The problem-solving and critical paradigms

Authored by: Michael Pugh

Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415690195
eBook ISBN: 9780203068175
Adobe ISBN: 9781135082130


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The literature on peacebuilding is rich and extensive, a sign that the issue has entered the mainstream of debates on global security. In addition to in-house and think-tank briefing papers for practitioners and policymakers, academic studies have offered major insights into the practices of peacebuilding. When I first began identifying the issue in the early 1990s there were hardly any scholarly articles, let alone books, on the subject. Now my shelves are groaning with the weight of books and reports on peacebuilding. There are many ways of cutting this literature cake: case studies; thematic issues such as democratization, security sector reform and conflict resolution; and policy prescriptions. This study offers another categorization. It suggests that two broad categories of thinking about peacebuilding can be applied: problem-solving and paradigm (or foundational) critique. It is probably true to say that practitioners and policy makers are almost exclusively concerned with problem-solving, that is to say, how to make the existing systems of peacebuilding work more effectively. Academics on the other hand are more divided, and individuals often engage in thinking about both system effectiveness and the foundations on which the system is based. Foundational critique usually means questioning the assumptions that lie behind the practice of peacebuilding and the framework of ideas and implementations that make up the paradigm within which people think and act. In other words a foundational critique attempts to go beyond the limits of analysis established by hegemonic orthodoxies.

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