Sociology and peacebuilding

Authored by: John Brewer

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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It is ironic that the discipline of sociology, so closely associated historically with the study of the problem of order, has concentrated on studying war rather than peace. Sociological analyses of organized violence in late modernity abound (most recently see Malešević 2010). However, the changing nature of organized violence today (on which see Kaldor 1999), which is simultaneously witnessing ever more sophisticated forms of weaponry and the return to de-technological war, in which the machete is the favoured weapon of genocide, has both increased the proclivity to violence in late modernity and its level of barbarity and atrocity. There has been a collapse in the distinction between civilian and combatant, and the human body has become a battle site, on which is inflicted moral depravities not witnessed since pre-modern times. While this has led some sociologists to query the very nature of late modernity and its commitment to Enlightenment values (for example Bauman 1989; 1998), it has had a profound impact on the subject matter of the discipline of sociology by encouraging what elsewhere I have called a second wave cognitive revolution (see Brewer and Hayes 2011: 7–10). If the first wave in the 1960s focused on the rediscovery of social meaning and Verstehen, in such forms as social phenomenology, ethnomethodology and cognitive sociology, the second wave today addresses notions like risk, vulnerability, suffering, emotion, forgiveness, hope, anger, revenge, reconciliation and, now, peace. This second wave is not solely down to the reintroduction of genocide as an experience in late modernity, but the reinvigorated sociological analysis of new forms of organized violence has implicated the development of the sociology of peace processes.

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