Consilience of Knowledge for Sustained Positive Peace

The articles by Hugh Miall and Cordula Reimann in Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation (2001) attempt to map out a distinct theory of conflict transformation, but in the process they present the field of conflict resolution as a problem-solving theory (herein after, referred individually as ‘Article 1’ and ‘Article 2’, and collectively as ‘the Articles’). Conflict resolution is represented in the Articles by singularity of strategy, target group and as envisaging an end point to conflicts, when parties arrive at a ‘positive sum outcome’. This leads to a claim that conflict resolution is a relatively simplistic approach to contemporary conflicts, hence the Articles consider and develop conflict transformation as a more realistic approach to protracted violent conflict situations. This paper has two main aims; one, to provide an evaluation of the Articles and two, to raise the possibility of consilience at the level of knowledge, as the mainspring of ideas for concerted efforts to the problem of how sustained positive peace may be achieved in cases of protracted violent conflicts? “Consilience,” a term coined in the 19th century, refers to the uniting or integration of knowledge. At the outset, this paper evaluates the assessment of conflict settlement in Article 2, to highlight the contrast between the mainstream view and Article 2. Following this, the definition of conflict resolution proposed in Article 2 is appraised- to demonstrate dimensions and aims of conflict resolution which are reflected in the definition, yet not in the Articles. This paper then inquires into the original intentions of the architects of the problem-solving approach, the philosophy and background to their research agenda. In essence, their approach was very much a response to “power politics”- the dominant paradigm at that time (in the 60s). More importantly, the originators of the problem-solving approach do not claim their approach and its techniques as defining the field of conflict resolution.