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A post-liberal peace: Eirenism and the everyday

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2009


The ‘liberal peace’ is undergoing a crisis of legitimacy at the level of the everyday in post-conflict environments. In many such environments; different groups often locally constituted perceive it to be ethically bankrupt, subject to double standards, coercive and conditional, acultural, unconcerned with social welfare, and unfeeling and insensitive towards its subjects. It is tied to Western and liberal conceptions of the state, to institutions, and not to the local. Its post-Cold War moral capital, based upon its more emancipatory rather than conservative claims, has been squandered as a result, and its basic goal of a liberal social contract undermined. Certainly, since 9/11, attention has been diverted into other areas and many, perhaps promising peace processes have regressed. This has diverted attention away from a search for refinements, alternatives, for hybrid forms of peace, or for empathetic strategies through which the liberal blueprint for peace might coexist with alternatives. Yet from these strategies a post-liberal peace might emerge via critical research agendas for peacebuilding and for policymaking, termed here, eirenist. This opens up a discussion of an everyday ‘post-liberal peace’ and critical policies for peacebuilding.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2009

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1 See for example, Human Security Brief, accessed in 2006.

2 See among many others, David Chandler, Empire in Denial: The Politics of Statebuilding (London: Pluto Press, 2006); Michael Pugh, ‘Corruption and the Political Economy of Liberal Peace’, article prepared for the International Studies Association annual convention, San Francisco (26–28 March 2008); Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper, and Mandy Turner, Whose Peace? (London: Palgrave, 2008); Michael Pugh, ‘The Political Economy of Peacebuilding: A Critical Theory Perspective’, International Journal of Peace Studies, 10:2 (2005), pp. 23–42; Neil Cooper, ‘Review Article: On the Crisis of the Liberal Peace’, Conflict, Security and Development, 7:4 (2007). Beate Jahn, ‘The Tragedy of Liberal Diplomacy: Democratization, Intervention and Statebuilding’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 1:2 (2007); Mark Duffield, Development, Security and Unending War (London: Polity, 2007); Roger Mac Ginty, ‘Indigenous Peace-Making Versus the Liberal Peace’, Cooperation and Conflict, 43:2 (2008); Roger Mac Ginty and Oliver P. Richmond (eds), ‘Myth or Reality: The Liberal Peace and Post-Conflict Reconstruction’, Special issue of Global Society (2007).

3 The author has heard such criticisms in interviews and focus groups in several post-conflict peace operations, such as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, and East Timor for the Liberal Peace Transitions project he directs. See Oliver P Richmond and Jason Franks, Liberal Peace Transitions: Between Statebuilding and Peacebuilding, (Edinburgh University Press, 2009).

4 Perhaps with the exception of the work of the members of the project this article was written for, and in particular Kristoffer Liden's contribution.

5 See Chris Brown, Sovereignty, Rights and Justice: International Political Theory Today (Cambridge: Polity, 2002); Michael Howard, The Invention of Peace and the Re-Invention of War (London: Profile, 2002); Martin Ceadal, Thinking About Peace and War, (Oxford: OUP, 1987).

6 Arthur S. Link et al (ed.), The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 41, January 24–April 6, 1917 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), p. 525: Woodrow Wilson, Address to the Senate, 12 January 1917, in Arthur S. Link et al (eds), The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 40 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 536–7.

7 Report of the Secretary-General's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, United Nations, 2004: Boutros Boutros Ghali, An Agenda For Peace: preventative diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping, (New York: United Nations, 1992); An Agenda for Development: Report of the Secretary-General, A/48/935, (6 May 1994); ‘Supplement to An Agenda for Peace’ A/50/60, S.1995/1, (3 January 1995); An Agenda for Democratization, A/50/332 AND A/51/512, (17 December 1996).

