This article reflects upon the shift away from linear understandings of peacebuilding, which assumed that Western ‘blueprints’ could be imposed upon non-compliant elites. Today, it is increasingly suggested, in both policy and academic literatures, that there should be a shift towards non-linear approaches. Rather than focusing upon Western policy prescriptions intra-elite bargaining and formal institutional structures, these understandings stress non-linearity, hybridity, local societal processes and practices and the importance of ‘hidden’ agency and resistance. This article highlights that, while these approaches set up a critique of liberal linear approaches, they tend to reify hybrid, non-liberal or non-linear outcomes as the product of local inter-subjective attachments. In this way, they reproduce the voluntarist and idealist understandings of liberal peace, locating the problems or barriers to peace and development at the cognitive or ideational level rather than considering the barriers of economic and social context.