This article analyses how international statebuilding has shifted from ‘problem-solving’ towards a new discursive regime of acceptance and affirmation. It seeks to explore how the shift to ‘bottom-up’ or ‘post-liberal’ approaches in the early 2000s led to a focus upon epistemological barriers to intervention and an appreciation of complexity. It then describes a process of reflection upon statebuilding as a policy practice, whereby the need to focus on local context and relations, in order to take problems seriously, begins to further undermine confidence in the Western episteme. In other words, the ‘bottom-up’ approach, rather than resolving the crisis of policy practices of statebuilding, seems to have further intensified it. It is argued that the way out of this crisis seems to be found in the rejection of the aspiration to know from a position of a ‘problem-solving’ external authority and instead to ‘unlearn’ from the opportunities opened up through the practices of exploring and engaging with the ‘other’.