University of Kent (CARC)
Paradigms of Peace is a compelling read, grounded in practice and experience-based insight as well as epistemological inquiry. The book opens with an exploration of basic tenets of pragmatism, preparing the ground for its later consideration of constructivist pragmatism and highlighting observations on the 'false gods' of peace research. The reader is invited to consider whether academic merit is often better served by theoretical constructs with high levels of abstraction, and to query the application of parsimonious modelling. It is suggested that methodological sophistication should not become a virtue in itself. The author offers an elegant outline of five key paradigms: positivism, anti-determinism, symbolic interactionism, social constructivism and critical theory. While welcoming diverse theoretical approaches and their respective applications, the central concern is one of research relevance: What is useful in helping people avoid violence? In the section Towards a Social Science of Peace the author adeptly visits game theory for modelling reasons for action in conflict configurations. His scrutiny of the use of the Prisoner's Dilemma should be read by scholars, practitioners, and students alike. Other chapters such as Interpretations as a Conflict Reality, Social Construction of Structures of Peace and Conflict, and Critical Approaches and Peace echo concerns which forged the creation of peace and conflict studies as a discipline and invite systematic analysis and action to meet contemporary challenges. Concluding thoughts point to the usefulness of different theoretical strands in the creation of tools for peacemaking, while offering observations on global security communities in flux. This is a timely contribution for taking stock of the field and reflecting on individual research pursuits.