The Effects of Civil War on Post-War Political Development (2018)
in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics
Civil war is one of the most devastating and potentially transformative events that can befall a country. Despite an intuitive acknowledgment that civil war is a defining political moment in a state and society's history, we know relatively little about the legacies of wartime social and political processes on post-war political development. Scholars and practitioners have written extensively on the effects of different war endings and international interventions on post-war political outcomes—particularly as they concern the maintenance of security and stability. However, this scholarship has tended to treat the wartime period as a black box. Until recently, this bias has precluded systematic efforts to understand how the wartime political and social processes and context preceding international interventions and peace agreements have their own autonomous effects on post-war politics. Some of these processes include regional and local patterns of mobilization, armed group structure, political polarization, and violence, among others. Focusing more closely on the post-war effect of variation in wartime processes can not only improve our existing understanding of outcomes such as peace duration and stability but can also improve our understanding of other political development outcomes such as democratization, party building, local governance, and individual political behavior and participation.However, some scholars have started investigating the effect of wartime processes on post-war political development at three broad levels of analysis: the regime, party, and individual levels. At the regime level, democratization seems most likely when the distribution of power among warring parties is even and in contexts where armed actors find it necessary to mobilize ordinary citizens for the war effort. The transition from armed group to peacetime party has also received attention. Armed groups with sustained wartime territorial control, strong ties with the local population, centralized leadership, and cohesive wartime organizations are most likely to make the transition to post-war party and experience electoral success. Moving beyond case studies to more comparative work and giving greater attention to the precise specification of causal mechanisms would continue moving this research agenda in a productive direction. In addition, some scholars have examined individual behavior and attitudes after civil war. A central finding is that individuals who experience victimization during civil war are more likely to engage in political participation and local activism after the war. Future research should go beyond victimization to examine the effects of other wartime experiences.Harnessing the insights of the rich literature on the dynamics of civil war and the parallel advances in the collection of micro-level data is key to advancing the research on wartime origins of post-war political development. Such progress would allow scholars to speak to the larger question of how state and society are affected and transformed by the process of civil war.