This book investigates cases in which national and international activities have gone massively wrong, entailing seriously negative consequences, and in which the sophisticated analytical models of social science have ceased to be helpful. Illustrations range from the global financial crisis to the failure to achieve speedy systemic change in the former Soviet Union and the failure to achieve development in the Third World. The analysis uses as a backdrop long-term Russian history and short-term Russian encounters with unrestrained capitalism to develop a framework that is based in the so-called new institutionalism. Understanding the causes of systemic failure is shown to require an approach that spans across the increasingly specialized subdisciplines of modern social science. Demonstrating that increasing theoretical sophistication has been bought at the price of a loss of perspective and the need for sensitivity to the role of cultural and historical specificity, the book pleads the case for a new departure in seeking to model the motives for human action.