Social and Political Problems and How It Relates to Radicalization Into Violent Extremism Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Social System, Institutional Values and Human Needs_

Burton's Deviance, Terrorism, and War redefined the nature of the problem to be discussed and the means to discuss it. Burton's agenda is not about states and state centric dynamics. He constitutes a new definition of the problem and a new definition of the reality (1979). In fact, the subtitle of his book, solving unsolved social and political problems, attests to this. Burton's work is therefore committed to addressing the process as opposed to stasis or structures. The book is committed to solving social and political problems and not their containment, management, or control. It is committed to initiating change not coercion. It is concerned with recurrent patterns of human behavior at all levels of social complexity (Burton, 1979).

Burton (1979) assesses the way society classifies and defines deviance. Structure of freedom underpins a portion of Burtons work. Structure of freedom is recognized by Burton with regard to shift to human rather than institutional values. Burton attributes the existence of conflict in the world to something that is happening or not happening. According to him, people conflict when they feel that their needs are not being fulfilled to an extent that they feel motivated to do something about this state of affairs. To him the existence of unfulfilled needs can be inferred from the presence of conflict in human affairs and persistent violent conflict at that. Unfulfilled human needs should always to be attended to so that human conflicts are resolved. Change and adjustment to changed circumstances is very central in this aspect. Burton (1979) is assertive that conflict is a problem that can amicably be addressed by attending to human unfulfilled needs. Needs, according to him, has got much to do with identity, participation, identity, recognition, and self-worth. In ethnic conflicts, people are killed when they are demonized, objectified, subordinated, and marginalized. Under such circumstances, they cease to people. They are looked at as objects and ciphers, them and not us. Need is therefore a central component of Burton's provention which is about change and adjustment where change is ever present and adjustment necessary.

Before addressing needs comprehensively, it noteworthy that Burton's conflict and conflict resolution theories demonstrate the use of medical metaphors in peace research. His theories downplay the importance of culture in human affairs. Burtonian filter metaphor particularly suggests that the problem solving conflict resolution procedures are not relative to culture. His arguments completely divorce culture from conflict resolution (Burton, 1979). He seems to subscribe to a school of thought that there are culture free mechanisms that can be used in conflict resolution. From the social constructionist traditionist perspective, culture is however, vital for becoming and being a moral person. There have been on going discourses on the role dialogical community where views of reality are scrutinized plays in problem solving conflict resolution. In such a community, the understanding of the uniqueness of the conflict at hand is developed by the facilitator and the parties involved. The facilitator in this context is a participant observer who steers the parties involved towards the discursive rationality within which value issues are discussed and realities negotiated.

Going back to the needs issue; it is a common belief that in a pathological society, the major constraints of human behavior like values attached to relationships cease to work. This makes people to loose faith in structures of governance in place. The authorities subsequently loose their legitimacy. Burton avers that…

Sources Used in Documents:

References List

Burton, J. (1965). International Relations, a General Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University


Burton, J. (1979). Deviance, Terrorism and War: The Process of Solving Unsolved Social and Political Problems. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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