8 For more on these strands of thought, and their relationship, please see my Transformation of Peace, especially conclusion. For supporters and critics of the ‘liberal peace’, see among others, Michael Doyle, ‘Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 12 (1983); Michael Doyle and Nicolas Sambanis, ‘Making War and Building Peace’, (Princeton University Press, 2006); Charles T. Call and Elizabeth M. Cousens, ‘Ending Wars and Building Peace: International Responses to War-Torn Societies’, International Studies Perspectives, 9 (2008); Stephen D. Krasner, ‘Sharing Sovereignty. New Institutions for Collapsed and Failing States’, International Security, 29:2 (2004); Roland Paris, At War's End, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); J Snyder, From Voting to Violence, (London: W.W. Norton, 2000); David Rieff, A Bed for the Night (London: Vintage, 2002); Michael Mandelbaum, The Ideas that Conquered the World (New York: Public Affairs, 2002); Michael Pugh, ‘The Political Economy of Peacebuilding: A Critical Theory Perspective’, International Journal of Peace Studies, 10:2 (2005); David Chandler, Bosnia: Faking Democracy After Dayton (London: Pluto Press, 1999); Mark Duffield, Global Governance and the New Wars (London: Zed Books, 2001); Roland Paris, ‘International Peacebuilding and the 'Mission Civilisatrice’, Review of International Studies, 28:4 (2002); Roger Mac Guinty, ‘Indigenous Peace-Making Versus the Liberal Peace’, Beate Jahn, ‘The Tragedy of Liberal Diplomacy: Democratization, Intervention and Statebuilding (Part II)’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 1:2 (2007); Neil Cooper, ‘Review Article: On the Crisis of the Liberal Peace’, Conflict, Security and Development, 7:4 (2007).

9 For detailed empirical evidence see Oliver P Richmond and Jason Franks, Liberal Peace Transitions: Between Statebuilding and Peacebuilding. See also the many sources referred to in notes 4 and 6. On the peacebuilding consensus, see Oliver P. Richmond, ‘UN Peace Operations and the Dilemmas of the Peacebuilding Consensus’, in International Peacekeeping, 10:4 (2004).

10 On the ethics of care, see in particular, Kimberley Hutchings, ‘Towards a Feminist International Ethics’, Review of International Studies 26:5 (2000), pp. 111–30.

11 See Roland Paris's ‘Institutionalisation Before Liberalisation’ strategy. Roland Paris, At War's End,p. 188.

12 See for example the discussions of ownership and the local in Roland Paris, At War's End; Michael N Barnett, ‘Building a Republican Peace: Stabilizing States after War’, International Security, 30:4 (2006), pp. 87–112; Jarat Chopra, and Tanja Hohe, ‘Participatory Intervention’. These offer minor modifications to the liberal peace, but not alternatives.

13 This concept draws upon Michel Foucault, “Governmentality,” in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997), pp. 87–104. See also Kofi Annan, ‘Democracy as an International Issue’, Global Governance, 8:2 (April–June 2002), pp. 134–42. A. Bellamy and P. Williams, ‘Peace Operations and Global Order’, International Peacekeeping, 10:4. (2004); Chandler, D, From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (London: Pluto, 2002); M. Pugh, ‘Peacekeeping and Critical Theory’, Conference Presentation at BISA, LSE, London, (16–18 December 2002).

14 See the following excellent recent papers on this: Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh and Michael Schoistwohl, ‘Playing with Fire? The International Community's Democratization Experiment in Afghanistan’, International Peacekeeping, 15:2, (2008), pp. 252–67; Astri Suhrke and Kaja Borchgrevink, ‘Afghanistan – Justice sector reform’, in Edward Newman, Roland Paris, and Oliver P. Richmond (eds), Backsliding and the Liberal Peace (Tokyo: UNU Press, forthcoming 2009). Richard Ponzio and Christopher Freeman, ‘Afghanistan in Transition: Security, Governance and Statebuilding’, International Peacekeeping, 14:1, (2007). See for example, ‘Speech of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan’, Opening of 55th Annual DPI/NGO conference, Rebuilding Societies Emerging from Confect: A Shared Responsibility, New York (9 September 2002).

