Civil War and the Transformation of Values
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Democracy has proved to be especially hard to achieve and consolidate in divided societies in general, and in post-conflict societies in particular. Many countries that have recently experience intrastate war decay into civil war after a few years of peace. Both these findings point to the need of addressing the challenges facing postwar societies. I argue that an important piece has been missing from the research agenda: public opinion. How do people respond to exposure to warfare? How does civil war affect people as political beings? This is the overarching question that this dissertation addresses. Very little is known about how individual attitudes are affected by civil war. Yet, the conflict literature is full of assumptions, whether explicit or implicit, about how people react to warfare. Using data from the Western Balkans I examine the effect of civil war exposure on individual attitudes of ethnonationalism, reconciliation, and authoritarianism. The attitudes are chosen because of their perceived relevance for future stability and democratic consolidation. A main finding is that warfare has no uniform effect on public opinion, but that post-conflict countries are dominated by values that are commonly assumed to be detrimental to the development of peaceful democracies. In some cases, ethnonationalism increases with exposure to war, but the effects are not always consistent. Proximity to violence can reduce support for a peace agreement, but not all the aspects of it. Authoritarianism can increase from some types of exposure to violence, but this is contingent on the measure of violence, and the effect is not uniform across cases. In sum, these divergent findings make it clear that a large degree of caution is necessary when making assumptions about individual attitudes and behavior after a violent conflict.