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PL50894: Theories of conflict and conflict resolution

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: ES 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Essay (ES 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: The unit aims to equip students with the tools to make use of conflict theory in real-life praxis, and to foster an ability to understand what theories can be used in conflict prevention, and what kind of conflict structures different kinds of knowledge regimes on conflicts constitute. The unit aims to analyse global trends of conflict and the scholarly efforts to understand and explain them. On the one hand, the focus is on the long historical trends during the past several thousands of years. On the other, a more detailed presentation will be made on conflicts in the post-world war period, their understanding and explanation. The unit aims at looking at theories from a practical perspective. Theoretical presentations and the pragmatic evaluation of theories will be related to concrete ongoing and recent conflicts.

Learning Outcomes: Students successfully completing the unit will demonstrate:
* understanding of conflict trends and the controversies related to their identification
* knowledge and understanding of theories of causes of conflict onset, conflict escalation and conflict termination.
* knowledge and understanding of theories that reveal reasons for violent acts
* exposing the way in which different truth regimes constitute conflict structures as well as structures of peace
* ability to assess conflict theories for their internal logic as well as for their pragmatic value as knowledge that helps resolve conflicts or as knowledge that constitutes more peaceful realities.
* ability to put into a theoretical perspective information concerning current conflicts.

Skills: Skills in critical analysis, precision in the use of concepts and theories of conflict and conflict resolution, exercise of independent judgement, reasoned argument, effective communication, teamwork and the planning/conduct/reporting of quantitative and qualitative research are developed and assessed in this unit.

Content: 1. The long history of conflict: modernist explanations (Pinker, Elias & Fukuyama) and their critics.
2. Projections on the future of conflict, based on the theories of the long-term trends: Expansion of security communities, security zones of democracies, and the problems of transition.
3. Trends in warfare after the Second World War: Quantitative presentations (PRIO, UCDP and the Correlates of War data) and their critics.
4. Rationalist and behaviourist explanations of conflict onset, conflict escalation and conflict termination.
5. Constructivist and critical approaches to the understanding of conflicts and conflict prevention.
6. Evaluation of the pragmatic values of theories of conflict as tools of conflict prevention and as source of emancipation from naturalized cognitive elements of existing conflict structures.

Programme availability:

PL50894 is Optional (DEU) on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences

PL50894 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
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