This article discusses what an IR and peacebuilding praxis derived from the everyday might entail. It examines the insights of a number of literatures which contribute to a discussion of the dynamics of the everyday. The enervation of agency and the repoliticisation of peacebuilding is its objective. It charts how local agency has led to resistance and hybrid forms of peace despite the overwhelming weight of the liberal peace project. In some aspects this may be complementary to the latter and commensurate with the liberal state, but in other aspects the everyday points beyond the liberal peace.
The “liberal peacekeeping” 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 and critical policies for peacebuilding.
A critical examination of the effort to build a liberal peace since 1999 in East Timor illustrates that to a large degree the liberal peace model has failed the East Timorese people. There are two aspects to this: the first is the failure to construct a social contract between society and its institutions of governance. This is related to the broader issue of the social legitimacy of, and contract with, international actors derived from society and its complex groupings. The second is the failure, at least in the transitional period, to respond to the experiences of everyday life and welfare requirements of the new state’s citizens.
The article examines the nature of the peace that exists in Cambodia by critiquing the ‘liberal peace’ framework. The authors claim that, despite the best efforts of international donors and the NGO community, liberal peacebuilding in Cambodia has so far failed in many of its key aims. The liberal peacebuilding project in Cambodia has been modified by a combination of local political, economic and social dynamics, international failings, and the broader theoretical failings of the liberal peacebuilding process. There have been some important successes, but serious doubts remain as to whether this project has been or can be successful, not least because of the ontological problem of whether the liberal peace is at all transferable. This raises the question of what type of peace has actually been built. The authors argue that the result of international efforts so far is little more than a virtual liberal peace.