Communication in conflict and peace - Reviewing peace theory in the frames of a network society
Abstract: The digital revolution has changed how we interact and organize ourselves, how wars are fought and how peace is restored. The nature of conflicts has changed, and so should the theories with which we try to understand conflicts. Communication is power, and understanding power relations in the information era is fundamental to address peacebuilding. In this paper I investigate which communication plays in power relations and how this can be applied to classical peace theory. I do this by discussing the elements of Galtung’s classical conflict cycle in light of the network theory. I define power in the networks as communicative power which it is exercised within, between and behind the different networks. The widely distributed internet access and possibilities to influence others has not only skewed the power relations within the political sphere, but also created effective ways to damage democratic principles and structures through communication. In my discussion, I argue that communication as discursive power can be seen as the source of conflict, because the one dominating the discourse dominates the network. Based on Galtung’s framework, I show how communicative violence can be structural, cultural and direct. Communication can be used violently to harm infrastructure, mislead and create mistrust, and marginalize actors. Because communication plays a pivotal role in everyday life, I further argue that it can also be seen as a basic human need. To create a sustainable peace, we have to think about peacebuilding across the different networks of society, ensuring access and aiming for a more constructive discourse.
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