15 Thanks to Tony Lang for distilling these points for me.

16 See the case studies in Oliver P Richmond and Jason Franks, Liberal Peace Transitions: Between Statebuilding and Peacebuilding.

17 For an important contribution to this discussion in the context of Cambodia and Timor-Leste, see Caroline Hughes, Dependent Communities: Aid and Politics in Cambodia and Timor-Leste, (Cornell UP, forthcoming 2009).

18 See in particular Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh and Michael Schoistwohl, ‘Playing with Fire?’ pp. 252–67

19 See Andrew Williams, Liberal War (London: Routledge, 2006).

20 This might be seen to be in line with policy objectives also. See for example, Kofi Annan, No Exit Without Strategy, S//2001/394 (UN: New York, 2001). Annan points to the need for ‘comprehensive peacebuilding’, which goes far beyond security and statebuilding but also leads to social transformation.

21 Michael Barnett and Christopher Zuercher, ‘Peacebuilder's Contract: How External Peacebuilding Reinforces Weak Statehood’, in Roland Paris and Timothy Sisk (eds), The Dilemmas of Statebuilding (London: Routledge, 2008).

22 Here I am mindful of Lyotard's concern that even ‘critical’ work is about knowing and ordering ‘better’ and so carries assumptions of power. Jean Francois Lyotard, ‘On theory: An Interview’, Driftworks, (New York: Semiotext(e), 1984), p. 13.

23 This term is adapted from the Greek word for peace (eirene/Eιρήνη).

24 For a fascinating discussion see Istvan Kende, ‘The History of Peace’, Journal of Peace Research, 26:3 (1989), p. 235. Erasmus believed that rulers were often responsible for war, and that a political system was required to prevent them from opposing the wishes of their subjects. He believed that rulers should not treat their territories as private property and should be concerned with the welfare of others. He believed speaking and praising peace and condemning war should be normal social practice as well as state practice.

25 Istvan Kende, Ibid., p. 236.

26 Oliver P. Richmond, Transformation of Peace, p. 150.

27 United Nations, ‘Report of the Secretary-General on Timor-Leste pursuant to Security Council resolution 1690’, UN Doc. S/2006/628 (August 2006), p. 9.

28 Report of the Secretary-General, ‘The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security’, UN Doc. A/62/345-S/2007/555 (21 September 2007), para. 24.

29 Ibid., parts V, VI, VII.

30 Ibid., part IX, para. 74.

31 Ibid., para. 74–84.

32 RBJ Walker, in discussion, Victoria, Canada, 14 July 2008.

33 Andrew Williams, Liberalism and War, p. 215.

34 David Boucher, ‘Property and Propriety in IR’, in Beate Jahn (ed.), Classical Theory in IR (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 157.

35 See the excellent collection of essays in Beate Jahn (ed.), Ibid.

36 Antonio Franceschet, ‘One powerful and enlightened nation’, in Ibid., p. 92.

37 John Macmillan, ‘Immanuel Kant and the Democratic Peace’, in Ibid., p. 71.

38 Beat Jahn, ‘Classical Smoke, Classical Mirror’, in Ibid., p. 203. See also David Chandler, Empire in Denial (London: Pluto, 2006), p. 36.

39 Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, translated by Robert Hurley, (London: Penguin),p. 93.

40 Mark Duffield, Development, Security and Unending War, p. 27.

41 See for example, William E. Connolly, Identity/Difference, (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1991), p. 64.

42 Christine Sylvester, ‘Empathetic Cooperation: A Feminist Method for IR’, Millennium, 23:2 (1994), pp. 315–34.

43 RBJ Walker, Inside/outside: International Relations as Political Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. ix.

