School of Natural and Built Environment

The Economics of Peace Building and International Relations

Research Theme: Cities, Communities and Contested Urbanism
Supervisors: Dr. Brendan Murtagh (b.murtagh@qub.ac.uk ) and Dr Phil Boland (p.boland@qub.ac.uk)

This research examines the role of social economics in peace building, especially in terms of resistance to liberal and neoliberal international agendas, local ethnic conflict and the potential to align former combatants around shared priorities in reconstruction. The project identifies the contradictory legitimacies embedded in social economics and practices of resistance when they aim to create meaningful alternatives to liberal peace. It is clear that there is a not an ethically pure form of resistance set against a compromised, cooperated and manipulated agency. What social economics in peacebuilding pays attention to is the inevitable compromises involved in ‘steering’ critical agency through multiple legitimation crises in order to expand local control over resources, allocative systems and assets. The literature points out that more disciplined forms of ‘neoliberal’ peace have elevated market logics over the concern for rights, democratic institutions and security that had previously accompanied liberal strategies. The social economy will be evaluated, especially for its relations with public and private markets, the potential for networked agency and the tactics of resistance. Case studies from conflict zones (including Northern Ireland) demonstrates how it has been put to work in peace formation but also the struggle to maintain various legitimacies that limit its reformist capacity. The thesis could explore social economics as a critical political space in ‘peace formation’, set against the neoliberal practices of imposed ‘peacebuilding’. Peacebuilding methods rest on free markets and the wider benefits of accumulation but peace formation highlights locally situated dynamics, a preference for conflict resolution and an emphasis on equity. The implications for radicalising the local and scaling social economics as constitutive of peace forming could be a useful outcome from the work. 

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