Understanding Conflict Resolution

February 23, 2012

Author: Peter Wallensteen

Edition: Third

Publisher: Sage

Pages: 360

Price: £80.00 and £26.99

ISBN: 9780857020499 and 0505

Like Tolstoy’s unhappy families, each country experiencing armed conflict suffers in its own way. This makes it particularly challenging to draw generalisations about conflict and attempts at its resolution. The emerging discipline of peace and conflict studies therefore faces the daunting task of grappling with the complexities, uncertainties and turbulence of the post-Cold War order while establishing itself as an interdisciplinary endeavour in its own right, with one foot in the discipline of politics and international relations while drawing on insights from political economy, sociology and psychology.

Those of us guiding students through this field owe Peter Wallensteen great thanks for a masterful and erudite guide to modern-day political violence and conflict resolution. This is one of the best single-authored books on the subject, and one that can be employed as the main text on modules and degree courses, but which is much more than a mere textbook. It draws on the extensive dataset amassed by researchers at Uppsala University to reach some important and robust conclusions about the evolving nature of armed conflict and peace processes.

Fast-breaking changes around the world merit the frequent updating of this contemporary classic (now in its third edition in 10 years). The latest edition includes reflections on recent developments (the routing of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the partition of Sudan, civil war following Laurent Gbagbo’s rejection of electoral defeat in Ivory Coast, and Anglo-French intervention in Libya), as well as updating the references to the growing body of academic literature. Wallensteen takes a refreshingly open and empirical approach, synthesising the work of various schools of thought rather than being imprisoned within one theoretical framework.

Despite the fact that the world today is not the oasis of peace many of us dared to dream of in 1989, there are reasons to be cheerful. As Wallensteen demonstrates, in the post-Cold War order more conflicts have been resolved through peace agreements than - as was more frequently the case during the Cold War - by the military victory of one side over the other, and the current era is also marked by a concern to protect human rights and fairly concerted efforts at conflict prevention. There have now been peace agreements that have ended conflicts in all regions of the world, indicating that “peacemaking has a global meaning” at last.

Finally, the book is noteworthy for avoiding what publishers mistakenly call pedagogical features, namely scattered boxes containing key terms and bullet points closing each and every section. This is very much an old-fashioned text about the novelties and conundrums of contemporary conflict and its resolution, building and critically analysing arguments in detailed and fairly dense paragraphs - and it is all the better for it.

Who is it for? Advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students of peace and conflict studies and international relations modules exploring conflict resolution and peace-building.

Presentation: Well written, with very helpful tables and diagrams.

Would you recommend it? It is a thoroughly recommended purchase for peace and conflict studies students.

Highly recommended

Jihadi Terrorism and the Radicalisation Challenge: European and American Experiences

Editor: Rik Coolsaet

Edition: Second

Publisher: Ashgate

Pages: 340

Price: £65.00 and £25.00

ISBN: 9781409425687 and 5694

Recommended

Understanding Peace Research: Methods and Challenges

Editors: Kristine Hoglund and Magnus Oberg

Edition: First

Publisher: Routledge/Taylor & Francis

Pages: 228

Price: £95.00 and £24.99

ISBN: 9780415571975 and 1982

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