saudi Arabia and its allies fear that a Huthi takeover would threaten free passage of oil through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, Western governments fear an increase of attacks from al-Qa‘ida in the absence of effective governance.

In this invaluable analysis, Helen Lackner uncovers the roots of the social and political conflicts that threaten the very survival of the state and its people. She reveals the corruption of the country’s US-backed autocratic regime, as well as its failure to address national impoverishment and to plan an equitable economy for Yemen’s growing population.

About the Author

Helen Lackner has spent the past four decades researching Yemen, and has worked in the country for fifteen years. She is currently the editor of the Journal of the British-Yemeni Society and is a regular contributor to Oxford Analytica’s briefs and openDemocracy. Her works include Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition.


‘Comprehensive and in-depth, backed up by statistics and enriched with [Lackner’s] own insights into the major political, social and economic transformations of half a century.’ The Jordan Times

‘The discussion has a developmentalist tenor, patiently setting out the myriad of challenges that any future Yemeni government will have to confront.’ New Left Review

‘A superb book written by an outstanding author whose knowledge of Yemen is unparalleled. She combines elegant writing with incisive and lucid analysis to reveal the political, economic and social causes of Yemen’s instability and the origins of its current crisis. Both specialists and those new to the country will find this book an indispensable guide to understanding Yemen’s profound and tragic problems – and what its future holds for its people, the region and internationally.’ Dr Noel Brehony CMG, former Chairman British-Yemeni Society

‘An outstanding book that provides answers to all of the questions raised by Yemen’s many crises since 2011. Written with compassion and insight, Lackner confirms her standing as the foremost authority on Yemeni politics at work today.’ Eugene Rogan, University of Oxford

‘An eminently valuable account of Yemen’s modern history and current travails by someone who has made it her life’s work to understand the country and its people.’
Roger Owen, Harvard University

‘Few scholars would be better suited to review Yemen’s recent history ... [Lackner’s] first-hand experience and long-term involvement in the country’s fortunes have provided her with unique insights into its social, political and economic development. … Immensely valuable … [Lackner’s] representations are balanced, erudite and objective. Of all the books that have been published in recent years on Yemen’s post-2011 crisis and its historical roots, this stands out.’
Marieke Brandt, Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA), Austrian Academy of Sciences, LSE blog