44 Of course, most policymakers would deny that any such blueprint exists.

45 As Bleiker points out, this does not mean completely abandoning the realist, security focused mode of thinking, but it does involved contextualising it and seeing it as only one of many components of peace. Roland Bleiker, Divided Korea: Towards a Culture of Reconciliation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), pp. 77–8.

46 See Michael Dillon, A Passion for the [Im]possible: Jacques Ranciere, Equality, Pedagogy and the Messianic, European Journal of Political Theory, 4:4 (2005) pp. 429–52.

47 See Arjun Appadurai, ‘Grassroots Globalisation and Research Imagination’, in Arjun Appadurai (ed.), Globalisation, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001), p. 6.

48 Clifford Geertz, Available Light, (Princeton University Press, 2001).

49 Jahn Beate, “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Critical Theory as the Latest Edition of Liberal Idealism”, Millennium, 27. 3 (1998): Linda Bishai, “Liberal Empire”, Journal of International Relations and Development, 7 (2004), pp. 48–72: Raymond Geuss, “Liberalism and its Discontents”, Political Studies, 30, 3 (2002).

50 Michel Foucault, “Governmentality”, in: Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (eds),The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991),pp. 87–104.

51 Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller, ‘The Concept of a Just Peace’, in Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller (eds), What is a Just Peace? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 196.

52 Ibid., p. 212.

53 Thanks to Roger MacGinty and Michael Pugh for making this point to me. See also Richard Gowan, ‘Strategic context: Peacekeeping in Crisis’, International Peacekeeping, 15:4 (2008).

54 This argument was made in the early post-Cold War context, but has recently faded in the light of the many problems that have emerged with the liberal project. See Gene M Lyons, and Michael Mastunduno, Beyond Westphalia, (Johns Hopkins UP, 1995).

55 For an excellent discussion of this process, see Istvan Kende, ‘The History of Peace’, p. 233–45.

56 Sadie Plant, The Most Radical Gesture, (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 157–8.

57 RBJ Walker, in discussion.

58 However, there are notable exceptions, particularly amongst PhD students at institutions such as at the various centres at University of Bradford, University of Queensland, or University of Uppsala, PRIO, (to name a but a few), who increasingly appear to favour in-depth local studies as part of their research, along with a group of scholars working in development, and peace and conflict studies who increasingly are moving away from, or had little association with, the formal discipline of IR. In particular, see the often ground-breaking work of anthropologist, Carolyn Nordstrom, particularly, Shadows of War (Berkley: University of California Press, 2004).

59 Aturo Escobar, Encountering Development (Princeton UP, 1995), p. 113.

60 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, (California University Press, 1984), p. xi

61 Ibid., Chapter II.

62 See for example, William Connolly, Identity/Difference, p. 10.

63 Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller, What is a Just Peace, pp. 16–7.

64 Alexis Keller, ‘Justice, Peace and History’, Ibid., p. 49.

65 Ibid., p. 51.

66 Pierre Allan, Measuring International Ethics, Ibid., p. 91.

67 See Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

68 Pierre Allan, Measuring International Ethics, p. 126.

69 Ibid., p. 127.

70 Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, ‘Human Security: Concepts and Implications’, Les Etudes du CERI, No. 117–118 (September 2005), p. 10.

71 ‘The Responsibility to Protect’, (Ottowa: International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, December 2001).

72 For a development of this see Charles Taylor, ‘The Politics of Recognition’, in Amy Gutmann, (ed.), Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition (Princeton University Press, 1992). pp. 25–73.

73 Fred Dallmayr, Peace Talks – Who Will Listen? (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), pp. 100–1.

74 Cited in Ibid., p. 101. Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, 3, The Care of the Self, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986). See also William Connolly, Identity/Difference, p. 10, and 57. This is not to imply that Foucault's concept of the ‘care of the self’ is an alternative conception of ethics, but a position from which to engage in a constant critique of any attempt to establish order – even my own attempt to develop an everyday notion of peace. A post-liberal peace would therefore contain a feedback process and engage in constant adaption. Many thanks to Tony Lang for making this point to me.

