EXCERPT | Academic Diplomacy as Social Engineering of Peace
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EXCERPT | Academic Diplomacy as Social Engineering of Peace

By Dr. Timo Kivimäki
Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies, University of Bath
(via International Journal of Political Science & Diplomacy)

EXCERPT | Academic Diplomacy as Social Engineering of Peace

"Academic Diplomacy", a term coined by Peter Wallensteen, means activity where international experts, rather than other states, try to broker peace as moderators, mediators or facilitators, by using means and methods that are advised by the theory of conflict resolution [1]. 

Such an approach has been associated with positivist approaches of peace research and it has aimed at creating exogenous conditions that science has proven as useful for peace, and removing exogenous conditions that analysis has associated with the onset or continuation of violence. 

Peace diplomacy by scholars is therefore based on knowledge rather than power, but it uses only knowledge that is practical; knowledge that puts the academic diplomat on top of things in conflict resolution. Thus the value of knowledge in academic diplomacy is being judged by pragmatist criteria.

Classical pragmatism and traditional peace research and academic diplomacy are all committed to empiricism, which does not distinguish between natural and social sciences.Instead empiricism derives the methods and ontologies of social science from natural science. 

For Dewey, "Knowing is a way of employing empirical occurrences with respect to increasing power to direct the consequences which flow from things, the application of the conclusions must be made to philosophy itself."[2] This is why academic diplomacy advised by classical pragmatist peace research is like social engineering of peace. 

When there is a problem with a physical machine, scientists of technology are needed to investigate the causes of the problem and create prescriptions on how to remove these causal conditions. Similarly classical pragmatist peace research engineers problems of conflict and peacemakers follow the prescriptions of peace researchers. Thus, according to Dewey, social engineering is the function of pragmatist social sciences.

The way in which social engineering has traditionally studied occurrences to increase the power of the ones, who know about these occurrences, is related to causality. If we know what conditions or events cause conflict, we can engineer peace by systematically avoiding those conditions and events.Despite the problems later discovered in this kind of thinking, peace research that has followed the maxims of social engineering have managed to create a lot of knowledge useful for peace-makers.

Any discussion with practical peace-makers, academic diplomats, about the use of social sciences reveal that most mediators and facilitators of peace processes think about knowledge on peace and war within an intellectual framing of social engineering. They think of conditions that could help create peace and conditions and situations that could be prevented in order to prevent war or escalation of violence. This is why it is useful to take the use of peace research as social engineering very seriously. Social engineering of peace can save, and, indeed, has saved many lives, and thus regardless of problems related to it, it can be used in a valuable manner.

Furthermore, social engineering frame of peace research needs to be taken seriously also because of the problems involved in it. If most academic diplomats of peace and security think of knowledge in their practice of social engineering of peace, pragmatist peace research must also take this framing seriously as something that needs to be criticized and developed further, as the flaws of the social engineering frame also kill people in wars.

Social engineering of peace in the main peace research journals (Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution and International Security) tends to recognize the complexity of causal relations in peace and conflict situations. Instead of looking at single deterministic independent variables that could explain peace and war in their entirety, most scholars follow long and complex causal chains and acknowledge the probabilistic (yet probabilistically deterministic) nature of causality. Instead of claiming that poverty causes war, scholars of relative deprivation, for example, claim that economic decline and ethnic diversity together with ethnic functionalization of the economy cause relative deprivation which, again, increases the risk (causes in a probabilistic sense) of conflict [3,4].

The frame of social engineering of peace by using causal models has resulted in several useful theories. While causal modeling simulates causal mechanisms in natural sciences, in the social engineering of peace, they have often sought explanations for causal relationship from a frame that seems to assume purposive action and certain voluntarism. War causes have been explained by conditions that

1. Make existing peace frustrating or intolerable (see for example, theories of relative deprivation; [3,4], 

2. Make violence attractive (see for example, theories of gainful violence, [5,6] 

3. Create opportunities for gainful violence (see for example theories of resource mobilization, [7] or 

4. Block alternative ways of political influence and thereby force people to violence [8].

Theories do not tend to explain the contradiction between voluntarism and causation, as the former suggests that people can decide what they want while the other suggests that at least in a probabilistic manner human action is determined by some conditions. Wendt suggests that these theories assume an objective set of preferences with a given logic of rationality that determine human action. If then conditions are changed in a way that increase the utility of violence, the likelihood of violence increases. In such a framing human’s might be purposive but not free, as their purpose is to maximize utility in a set of preferences that are given to them [9].

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About the Author:

Dr. Timo Kivimäki, Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies, University of Bath, Claverton Down Road, Bath, North East Somerset BA2 7AY, United Kingdom; E-mail: t.a.kivimaki@bath.ac.uk 


[1] Wallensteen P (2011). Peace Research: Theory and Practice. Routledge.

[2] Dewey J (1917) Creative Intelligence: Essays on the Pragmatic Attitude. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

[3] Gurr TR (1993) Minorities at Risk. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.

[4] Singer JD (1980) Conflict Research, Political Action, and Epistemology. New York: Free Press 490-499.

[5] Collier P, Elliott VL, Hegre H, Hoeffler A, Reynal-Queral M, et al. (2003) Breaking the conflict trap: civil war and development policy. Washington DC and New York: World Bank and Oxford University Press.

[6] Collier P, Hoeffler A (2004) Greed and grievance in civil war. Oxford Econ Papers, 56: 565-595.

[7] Tilly C (1978) From Mobilization to Revolution. MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Company

[8] Lichbach MI, Gurr TR (1981) Forecasting Domestic Political Conflict. Beverly Hills CA: Sage.

[9] Wendt A (1998) Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cite this Article:

Kivimäki T (2015) Constructivist Pragmatism and Academic Diplomacy for Conflict Resolution. Int J Polit Sci Diplom 1: 102. doi: https://dx.doi. org/10.15344/ijpsd/2015/102