The Building and Breaking of Peace

Corporate Activities in Civil War Prevention and Resolution

Oxford University Press, 2021

Private corporations are rarely discussed as playing a role in efforts to curb civil violence, even though they often have strong interests in maintaining stability. Violence often damages key infrastructure or directly targets companies. Corporations also have a normative obligation to conduct business in ways that promote peace. While there are historical examples of firm-instigated violence and firms benefiting from instability and conflict, there is also evidence that corporations proactively engage in peacebuilding. For example, firms devise programs to promote economic development, offer access to education, and employ former combatants. 

In The Building and Breaking of Peace, I develop a theory of the conflicting roles corporations play in building and preventing peace. I show that corporations engage in peacebuilding when the government lacks the capacity to do so, but they also weigh the opportunity costs of acting. Firms are uniquely able to raise the cost of violence, and proactive firms increase peace in a country. At the same time, an active private sector can make it harder for states with an ongoing conflict to reach an agreement by complicating the bargaining process.

Including original cross-national data of peacebuilding efforts and in-depth case analyses of corporate actions and outcomes, I show that corporations help to prevent violence but not resolve it. In examining the corporate motives for peacebuilding and the implications of these activities for preventing violence and conflict resolution, the book builds a more holistic picture of the peace and conflict process. The findings also help explain why armed civil conflicts persist despite the multitude of diverse actors working to end them.

You can purchase your copy of The Building and Breaking of Peace here.

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