Liberal Imperialism or Where Good Conscience Slumbers: Juxtaposing the Liberal Peace with the Philosophical Approaches of Lévinas and Derrida
AuthorBänninger, Mirja Barblin
In 1989, so-called ‘actually existing socialism’ collapsed, and for the next few decades the West seemed to have won the ideological fight, regarding the way society, politics, and the economy were to be organised. In the discipline of peace studies this led to a hegemonic status of the liberal peace in terms of both theory and practice. Lately, however, the liberal peace has been faced with increased criticism. Liberal peacebuilding seems unable to respond to the needs and wishes of people affected by violent conflict. Its tactics are highly standardised, and aim at engineering a specific set of conditions supposed to ensure a sustainable peace. Most often, these tactics fail to institutionalise the promised peace. Moreover, they display neo-colonial tendencies, as the ability to define and institute peace is ascribed to those living in peace, while those immersed in conflict are expected to receive whatever action plan has been declared most suitable for them. This is highly problematic, as those living in peace also happen to benefit from living in the core of globally operating social, political, and economic power relations. The liberal peace has thus been increasingly recognised in its imperial character. What has not been thoroughly researched, however, is how this imperial character of the liberal peace might be connected to very basic epistemological assumptions Western philosophy, and with it Western academia, holds concerning the subject, rationality, understanding and truth. In this thesis I shall investigate exactly this connection and try to show, how deeply the concepts and practices of the liberal peace operate within a specifically Western understanding of what it means to be a human being, and how this human being comprehends and engages with the world. I will argue that it is, again, this understanding that leads us to a specific conception of what is needed in order to create a politically lasting peace. I shall first offer a thorough analysis of the discourse, condition and practice of liberal peace, as presented by its proponents, and contrast them with the downsides of liberal history, politics, and economics. Second, I shall introduce two philosophers critical of the Western tradition of epistemology: Emmanuel Lévinas and Jacques Derrida. Last, I shall juxtapose the approaches of Lévinas and Derrida to liberal peace, searching for both the criticism and the alternatives they might have to offer to a highly liberal approach to peace.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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Copyright 2014 The Author(s)
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