Contemporary Conflict Resolution
Reviewer: Shalva Dzidziguri (Central European University)
- Publisher: Polity Press, 2011
- ISBN: 9780745649740
- Available at: Polity Press
- Author's page: Oliver Ramsbotham, Tom Woodhouse, Hugh Miall
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Statistical analyses indicate that the estimated 150 armed conflicts which unfolded in the post-WWII period produced nearly 40 million deaths. Famine, forced migration and widespread diseases – among other conflict-related implications – dramatically increased human suffering. Remarkably, the civilian death ratio has largely outnumbered combatant death by between eighty and ninety percent.
The failure to break the cycle of violence has not, however, hampered the sub-discipline of Conflict Resolution (CR) from developing autonomous research platforms. And, despite the manner in which international relations have transformed since the end of the Cold War and following the 11 September attacks, and the near still-birth of CR, the 2008 election of Obama signalled a readiness for the US to collaborate closely with other states in search for more peaceful solutions to international crises, a point which has reinvigorated CR.
Bearing witness to such recent changes to the field, Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall embark on an attempt to revise previous works on CR through the introduction of their third edition of Contemporary Conflict Resolution which brings new research findings and the latest empirical data into a comprehensive, flowing volume. This work provides a detailed exploration of an international phenomenon and is rooted on invoking social change in terms of understanding conflict as ‘the pursuit of incompatible goals by different groups,’ and resolution simply as ‘behaviour [is] no longer violent, attitudes [are] no longer hostile, and the structure of the conflict [has been] changed.’
Similarly to the first and second editions, the authors have designed the same pattern of the book structure. Twenty chapters are equally distributed in two main parts and comprise a holistic overview of the field. Written largely in an easy to follow language, its first part is organised as a summation of the evolution, and a theoretical survey, of the subject matter.
The second part shifts away from more orthodox conflict resolution and explores new dimensions which include such areas as: art and popular culture, media and modern communications, public discourses and language intractability. This section of the work has particular chapters devoted to unpacking such themes in an innovative and very thoughtful manner.
Spatial arguments also form an important pillar of this work and the authors (successfully) argue that conflicts are not rooted only in a local or even regional context. Instead, they may produce immediate, global reverberations thanks, in part, to globalisation. This reinforces their convictions which prioritise so-called ‘Cosmopolitan Conflict Resolution’ which, ‘indicate the need for an approach that is not situated within any particular state, society or established site of power, but rather promotes constructive means of handling conflict at local through to global levels in the interests of humanity.’
Each chapter includes vital empirical insights via well-document case-studies, analysis and substantiation of each discussion. The setting of adequate sign posts – in such an immense text – provides helpful guidance to readers and assists develop the historical evolution of the subject and avoid confusions through the richness of details.
It is also worth noting that this work thoroughly discusses the role of modern technologies in conflict resolution. Over the past decades theoreticians and practitioners alike have tested a variety of approaches to explore the causes and effects of violence in order to design effective techniques for peacefully addressing the problem.
Finally, this work delivers on its promise because it describes Conflict Resolution both as a scientific discipline and in more practical terms. Drawing on interdisciplinary scholarship, it accounts for conflict resolution broadly and presents the collection of achievements the field has yielded thus far and the set-backs it struggles to repair. The book is a useful handbook for researchers, practitioners and policymakers. It serves as guidance for further understanding the evolutionary processes of conflict resolution as well as its current standing.