In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Post-Civil War State

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Civil War Recurrence

International Relations The Post-Civil War State
Sarah P. Lockhart
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 November 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0132


States emerging from civil war face many challenges, distinct from the challenges that states face after international wars. Civil wars necessarily undermine the state’s monopoly on violence, which means that, regardless of outcome, the postwar state must reassert its ability to provide basic security and enforce order. But to ensure a durable peace, the state must simultaneously build political, economic, and social capacity. Unlike international wars, civil wars inflict all of the destruction on one state, which means even the winning side inherits the costs of the losing side. Furthermore, while a cold peace after an international war may be sustainable, the viability of political, economic, and social prosperity after a civil war depends on former enemies learning to work and live side by side once again, unless the outcome of the war involves partition. Even then, the division will not be complete and some communities will be left “stranded” on the other side. Thus, much is demanded of the post–civil war state, and it is unsurprising that recidivism is a major problem. Between 1945 and 1996, 36 percent of all civil wars were followed by a new war after some duration of peace. Since 1993, this proportion has increased; in several of the years since the turn of the 21st century, all “new” conflicts have been incidents of renewed fighting in existing conflicts. The ability to successfully build sustainable peace in post–civil war states is one of the most difficult and important challenges of the current era.

General Overviews

Lounsbery and Pearson 2009 offers a good starting point for examining the post–civil war state, providing a comprehensive overview of the causes of civil war, conflict processes, conflict resolution, and the postwar period. It articulates the theoretical approaches to civil war across disciplines and levels of analysis, distinguishing between contextual and proximate causes of war. This is an accessible work and would work well as a university textbook. Brown and Langer 2014 is a handbook on civil wars, with twenty-nine chapters on all aspects of civil wars and post–civil war states written by many of the foremost scholars in the field. Unlike Lounsbery and Pearson 2009, the editors do not attempt to integrate approaches so much as to identify disagreements about the causes and consequences of conflict, based on epistemological and methodological positions. Their introduction is framed around the concepts of conflict, post-conflict, and state fragility; how these concepts are identified empirically; and the impact this has on policy. The breadth of this edited volume makes it an excellent resource. Paris and Sisk 2009 is an edited volume in which the contributors examine the role of international intervention in postwar state-building. Sisk 2013, a book on the same topic, provides a more coherent historical perspective on international state-building efforts over time. The two volumes pair well together. The remaining works focus on specific aspects of post–civil war peacebuilding: the effects of domestic institutions and international intervention on incentive structures, the risks of postwar violence, democratization, and economic development. Hoddie and Hartzell 2010, an edited volume, centers on the idea that lasting peace requires postwar incentive structures that align individual and group interests with the goal of ending war and keeping the peace. The contributors examine how restructuring domestic institutions and international intervention can create this alignment. Boyle 2014 examines the reasons why low-level violence continues to occur after civil war, and how this might lead to recurrence. Jarstad and Sisk 2008, an edited volume, examines the challenge of democratizing in post–civil war states while simultaneously pursuing reconciliation. Lastly, Collier, et al. 2003 examines civil wars and the post–civil war state from an economic and political development perspective.

  • Boyle, Michael J. Violence after War: Explaining Instability in Post-conflict States. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

    Uses a cross-national data set on post-conflict violence in fifty-two states, along with five in-depth case studies, to explain why low-level violence continues in postwar states and how it can lead to renewed war. Focuses on the fragmentation of combatant groups.

  • Brown, Graham K., and Arnim Langer, eds. Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2014.

    Massive edited volume on all aspects of civil war, including the postwar period, with twenty-nine chapters written by some of the foremost scholars in the field. Chapters on peace settlements, transitions to peace, DDR, peacekeeping, democratization, institutional arrangements, and economic recovery are included.

  • Collier, Paul, V. L. Elliott, Håvard Hegre, Anke Hoeffler, Marta Reynal-Querol, and Nicholas Sambanis. Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2003.

    Approaches civil war as a failure and reversal of development. In addition to explaining how underdevelopment facilitates civil war and is a consequence of civil war, the authors explore international measures that can reduce its onset and recurrence.

  • Elbadawi, Ibrahim, Håvard Hegre, and Gary J. Milante. “The Aftermath of Civil War.” In Special Issue: The Aftermath of Civil War. Edited by Ibrahim Elbadawi, Håvard Hegre, and Gary J. Milante. Journal of Peace Research 45.4 (2008): 451–459.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022343308091354

    The introduction of to a special journal issue on the aftermath of civil war, this article addresses the issue of what affects the duration of peace after civil war.

  • Hoddie, Matthew, and Caroline A. Hartzell. Strengthening Peace in Post–Civil War States: Transforming Spoilers into Stakeholders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226351261.001.0001

    This edited volume argues that lasting peace depends on creating incentive structures that align the interests of individuals and communities with the goal of ending war. The contributors explore two approaches to achieving this goal: restructuring domestic institutions and nonmilitary international intervention.

  • Jarstad, Anna K., and Timothy D. Sisk. From War to Democracy: Dilemmas of Peacebuilding. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    Edited volume addressing the post-civil war dilemma of cultivating democracy, which relies on the competition of elections, while pursuing peacebuilding, which attempts to achieve reconciliation.

  • Lounsbery, Marie Olson, and Frederic Pearson. Civil Wars: Internal Struggles, Global Consequences. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

    Provides a comprehensive overview of the literature on factors leading to civil war, conflict processes, resolution, and the aftermath, including the role of international intervention. Good foundational text.

  • Paris, Roland, and Timothy D. Sisk, eds. The Dilemmas of Statebuilding: Confronting the Contradictions of Postwar Peace Operations. New York: Routledge, 2009.

    Edited volume addressing the paradox of external intervention to build up domestic state capacity. Examines the various aspects of post–civil war state-building through country case studies focusing on security, political economy, institutional design, and autonomy and dependence.

  • Sisk, Timothy. Statebuilding. Malden, MA: Polity, 2013.

    Traces the historical roots of international efforts at postwar state-building through the present day, based on its three objectives: to enhance security, stimulate development, and strengthen the international liberal order.

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