Understanding Conflict and Violence: Theoretical and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Understanding Conflict and Violence: Theoretical and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Understanding Conflict and Violence: Theoretical and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Understanding Conflict and Violence: Theoretical and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Synopsis

This book examines and interprets a wide range of approaches to the causes of violence and conflict.

Excerpt

This book aims to bring some order to the vast and fragmentary literature concerning the study of conflict and violence. It considers a diverse range of perspectives, models and theories that share a common attempt to explain why people engage in conflictive behaviour in general and violence in particular. In doing so, it presents nine broad headings under which an eclectic body of material is covered. By focusing on theories rather than theorists and on one overarching issue rather than a disparate array of topics, it hopes to encourage readers to compare various factors and mechanisms, to appraise common analytical themes and to develop a deeper understanding of the current landscape of conflict studies. To this end, a wide assortment of academic enquiries is presented, examined and illustrated with case studies, data and examples drawn from various times and disciplines. Research ranging from 1950s functionalism to the latest explanations of civil war, on the one hand, and from ethology to constructivism, on the other, informs the discussion of each interlinked approach. Inevitably, the book is selective in the sources it chooses and, deliberately, it claims neither to offer exhaustive analyses of each topic it handles nor to cover every scholarly tradition. Rather, it intends to bring a degree of lucidity and connectivity to a disjointed and frequently abstruse corpus of literature drawn from the explosion of academic interest in conflict studies since the Second World War. With this in mind, the chapter to follow endeavours to locate the themes that will be addressed in the rest of the book within a broader socio-historical context by taking in some of the more significant changes that have marked both the practice and the study of violence.

Conflict and violence

For much of history, human strength or muscle power has determined the forms that conflict and violence have taken. The development of basic tools around 200,000 years ago and rudimentary projectiles such as spears and arrows about 160,000 years later may have augmented Pleistocene peoples’ capacity to injure one another, but it was not until the Neolithic period . . .

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