International relations theory and peacebuilding

Authored by: Dominik Zaum

Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415690195
eBook ISBN: 9780203068175
Adobe ISBN: 9781135082130


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Peacebuilding research more generally, and theorising about peacebuilding in particular, has been a genuinely interdisciplinary endeavour, and has brought together contributions from comparative politics, sociology, economics, political economy, anthropology, and international relations. Many of these have made major — at times controversial and contested — contributions to the peacebuilding debates and practices. These include the importance of state-building (Paris 2004); the difficulty of transitioning from narrow elite settlements (or closed access orders) to open, peaceful societies (North, Wallis and Weingast 2009; de Waal 2009: 99–113); and the economic causes of civil war (and by implication peace) (Collier and Hoeffler 2004: 563–95). This chapter examines what International Relations (IR) theory has contributed to the ‘reading’ and ‘doing’ of peacebuilding, that is to interpreting contemporary peacebuilding practices (‘reading’) and to our understanding of what peacebuilding interventions work and why, and what key obstacles to effective peacebuilding efforts are (‘doing’). Both the interpretation of and engagement in peacebuilding are complex, multi-faceted practices that cannot be captured in their entirety in a short chapter. Reading peacebuilding can involve amongst other things situating peacebuilding within wider global practices, normatively evaluating peacebuilding practices, or critically engaging with the objectives of peace-builders. Doing peacebuilding involves anything from deciding on peacebuilding interventions in the first place; to peacebuilding programming and a concomitant understanding of what might work and what might not in particular circumstances; to the structures and resourcing of peacebuilding efforts. Theory — though not necessarily IR theory — can contribute to all of these.

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