chapter  14
15 Pages

Assessing the sociocultural viability of rule-of-law policies in post-conflict societies: culture clash


As Klaus Decker notes in his contribution to this volume, the fate of post-conflict states, and the role of law in determining that fate, have become the focus of increasing international attention in recent years. The absence of the rule of law is perceived as the cause of all failures, and rule-of-law promotion the panacea to all experienced difficulties, in the reconstruction of war-torn societies. So the promotion of rule of law has become the cornerstone of each and every internationally assisted post-conflict peace-building policy. Although the principles underlying rule-of-law reforms are usually presented as universal, non-political, objective and globally agreed upon, in fact they are guided by socially constructed notions of what a good society is.1 As such, rule-of-law policies are part of a larger process of political and social engineering.2 To the great surprise of policymakers, who perceive their own policies as rational and universally accepted, almost commonsensical, rule-of-law reforms in post-conflict societies are being contested, resisted and even derailed by local political and social actors. This chapter demonstrates how Cultural Theory3 can help us to assess criti-

cally the implementation of rule-of-law policies by international peace-building missions in post-conflict societies. The Cultural Theory framework, which is based on the work of anthropologist Mary Douglas (1970), allows us to map actors’ cultural biases, social relations and strategic behaviours. By focussing our attention on how people choose to define a problem, how they choose to organize themselves and where they look for solutions to that problem, this framework allows us to identify and assess different socially constructed approaches to policymaking and policy implementation. The argument set out in this chapter is that the attitudes, behaviours and strat-

egies adopted by peace-building missions can be classified into four ideal sociocultural types (individualism, egalitarianism, hierarchy and fatalism). More often than not, the sociocultural type of the post-conflict mission does not correspond to the sociocultural setting of the war-torn society in question. The potential for such culture clashes goes some way to explaining the misunderstandings, conflicts and failures of internationally driven rule-of-law policies in war-torn societies.