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>.
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.