Ethics & International Affairs Volume 23.4 (Winter 2009): Review Essay: In Pursuit of Peace [Abstract]

Dec 15, 2009

Traditional international relations scholarship has stressed the place of war and conflict in the world, but it has not provided deep theoretical consideration of the concept of peace. While the focus of each of the three books discussed here differs, they share a common goal: to better place "peace" into the study of international affairs. Editors Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller ask succinctly What Is a Just Peace?, stressing how the limited conceptual consideration of just peace in comparison to discussions of just war demonstrates the pressing need to address this question. David Cortright, meanwhile, through a detailed examination of both the history of peace movements and core themes connected to the study of peace, aims to provide a defense of the place of peace and the role of pacifism in global affairs. For his part, Oliver Richmond takes international relations theory to task for not providing much-needed critical evaluation and conceptual development of peace.

Richmond addresses the failure of international relations theory to fully and properly address peace, arguing that instead "concepts of peace should be a cornerstone of IR interdisciplinary investigation of international politics and everyday life" (p. 7). The first part of his book reviews and critiques the main theoretical approaches in international relations and their versions of peace, with the first three chapters devoted to liberalism, realism, and structuralism. Richmond argues that the current mainstream approach, the liberal peace, represents a "hybridisation" (p. 13) of liberal-realist thinking based on a more pragmatic pacifist idealism.

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