The myth of liberal peace-building

Selby, Jan (2013) The myth of liberal peace-building. Conflict, Security and Development, 13 (1). pp. 57-86. ISSN 1467-8802

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‘Liberal peace-building’ is a subject of intense debate within contemporary IR. This article contends, however, that for all the merits of much of the work on the subject, the overall terms of the debate are rooted in a series of questionable assumptions. Proponents and critics alike hold that peace-building is an essentially liberal project, over which there is a global (or Western) consensus, and which is pursued by a decentralised plurality of institutions irrespective of the particularly of war-endings. This article shows that this is misleading. Focusing on the relations between peace agreements and peace-building, it shows that peace agreements are contextually specific political arrangements, driven above all by strategic considerations of power and legitimacy, in relation to which liberal peace-building doctrines and practices are unevenly applied, instrumentalised or plain ignored—including by international actors. It argues in turn that liberal peace-building discourse overstates both the liberalism of contemporary peace interventions, and the degree of global consensus thereover, and fails to capture the enduring centrality of states, strategy and geopolitics in the making of peace. These arguments are developed with reference to a wide range of cases of post-Cold War peace interventions, though with especial focus on UN peace-building in Cambodia in the early 1990s.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Depositing User: Jan Selby
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2013 12:53
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2013 12:53

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