75 Arpad Szakolczai, ‘Thinking Beyond the East-West Divide: Patocka, Foucault, Hamvas, Elias, and the Care of the Self’, EUI Working Paper, Florence: EUI, 94/2, (1994), p. 9 and p. 11. See also RBJ Walker, in discussion.

76 Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodern Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993).

77 Mark Duffield, Development, Security, and Unending War, p. 234.

78 Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice, p. 2.

79 Fred, Dallmayr, Peace Talks – Who Will Listen? p. 110.

80 For more on such issues, Christopher Freeman, ‘Afghanistan in Transition: Security, Governance and Statebuilding’. The criticism of this might well be fair from the perspective of creating a centralised, liberal state, but a consideration of the local and everyday in the context of Afghanistan shows this to be both optimistic and ‘eurocentric’.

81 See for a range of views, David Chandler, ‘Imposing the “Rule of Law”: The Lessons of BiH for Peacebuilding in Iraq’, International Peacekeeping, 11:2 (2004), pp. 312–33: USIP, Iraq, Progress in Peacebuilding (March, 2008),; Carl Conetta, Radical Departure: Toward A Practical Peace in Iraq, Project on Defence Alternatives Briefing Report # 16 (Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute, 7 July 2004).

82 See Oliver P. Richmond and Jason Franks, Liberal Peace Transitions: Between Statebuilding and Peacebuilding, chapters 1–4.

83 David Chandler, Empire in Denial, p. 36.

84 Sadie Plant, The Most Radical Gesture, p. 1 86.

85 See among others Christine Sylvester, ‘Bare Life as Development/Post-Colonial Problematic’, The Geographical Journal, 172:1 (2006), p. 67. G Agamden, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

86 Or see ‘Critical Peace Research’ (CPR) as conceptualised by Matti Jutila, Samu Pehkonen, and Tarja Väyrynen, ‘Resuscitating a Discipline: An Agenda for Critical Peace Research’, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 36 (2008), pp. 623–40.

87 Vivienne Jabri, War and the Transformation of Global Politics (London: Palgrave, 2007), p. 268.

88 Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller, What is a Just Peace pp. 16–7.

89 Alexis Keller, ‘Justice, Peace and History’, Ibid., p. 49.

90 Ibid., p. 51.

91 A good example of this can be found in documentation such as the Responsibility to Protect report, which operates to extend liberal norms and governance to non-liberal others, on the assumption that represents a universal process of conflict resolution. See William Connolly's idea of ‘non-territorial democracy’ as a possible way of overcoming the ‘bordering’ that occurs in the liberal peace. William Connolly, Identity/Difference, p. 218.

92 Here, the critique of Sadie Plant that Western liberalism has lead to a ‘society asleep’, where there are no politics, might be employed. Post-conflict zones are so intensely politicised that this situation is not particularly attractive. Sadie Plant, The Most Radical Gesture, p. 12.

93 See the pioneering research projects conducted by Sharhbanou Tadjbakhsh at the Centre for Human Security, Sciences Po, Paris, and in particular the recent conference held at this centre. Conference on Liberal Peace: External Models and Local Alternatives, Sciences Po, Paris (17 June 2008).

94 Mark Duffield, Development, Security, and Unending War, p. 234.

95 Michael Pugh, Neil Cooper, and Mandy Turner, The Political Economy of Peacebuilding (London: Palgrave, 2008), conclusion. Permanent critique was of course a feature of ‘revolutionary theory’ aspired to by Marxist oriented sympathisers with the Dada and situationalist internationalist movements, which saw critique as a permanent practice of revolutionary theory. Sadie Plant, The Most Radical Gesture, p. 87.

96 Ibid., p. 114. Plant warns that meta-narratives, as with Lyotard's celebrated arguments, relating to the ‘real’, to ‘progress’, and to ‘emancipation’, often deny the validity of events and voices (that is, of the oppressed) that do not fit with their analyses.