THE POWER of DISCOURSE and the DISCOURSE of POWER: PURSUING PEACE through DISCOURSE INTERVENTION

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Friday 8 December 2023

Karlberg, Michael. 2005. International Journal of Peace Studies 10 (1): 1–25. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41852070.

This article examines ‘discourse intervention’ as a way of changing current modes of interaction with power in democratic settings. The author critiques Western perceptions of power for focusing primarily on adversarial power relations and perceiving power in terms of “power as domination”. It underlines how problematic it is to obscure mutualistic power relations, which the author then examines through feminist and systems-based models of power. Because a Western one-dimensional understanding of power is the basis of our societal organisation model, a “culture of contest” has been created, leading to insufficient social and ecological sustainability. The authors show that in order to advance peacebuilding, discourses of power must be reviewed to change its application in the economic, political, social and cultural sphere. An example of new models of social organisation and attitudes towards power is the Baha’i community. Here, power is viewed as cooperative interdependence and reciprocity, making elections non-partisan and non-competitive; decisions are also taken through communal consultative processes. The critique of dominant power models and their lack of sustainability include their lack of peace-building possibilities; competitiveness in all aspects of society make reconciliation and cooperation more difficult. Even in seemingly peace-furthering mechanisms like elections, competition is valued over cooperation; the Baha’i present a counter-model to this.

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