The Evolution of Deadly Conflict in Liberia

From 'Paternaltarianism' to State Collapse

by Jeremy I. Levitt

Tags: African Law, African Studies, Africana Studies, Civil Rights/Race and the Law, History, International Law

Table of Contents (PDF)

336 pp  $45.00

ISBN 978-0-89089-212-1

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This book represents the first attempt to holistically document and analyze the causes of deadly conflict in Liberia from its founding to the present. It reconstructs and examines the root, operational, and catalytic causes of eighteen internal deadly conflicts that transpired in Liberia between 1822 and 2003, including the 1980 coup d'e'tat against the Tolbert regime and the Great War (1989–2003). The book seeks to answer two primary questions:

  • What are the historical causes of deadly conflict in Liberia, and
  • To what extent has the evolution of settler nationalism and authoritarianism contributed to the stimulation of conflict between settler and native Liberians?

To answer these questions, Levitt examines a continuum of circular causation among the state of affairs that led to the founding of the Liberian State, the evolution of settler authoritarianism and nationalism, and internal conflict. By analyzing these processes together, the causes of eighteen conflicts are revealed and thoroughly discussed. The book also has three major objectives:

  • to determine the historical causes of deadly conflict in Liberia, in particular, the underlining historical phenomena responsible for birthing the Great War;
  • to present an alternative framework to comprehend and examine the aged conflict dynamic between settler and indigenous Liberians, and within Liberian society itself; and
  • to produce the first comprehensive study of deadly conflict in Liberia.

This book advantageously spans the fields of political science, history, international law, and peace and conflict studies; it is an excellent interdisciplinary choice.

"Dr. Levitt has meticulously investigated the major violent conflicts in Liberia's tortured history and convincingly traced their roots to political institutions of domination and control that remain at the foundation of Liberia's system of governance today. The book's message for Liberia's future is unmistakable." — Amos Sawyer, Professor and Associate Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University-Bloomington, and former Interim President of Liberia, IGNU

"[T]he definitive work on the causes of Liberia's cycle of deadly conflict… The vital importance of Dr. Levitt's work is clear: only by understanding those root causes can Liberians and those who wish them well hope to find an exit from the cycle." — David Wippman, Professor of Law and Vice Provost for International Relations, Cornell University

"This is an excellent book… Levitt deserves great credit for its quality, thoroughness and the care of his research." — Crawford Young, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"[A]n original work with fresh perspective that is well grounded in history and theory and of great value to Liberian studies and to the theoretical literature on deadly conflict." — D. Elwood Dunn, Professor & Chair of Political Science, University of the South (TN), Former Liberian Government Official

"Levitt's painstaking documentation of the deadly conflicts makes a most useful contribution to the on-going governance debate. This work is a major contribution to understanding the primary factors that collapsed the Liberian state." — Dr. Byron Tarr, Development Consultants Inc. Monrovia, Liberia

"Levitt, for his part, makes a major contribution to our understanding both of Liberia's past and how that past ought to inform our understanding of the present. Indeed, his is the first systematic accounting for the many nation-building conflicts of Liberia." — African Studies Review