20th Century: Let Us Start Resolving Conflicts?!

“Conflict resolution […] first defined itself and then expanded its remit during what we are calling its foundation period in the 1950s and 1960s, and its period of further construction and expansion in the 1970s and 1980s.” wrote Oliver Rasbotham, Tom Woodhouse and Hugh Miall in their book “Contemporary Conflict Resolution”

The authors of this book then further elaborate this statement by differentiating three consequential periods (the three generations) in the development of this field. The first generation, who they call “the precursors”, developed the academic (establishment of International Relation as an academic field of studies, etc.), institutional (League of Nations, etc.) and intellectual (Gandhi, Quakers, etc.) thoughts which provided the space that made possible the creation of “conflict resolution” as a separate academic field.

The second generation, which they call “the foundations” (1945-1965), started with the creation of the United Nation. The immediate threat of nuclear power that came after WW2 also brought the “necessity” (as the authors say) to develop a separate field of academic research on the dynamics of conflict and peace, which led to the establishment of the first journals and institutes dedicated only to this field of study.

Through the research developed by the second generation, the Third generation, the “consolidation” (1965-1985), ware conflict practitioners who tried to wed the theories of peace and conflict studies with its practice. In this process they shifted the focus of their research from a “nation-state” oriented approach towards considering the “individual” as their locus.

The 20th Century’s Great Idea?!
“From today we start doing tourism! Was the sentence of the new Assessor to Tourism of Grosseto, as he entered the tourism department on his first day at office” told me Cristiana Ciacci, a government employee at the Ministry of Tourism in Grosseto (a province in Italy) as the Assessor was coming on the stage to give out his speech. With her slightly annoyed and a bit irritated face, she continued “how can a politician, who just entered the tourism ministry, assume that all the workers at the department have no idea of tourism and that finally, because of great inteligencia, we will finally know what tourism is and how it is done?”

This desire of wanting to show oneself to be the inventor, of being the first person, or community, or society in history to suddenly have innovative thoughts and tools, the arrogance of their intelligence and inteligencia and the disrespect and non-acknowledgment towards the contribution of various people in the course of history, which contributed to the formation of one’s tools and thoughts, were the constant feeling I had as I kept reading the article of the above mentioned authors. The authors narration about the development of conflict and peace studies continuously made me draw a parallel between it and the new Assessor of Grosseto’s statement. Interestingly the views expressed by the authors in their article are shared by many other people in peace and conflict studies.

As I kept reading the article I kept asking myself “how true is it to state that conflict resolution as a field of study started in 1945 or 3 decades before that? And that too, only by the ‘western’ schools of thought?” It somehow felt strange for me to be able to assert with conviction that conflict resolution is an academic field of study that was developed in the 20th century and that resolving international conflict was a problem that was finally tackled only in the 20th century.

Other Schools of Thought
“This is the perennial law: it is not trough violence that we can end violence; it is only love that has the power to terminate violence” – Dhammapada 1.5.
Questions of ethics, inter-state/empire/kingdoms diplomacy, managing societies, rights and duties, justice, violence, peace processes and many other concepts which we tackle in conflict resolution have been asked by many scholars across ages. How do we create more justice as to enable more peace? How do we create more internal harmony which then can be expressed externally in society? How should power relation work with respect to intra-state or inter-state relations?

Buddha spoke about the four noble truths, the middle path and also about the importance of non-violence. The Yogic schools speak about the importance of internal harmony and its external expression. The Zen thought emphasizes on the importance of flexibility, “to be like water” when confronted with an “immovable obstacle”. In “The Republic” Plato tried to conceive of a just society where he thought of justice as the most importance element to achieve a society with intra-state peace. Kautilya in the “Arthashastra” explained how to manage inter-state diplomacy.

Conflict resolution is said to be a multi-disciplinary subject drawing by facts and events to which all us as human beings are confronted with, and thus have an opinion of. This is probably also the reason why many schools of thought have analyzed in depth the dynamics of peace and conflict.

From the little research I have done I have not found any study on “only” the subject of peace and conflict, it has always been in relation to other fields of study. In this sense it may be partially correct to state that it is only after 1945 that the study of peace and conflict became a separate academic field with its own structure and niche and thus it was the start of “Conflict and Peace Studies”. However I would be very doubtful of such a separation, especially because of the a priori idea of peace and conflict studies – it is a multi disciplinary subject. Being multi-disciplinary means that it is always understood in relation with other fields so it is not possible to write about just peace and conflict without any element of psychology, management, sociology, religion, etc.

I think the differentiation though various stages can be made, but we need to incorporate many more factors and thought before the classification is done.

This entry was posted in Essays, Peace Research, Thoughts and Concepts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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