Structure of the Book

The first two chapters lay the foundation for the book’s analytical approach and contributions. Chapter 1 discusses the utility of the study in light of the contemporary practice of international peacebuilding. It defines the main focus of inquiry, which is the UN’s transitional governance approach to transformative peacebuilding, and situates the book’s argument within the existing peacebuilding literature, highlighting its unique contributions. It then introduces the historical institutionalist lens the book adopts to better understand peacebuilding and describes the research design of the study. Chapter 2 develops the book’s core theory that international interventions enable and are co-opted by post-conflict elites intent on forging a neopatrimonial political order. Linking scholarship on conflict and peace to that on political, institutional, and economic development, it builds a theoretical framework that outlines what we should expect to see of elites attempting to build post-conflict political order. It lays out the logic underpinning the book’s narrative, which spans a sequence of critical peacebuilding phases that form the course of international interventions: the peace settlement phase, the transitional governance period, and the aftermath of intervention. This causal argument is woven from a number of thematic threads concerning the manner in which elites negotiate and respond to moments of transition and shape institutions and political order coming out of those formative junctures.

The three chapters that form the main empirical body of the book then focus on each of these peacebuilding phases in turn, analyzing case material from Cambodia, East Timor, and Afghanistan at each juncture. This phase-by-phase narrative structure, in contrast to the more typical case-by-case approach, enables scholars and practitioners to better understand how critical junctures and path dependence contribute to the overall outcome of neopatrimonial political order in post-conflict states. Chapter 3 demonstrates how internationally mediated peace settlements in Cambodia, East Timor, and Afghanistan attempted to not merely bring an end to conflict but also to resolve the problems that created conflict at the outset. Through a comparative assessment of the politics leading into and out of the conflict, it demonstrates that these settlements are best understood as conditional elite pacts that initiate a new phase of elite conflict over the construction of political order. Chapter 4 focuses squarely on the peacebuilding interventions implemented by the United Nations in tandem with domestic counterparts. Based on the notion that statebuilding and democratization are mutually reinforcing, the UN attempts to implement both simultaneously to reorient domestic politics away from conflict. The chapter shows that there are, in fact, deep contradictions between these two processes and that they undermine each other when pursued together. In the three cases, conferring legitimate power and resources upon specific domestic elites enabled them to restrict political competition and dominate the process of post-conflict institutional design. Chapter 5 addresses the neopatrimonial political order that persists in Cambodia, East Timor, and Afghanistan in the aftermath of their international interventions, examining the consequences of the institutional decisions made during the transitional governance process. Through the historical institutionalist lens, it examines how power shifts and settles through the institutional system, paying particular attention to the manner in which domestic elites operate within and convert the institutional infrastructure to their own political-economic advantage. In all three countries, the neopatrimonial equilibrium has proven unfortunately resilient in undermining the quest for rule-bound, effective, and legitimate post-conflict governance.

The conclusion reviews the key findings of the book and discusses its implications for the future practice and study of peacebuilding. It probes the validity of the argument through a brief examination of other peacebuilding interventions. The bulk of the conclusion is devoted to a discussion of how peacebuilding might be improved on the basis of the book’s findings. First, it disentangles the statebuilding and democratization imperatives that have been linked together in the pursuit of transformative peacebuilding. It then offers six targeted policy implications, along with a caveat, for improving peacebuilding practice. Finally, it reflects on the implications of this book for future research on peacebuilding and other challenges facing post-conflict developing countries.

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