1932

Abstract

Managing the threat of violence remains a central concern in international security and development. International actors seek to terminate civil wars and prevent conflict recurrence by building peace and strengthening state institutions. In this article, I review the scholarship on international statebuilding, defined broadly as external efforts to create, strengthen, reform, and transform the authority structures of the state. Much of this literature models international statebuilding as provision, in which external actors provide a solution to the enforcement problem that plagues postconflict bargains. However, in many cases, the assumptions about domestic politics underpinning the provision model do not hold. When the central problem of domestic politics concerns bargaining over the distributional consequences of the peace rather than the parties’ ability to credibly commit to the peace, international statebuilding is more fruitfully modeled as imposition, in which terms are imposed on recalcitrant domestic actors. The imposition model allows the preferences of external actors over the postwar order to diverge from the preferences of domestic actors. Divergence arises because statebuilding interventions have distributional consequences that threaten the interests of domestic elites. To unpack why this is the case, I turn to the literature on the domestic politics of statebuilding, which shows that governance arrangements that appear to outsiders as weak statehood can help manage violence by facilitating the distribution of sovereignty rents. Insights from these literatures suggest exciting new avenues for future scholarship.

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2022-05-12
2024-06-22
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