The Coming Turn Toward the Goal of Radical Transformation
The editors of Unrest Magazine asked me to write briefly about the future of education in the field of conflict analysis and resolution – CAR for short. But I find it impossible to do this without inquiring more generally into the future of the field, which incorporates both an academic discipline (or disciplines) and a practical profession (or professions). These diverse but related forms of collective activity can be described as an ensemble, in Michel Foucault’s language, as a “discursive formation.” Despite their diverse, polymorphous, often inconsistent forms of expression, such formations contain cross-cutting ideational correspondences and resonances – conceptual themes, if you like – such as Foucault’s “docile bodies” and “biopolitics.”  Moreover, the knowledge that new disciplines generate and deploy bears a complex, inter-determined relationship to power which Foucault labels Power/Knowledge. New academic or professional fields subtend new fields of power, and vice versa.
Scholar and author Vivienne Jabri recently gave a fantastic lecture at The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution on the relationship of critical theory to the contemporary practice of conflict resolution and humanitarian intervention. Jabri discusses the contributions of Kant, Habermas, Foucault, and Arendt to the pressing issues of intervention today, specifically in the cases of Western visions for Afghanistan and Syria. Her remarks make apparent the necessity of critical thought to the field of peace and conflict studies, and we at Unrest Magazine look to Jabri as one of the few thinkers within the field who champion the conversation we have tried to help further. Unrest contributor and renowned author/scholar Richard E. Rubenstein is part of the Q&A session in the second video. Rubenstein presses Jabri on the contributions of Marx and materialism, which Jabri connects to the neoliberal project and the need to support post-colonial resistance movements within the above mentioned conflicts. Jabri’s lecture begins around the 16:50 mark of the first video.
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This essay aims to provide a conceptual integration of deliberative, i.e. communicative approaches to conflict transformation with discursive, i.e. systemic analyses of hegemony and power. Underlying the work is the assumption that the recourse to military force and war, as well as the tacit acceptance and legitimation of structural forms of violence is rooted in hegemonic discursive structures that cause public approval, compliance, or at least the lack of dissent to perceptions which render violence a legitimate form of action. In attempting to answer the question of how such hegemonic discourses may be disqualified and replaced by emancipatory counter-discourses of non-violence and peace, a two-level model of conflict resolution is suggested. This model claims to provide an analytical tool for linking intersubjective dialogue with a systemic, and therefore a societal approach to conflict resolution, while at the same time contrasting the limits of solely process-focused conceptions of deliberation. In brief, the two-level model suggests the need to conceptualize conflict transformation as a process that contains the following integrative and interrelated dimensions: 1) the formation of a public sphere as a deliberative space across enemy lines and 2) the transformation of the public discourses of all parties to the conflict. To this end, the work draws amongst others from first and second generation Critical Theorists, most notably that of Jürgen Habermas. However, the two-level model proposed here claims to provide a somewhat more practicable, but also more radical approach to conflict resolution than that which is laid out by Habermas in his discourse ethics. It is more practicable in that it does not simply take the willingness to engage in communication with ‘the other’ as pre-given, and it is more radical in that it complements deliberative processes of an ‘ideal speech situations’ with an approach to ‘selective intolerance’ in favor of non-violence, justice and peace.
Key Words: emancipation, discourse theory, dialogue, critical theory, communication, discourse ethics, enemy-images, selective intolerance, constructivism, philosophy of science, cognitive interests, hegemony, identity
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This article explores Jacques Lacan’s four discourses (Master, University, Hysteric and Analyst) and places them in the context of conflict resolution. This article begins a discussion of what Lacanian thought can do to help the analysis and practice of conflict resolution. Furthermore, there are certain existential problems within the field that are raised by the Lacanian perspective in Conflict Resolution.
Keywords: Lacan, Conflict Resolution, Analysis, Critical Theory, Conflict, Burton
This was originally published in the November 2010, ICAR Newsletter.
Unrest Magazine is the product of certain historical conditions and institutional constraints. The project began in October of 2009 as a reaction to what was perceived as a lack of attention to critical theory in the field of peace and conflict studies. We felt a proper critique of capitalist society was necessary to understand contemporary conflict and the field needed a venue for this discussion to take place. While Unrest is unique in its birth at ICAR, the magazine is part of a rich tradition of philosophical questioning and praxis aimed at liberation. The magazine envisions itself as a vehicle for reestablishing the radical foundations of the conflict resolution project through the use of critical conflict analysis and critical conflict engagement. Since its inception, Unrest has received unwavering support and encouragement from Professor Richard E. Rubenstein. His guidance provided Unrest with the confidence to pursue a line of inquiry that we recognized from the start might not be met with flowers and chocolates. Unrest is currently hard at work on its third issue due out in January of 2011. Those interested in working with Unrest, either as a contributor or collaborator, are encouraged to contact the Editorial Cell.