Intrastate Conflict

Research department IV investigates peace and conflicts within states. It focuses on the significance of the organization and transformation of political rule, including its social, economic and international embeddedness, in regard to the violent escalation and peaceful resolution of intrastate conflicts. This entails considering the relations between internal order and a state’s external behavior as well as the external influences on domestic conflicts and processes of transformation. The overarching goal of this research is to identify the conditions needed to peacefully contain conflicts by way of innovative approaches to transformation and resolution that pair decreasing levels of violence with increases in social justice and political freedom in the respective societies. The central topics within this research department are: post-civil war societies and peacebuilding, relations and causes of intrastate violence, political orders and their transformation, and international democracy promotion and its challenges.

Within the current research program titled Just Peace Governance, this research department investigates how conceptions and conditions of a just peace at the national level are contested and negotiated within and between states. Research in this area takes the triad “democracy-rule of law-good governance” as its point of departure. Since the end of the Cold War, this triad has come to serve as the universal template for just peace governance aiming at a process of global homogenization based on the supposedly uncontested hegemony of the West. Since the turn of the millennium, this universalist claim has been put into question by the visible limits of its practical implementation, by the re-emergence of alternative conceptions of order, and by an international power shift. The ongoing research projects within this research department investigate the opportunities and limits of just peace governance at the intrastate level under conditions of multifaceted – politico-institutional and socio-cultural – heterogeneity. Under the framework of the previous research program “Antinomies of Democratic Peace” (2000-2009), researchers focused on the ambivalent relationship between democracy and societal peace as well as the corresponding contradictions of democratization as a peace strategy.

Post-civil war societies and peacebuilding

Civil wars and internationalized civil wars have been the predominant types of armed conflict for some time. For many of the affected societies, violence ends up resurfacing just a few years after such wars initially ended. Peacebuilding aims at preventing these relapses into civil war. It sets out to establish the conditions needed for post-civil war societies to be able to one day ensure lasting peace on their own. As such, the central questions that this research area poses are: What are the conditions that enable self-sustaining peace to emerge? Moreover: Which situations cause peace to be precarious or even collapse altogether?

Relations and causes of intrastate violence

Physical violence is an essential means to maintain as well as to challenge political domination. The role and forms of violence in countries of the Global South are as varied as their empirical legitimacy and causes. The PRIF research projects dealing with this topic look into the social and cultural reproduction of violence-based orders and investigate their causes and development. Particular focus is placed on the viability of violence-based orders beyond, or as a deformation of, the law-based state monopoly of violence in contexts of basically democratic political regimes.

Political orders and their transformation

The organization and transformation of political order are of crucial importance when it comes to peace and conflict at the intrastate level. In analyzing political regimes, peace and conflict research is interested in identifying both the capacity for peace inherent in differing political regimes and the specific conflict risks associated with processes of political change. The key question is how interactions between the state and contentious groups shape change and continuity of political order as well as the violent escalation or peaceful handling of conflict.

International democracy promotion and its challenges

In the 1990s, the global spread of democracy became one of the central goals of foreign and development policy pursued by established democracies. The conception that this was the most sustainable, and therefore the best, peace strategy closely accompanied this development. Since the turn of the millennium, however, this optimistic view has been met with growing skepticism while democracy promotion has faced mounting political resistance. Such opposition to democracy promotion can be observed in the “recipient” countries themselves as well as in the policies of rising powers with semi- or undemocratic regimes that, in part, openly compete with Western democracy promoters.