The Political Economy of Transitions to Peace: A Comparative Perspective

  • Published

The Political Economy of Transitions to Peace: A Comparative Perspective by Galia Press-Barnathan. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009, 272 pp.

Galia Press-Barnathan, an international relations academic, investigates whether the political use of economic incentives can effectively promote peace between postconflict reconciliatory nations. Particular emphasis is given to the critical examination of the ability of trade to facilitate the movement of what the author terms a “cold peace” to a “warm peace.” Cold peace represents the initial transition to peace, while warm peace signifies more normalized relations. In conducting her research, Press-Barnathan applies three hypotheses relating to the role economic incentives have on promoting peace: the domestic winners and losers in the transition to peace, the impact of existing economic power disparities between reconciling nations, and the impact that third parties have in brokering peace. The hypotheses are scrutinized through in-depth, quantitative comparisons of six diverse case studies—Egypt/Israel, Jordan/Israel, Japan/the Philippines/Indonesia, Japan/South Korea, France/Germany, and Poland/Germany—each presented in an individual chapter. The chapters are structured alike by design for ease of reading and to facilitate cross-comparison. For those with more specialized interests, the case studies can be read independently.

The scholarly research and objective analysis in this thorough body of work is beyond reproach. The author’s diligence has manifested itself in a very compelling and fascinating book that consequentially adds to the literature addressing commercial liberalism. Press-Barnathan’s analysis suggests that when wide power differences between former enemies exists, it is easier and generally useful for the more powerful of the two nations to use economic means as a political tool in promoting peace because “economic stakes are not very high” (p. 127). However, when a significant difference in economic power exists between former enemies, the fear of economic dependence by the economically weaker nation inhibits the building of a warm peace. In other words, using economics to promote peace is best utilized by reconciling nations with little real differences in the size and/or development of their respective economies. Elitist governments and big business interests can improve economic relations between former enemies; however, in all presented cases, a warm peace could not be established without society feeling it too was a beneficiary. Third party efforts can facilitate peace through economic means and security guarantees, particularly when the third party is the United States. All cases had varying levels of US involvement, ranging from the post–World War II Western Europe and Japan–focused Marshall Plan down to economic aid to Jordan in promoting peace with Israel. The cases further indicate that promoting economic liberalization is a better first step rather than pushing for democratization. In the long run, however, democratization does promote a more stable and enduring peace. Little evidence is provided suggesting that economic successes ultimately translate into political resolution of conflicts. In all, the cases demonstrate the limitations economic incentives have on promoting peace. Aside from these summarized findings, this comprehensively researched and carefully crafted study provides a plethora of case-unique outcomes in meaningful historical context. Government policymakers, international relations and conflict resolution practitioners, academics and students, as well as anyone interested in the role economics can play in conflict reconciliation and sustainable peace, best read this book.

David A. Anderson, PhD

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."