Governing Ethnic Conflict: Consociation, Identity and the Price of Peace

Governing Ethnic Conflict: Consociation, Identity and the Price of Peace

Governing Ethnic Conflict: Consociation, Identity and the Price of Peace

Governing Ethnic Conflict: Consociation, Identity and the Price of Peace

Synopsis

This book offers an intellectual history of an emerging technology of peace and explains how the liberal state has come to endorse illiberal subjects and practices.

The idea that conflicts are problems that have causes and therefore solutions rather than winners and losers has gained momentum since the end of the Cold War, and it has become more common for third party mediators acting in the name of liberal internationalism to promote the resolution of intra-state conflicts. These third-party peace makers appear to share lessons and expertise so that it is possible to speak of an emergent common technology of peace based around a controversial form of power-sharing known as consociation.

In this common technology of peace, the cause of conflict is understood to be competing ethno-national identities and the solution is to recognize these identities, and make them useful to government through power-sharing. Drawing on an analysis of the peace process in Ireland and the Dayton Accords in Bosnia Herzegovina, the book argues that the problem with consociational arrangements is not simply that they institutionalise ethnic division and privilege particular identities or groups, but, more importantly, that they close down the space for other ways of being. By specifying identity categories, consociational regimes create a residual, sink category, designated 'other'. These 'others' not only offer a challenge to prevailing ideas about identity but also stand in reproach to conventional wisdom regarding the management of conflict.

This book will be of much interest to students of conflict resolution, ethnic conflict, identity, and war and conflict studies in general.

Andrew Finlay is Lecturer in Sociology at Trinity College Dublin.

Excerpt

The idea that conflicts are problems that have causes and therefore solutions (rather than winners and losers) is a quintessentially modern idea, but its application to intra-state conflicts was belated. The delay is usually attributed to the Cold War, when the international community was less concerned with ending civil wars than with the possibility of world war (see Ramsbotham et al. 2005 and Pugh 2002). Since the end of the Cold War it has become more and more common for third-party mediators to intervene in intra-state conflicts in the name of liberal internationalism (see McGrew 2002). These third-party peace makers – United Nations agencies, small neutral states and non-governmental organisations – have done much to promote the idea that conflicts can be resolved or at least managed; peace kept, made and built. They also appear to share lessons and expertise (Darby and MacGinty 2003). Bell (2008: 105) suggests that a common set of techniques for peace-making is emerging such that ‘peace agreements across conflicts evidence strikingly similar arrangements and devices (or “frameworks”) for accommodating the competing demands of the conflict’s protagonists’.

The intellectual history or genealogy of this emerging common approach to peace-making is what concerns me here. My case studies are the Good Friday Agreement (GFA, Northern Ireland 1998) and to a lesser extent the Dayton Accords (Bosnia-Herzegovina 1995). I’ll explain my approach to intellectual history and the significance of these case studies in a moment, but let me begin by sketching the common technology of peace-making.

If there is a common technology of peace, its self-styled ‘engineers’ are ‘consociationalists’ (see Lijphart 1995 and McGarry and O’Leary 1995). Consociationalism is a theory developed mainly within political science. Some have claimed it to be the ‘dominant’ or ‘default’ response of the international community when it comes to conflict resolution (see Taylor 2009; Anderson 2006). Consociation is conventionally described as the sharing of . . .

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