Peace and Conflict

Syllabus description

This unit focuses on what peace, conflict and violence mean, how conflicts emerge and develop, and what can be done to build a lasting peace.

Learning outcomes

  • Contested meanings of peace, conflict and violence

  • Causes and parties to conflict

  • Evolution of conflict

  • Conflict resolution and post-conflict transformation

Key concepts:

  • peace

  • conflict

  • violence

  • non-violence

Peace and conflict unit outline.pdf

Connections to theory

Questions of peace and conflict are central to global politics. Theories consider peace and conflict through different lenses, they may debate with other schools of thought or may examine specific aspects that their theory prioritises. The following are a few debates and questions:

Constructivists consider how ideas and threats are constructed, and examine how individuals and groups construct identities (e.g. 'us and them', the 'other'). A few topics:

  • How the media constructs the idea of a refugee and the impacts of these misconceptions

  • The role of language e.g. why battlefields are referred to as "theatres"? or the strategy of 'hearts and minds' in counter-terrorism.

  • How politicians phrase apologies for historic war crimes e.g. how Macron asked Rwanda for 'forgiveness'

  • How social media has changed civilian perceptions of threat e.g. QAnon

Feminists and analysts of gender politics question the ways conflict and conflict studies are gendered. Whilst, classical and traditional studies of peace and conflict focus primarily on male experiences, feminists ask the fundamental question 'where are the women?' A few topics:

  • How feminist foreign policy change a states' political decision-making

  • Why has gender-based violence in warfare been historically invisible? Is it still invisible?

  • How do men, women and LGBTQ+ communities experience conflict/ peace differently?

  • How does the changing construction of masculinity influence military norms and practices?

  • How can we build peace in communities with both victims and perpetrators of gender-based violence?

Liberalism considers whether war can be avoided, ideas include:

  • Democratic peace theory suggests democracies are less likely to go war with other democracies because, as Kant suggests, citizens are unlikely to give consent to entering wars

  • War can be avoided by international law and governance

  • Liberal states are more stable internally and peaceful in their relationships with others e.g. Francis Fukuyama

  • Global trade and economic agreements reduce the possibility of conflict