Abstract Concepts, Pejorative Terms, and Peace Science

Last November I had the honor of giving a Presidential Address to the Peace Science Society (International).  A print article version of the address, “Tilting at a Windmill?  The Conceptual Problem in Peace Science,” was just published in Conflict Management & Peace Science <ungated proof here>.

No tilting!

No tilting!

The title indicates that I may be a privileged, self-deluded old fart who foolishly pontificates about appropriate conduct, blissfully unaware of the absence of import and relevance of his views.  I obviously do not think so, but the problem, of course, is that I am not the one to judge.  That task lies with the community of researchers who are doing peace science.

The subtitle indicates the topic: I make a case for the importance of peace scientists using abstract concepts that politicos (politicians, pundits, and journalists) do not use when describing the events and behavior that we study.  The trouble, I argue, is that the terms used in public discourse are necessarily pejorative: politicos are professional wordsmiths who literally use words to mobilize support across politically salient cleavages.  And they will, and should, dominate public conversation.

If this sounds interesting, then I hope you take 20 minutes to download and read the article. I demonstrate the pejorative nature of these terms using searches on Google Images, and then illustrate how we can improve by rewriting a few sentences from an article, replacing the words politicos use with more abstract concepts.  And, of course, there are counter-arguments to my claim that researchers should cede the definition of terms of public debate to politics, and I try to engage them.

I am something of a pessimist by nature, and thus expect that the address will become an example the other image evoked by Don Quioxite’s tilting: vain effort that has no impact.  Time will tell.


About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Abstract Concepts, Pejorative Terms, and Peace Science

  1. Pingback: Fiske & the Mutual Admiration Society | Will Opines

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s