Student review: politics

September 17, 2009

Peace and Conflict Studies

Authors: David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel

Edition: Second revised

Publisher: SAGE Publications

Pages: 544

Price: £34.99

ISBN: 9781412961202

David Barash and Charles Webel have intentionally minimised the use of technical language in this text. They have, as a result, produced an accessible work that deals with complex issues with a simplicity and clarity that is nevertheless profound. Ably surveying the terrain, the book is steeped in history and conversant with the current global political scene, including issues of natural resources, the economy and climate change.

It is difficult to find fault with the book, but perhaps a word of caution is due. The writers openly admit that their leanings are towards peace efforts. Perhaps it is for this reason that the defence of the case for peace gets a slightly better treatment than the case for war or other types of conflict. Essentially, conflict gets more of an exposition than a defence. This could be because of the research interests of the authors, the rise in scholarly interests in alternatives to war or the result of the current dissatisfaction with costly, drawn-out military efforts as a solution to ideological problems. Nonetheless, a reasonable balance is achieved: first, because the exposition of conflicts and their causes is thorough and broad so a critical reader is always equipped to make up his or her own mind; second, the writers openly acknowledge the shortcomings of past peace movements and deal with concerns raised about current and previously proposed solutions to conflict.

The solutions in Peace and Conflict Studies are both theoretical and practical. The writers seem to have read just about everything: history, poetry, religion, economics and philosophy. As a result, the book may prove trying for those prone to mere theoretical reasoning without reference to their times, but will prove a boon for those partial to research.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the writers convey a genuine concern for the problems they are dealing with. As a result, the reader is likely to share that concern: I doubt there is a better way to introduce a topic than to communicate its value and relevance.

Who is it for? Undergraduates in political science.

Presentation Accessible and sensitive.

Would you recommend it? Yes, to anyone interested in war and conflict, and as a resource for lecturers designing a module on the topic.

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