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The politics of 'democratization': Lessons from Bosnia and Iraq

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Since the end of the Cold War, the suspension of state sovereignty as a means of encouraging democracy has become a common policy instrument for hegemonic state actors. Deploying discourses of democratization, such interventions have promoted a singular narrative of state building, combining neo-liberal economic norms with a vocabulary of democratic participation. Drawing on the central comparison between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraq, this paper argues that such technical narrations of intervention depoliticize both the planning and execution of democratization initiatives. This argument is made at two levels of analysis. At the policy level, the geopolitical contexts of intervention in Bosnia and Iraq are used to illustrate the normative nature of declarations of state competence. At the agency level, I examine processes of democratic reconstruction following conflict. In the cases of both Bosnia and Iraq, international administrations have equated the development of civil society with 'democratization.' Using detailed empirical evidence from Brcko District, Bosnia, the paper explores how these surrogate state agencies have used legal instruments to shape the conduct and institutions of civil society. Consequently, the examples of Bosnia and Iraq highlight the fraught moral and political questions prompted by contemporary practices of state building.
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Keywords: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Iraq; civil society; democratization; failed states

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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