IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

What is this subject, anyway?

Taking things for granted is never a good idea.  For instance, today I realized that while I have been talking about peace and conflict studies on and off in this blog, I haven’t really said what this field is–though I guess it was sort of clear by implication.  However, today I looked in my old friend Wikipedia and found quite a good article about “Peace and Conflict Studies” which I would recommend as a starting point for anyone who wants to know more.

Here are a few highlights which, hopefully, will whet your appetite to know more:

Definition

“Peace and conflict studies is a social science field that identifies and analyses violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as the structural mechanisms attending social conflicts with a view towards understanding those processes which lead to a more desirable human condition.[1] A variation on this, peace studies (irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, de-escalation, and solution of conflicts by peaceful means, thereby seeking ‘victory’ for all parties involved in the conflict. This is in contrast to war studies (polemology) which has as its aim the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts, by and large by violent means and to the satisfaction of one or more, but not all, parties involved. Disciplines involved may include political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history, anthropology, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as a variety of others.”

[That’s it then:  from now I’m calling myself an “irenologist” 🙂  IGB  ]

Early History

“Academics and students in the world’s oldest universities have long been motivated by an interest in peace. American student interest in what we today think of as peace studies first appeared in the form of campus clubs at U.S. colleges in the years immediately following the American Civil War. Similar movements appeared in Sweden in the last years of the 19th century, as elsewhere soon after. These were student-originated discussion groups, not formal courses included in college curricula.”

[How about that…as early as just after the Civil War!  The rest of the history is too long to cite here.  Suffice to say, each major war increased interest]

Research

“Although individual thinkers such as Immanuel Kant had long recognised the centrality of peace (see Perpetual Peace), it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that peace studies began to emerge as an academic discipline with its own research tools, a specialized set of concepts, and forums for discussion such as journals and conferences. Beginning in 1959, with the founding of the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (associated with Johan Galtung), a number of research institutes began to appear”

Description

“Peace Studies can be classified as:

* Multidisciplinary, encompassing elements of Politics and International Relations (particularly critical international relations theory), Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology and Economics. Critical theory is also widely used in peace and conflict studies.
* Multilevel. Peace Studies examines intrapersonal peace, peace between individuals, neighbours, ethnic groups, states and civilisations.
* Multicultural. Gandhi is often cited as a paradigm of Peace Studies. However, true multiculturalism remains an aspiration as most Peace Studies centres are located in the West.
* Both analytic and normative. As a normative discipline, Peace Studies involves value judgements, such as “better” and “bad”.
* Both theoretical and applied.”

[the statement about most centers being in the West is still probably true, but there are more and more elsewhere as I’ve mentioned from time to time]

There is lots more in the article, including a fair section on the controversy surrounding the field.  Overall, one can here see another manifestation of Arnold J. Toynbee’s challenge and response historical dynamic:  the more wars we have, the more effort is made to understand, control and eliminate them.  Of course, according to Toynbee there is no guarantee that a given civilization will ultimately overcome its main challenges (civilizations have stagnated and vanished).  We still have some distance to go, I would say; but the burgeoning of peace and conflict studies seems to be a hopeful sign.

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December 2, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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