Public Reason: Vol. 2, No. 2, December 2010
Rawlsian Compromises in Peacebuilding? Response to Agafonow
Endre Begby

This paper responds to recent criticism from Alejandro Agafonow. In section I, I argue that the dilemma that Agafonow points to – while real – is in no way unique to liberal peacebuilding. Rather, it arises with respect to any foreign involvement in post-conflict reconstruction. I argue further that Agafonow’s proposal for handling this dilemma suffers from several shortcomings: first, it provides no sense of the magnitude and severity of the “oppressive practices” that peacebuilders should be willing to institutionalize. Second, it provides no sense of a time frame within which we can hope that endogenous liberalization should emerge in the local political culture. Finally, it provides no suggestion for what the international community should do if the desired liberalization should fail to materialize within that time frame. In section II, I show that Agafonow’s argument resonates poorly with the concepts and ideas that he claims to adopt from Rawls’s Political Liberalism. Instead, his argument evokes the guiding ideas behind Rawls’s later work The Law of Peoples. I offer a critical perspective on these ideas, focusing specifically on Rawls’s treatment of women’s rights. Section III applies this critical perspective to Agafonow’s arguments, before closing with an example of a more constructive and empirically informed approach that critical studies of post-conflict reconstruction could take.

Key words: liberal peace, human security, peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction, Rawls, political liberalism, women’s rights.


Begby, Endre. 2010. Rawlsian Compromises in Peacebuilding? Response to Agafonow. Public Reason 2(2): 51-59.