Peacebuilders in the 1990s placed their faith in rapid democratization and marketization as a means of consolidating peace in countries that were just emerging from civil wars. As it turned out, however, immediate liberalization generated a number of destabilizing side effects that endangered the very peace that such policies were intended to strengthen. This conclusion has cast doubt on the prevailing methods of peacebuilding. It has also exposed a blind spot in the existing literature on the “liberal peace thesis,” which has paid relatively little attention to the war-proneness of states that are undergoing the transition to market democracy, particularly those with a recent history of civil conflict.
A central dilemma for peacebuilders, I have argued, is to devise methods of avoiding the pathologies of liberalization, while placing war-shattered states on a long-term path to democracy and market-oriented economics. The first step in resolving this dilemma is to recognize that democratization and marketization are inherently tumultuous and conflict-promoting processes, and that postconflict states are poorly equipped to manage these disruptions. By constructing the foundations of effective political and economic institutions prior to implementing extensive liberalizing reforms, peacebuilders should be able to bolster the “conflict dampening” qualities of societies that host these missions, and in so doing, increase the likelihood of a successful, gradual, and peaceful transition to stable market democracy over the longer term.
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