Reconciling Irreconcilables? The British Government's Comprehensive Approach to Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
Boulton, Ben David
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
A wide number of contributions to the peacebuilding literature have decried the limitations and constraints of liberal peacebuilding, to such an extent that the very term has begun to assume vaguely pejorative overtones. Concerns for the health and well-being of liberal peacebuilding have accumulated to the extent that Roland Paris has issued a plaintive call for liberal peacebuilding to be ‘saved’ (2010). In this thesis, I critically engage with the comprehensive approach, one of the central mechanisms that has enabled liberal peacebuilding to redefine and rearticulate its terms of reference. I begin from the assumption that the comprehensive approach does not anticipate the post-liberal peace that has been heralded by some observers (see Richmond, 2011); quite the contrary, it instead provides the basis for reformulation or adaptation within the terms that have been established by liberal peacebuilding. In continuing to hold out this tantalising possibility, the comprehensive approach continues, more than 20 years after its first articulation, to cast a seductive spell over its adherents. In this thesis, I critically assess how the comprehensive approach framework has been engaged and developed by one of its leading proponents (the British Government). I break the approach down into three dimensions of comprehensiveness (deepening, contextuality and complementarity), with a view to illustrating how the textual reproduction of each dimension has been accompanied by a set of contradictions and tensions. In doing so, I propose to explore how discursive ‘broadening’ and ‘deepening’ has been accompanied by a range of contradictions and tensions. In unravelling these contradictions, I then draw upon Foucauldian concepts and themes to argue that each and every advancement of freedom (whether through the form of empowerment, participation or contextual engagement) has been considerably more ambiguous than the standard narrative of the comprehensive approach – which reproduces the impression of an incremental progression – would have us believe. In questioning and probing the proposition that the comprehensive approach overcomes or reconciles the contradictions and tensions of liberal peacebuilding, I instead suggest a disconcerting reversion to prior points of reference.
PhD in Politics