The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace

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John Paul Lederach's work in the field of conciliation and mediation is internationally recognized. He has provided consultation, training, and direct mediation in a range of situations from the Miskito/Sandinista conflict in Nicaragua to Somalia, Northern Ireland, Tajikistan, and the Philippines. His influential 1997 book Building Peace has become a classic in the discipline.

In this book, Lederach poses the question, "How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them?" Peacebuilding, in his view, is both a learned skill and an art. Finding this art, he says, requires a worldview shift. Conflict professionals must envision their work as a creative act-an exercise of what Lederach terms the "moral imagination." This imagination must, however, emerge from and speak to the hard realities of human affairs. The peacebuilder must have one foot in what is and one foot beyond what exists. The book is organized around four guiding stories that point to the moral imagination but are incomplete. Lederach seeks to understand what happened in these individual cases and how they are relevant to large-scale change. His purpose is not to propose a grand new theory. Instead he wishes to stay close to the "messiness" of real processes and change, and to recognize the serendipitous nature of the discoveries and insights that emerge along the way.

Like most professional peacemakers, Lederach sees his work as a religious vocation. Lederach meditates on his own calling and on the spirituality that moves ordinary people to reject violence and seek reconciliation. Drawing on his twenty-five years of experience in the field he explores the evolution of his understanding of peacebuilding and points the way toward the future of the art.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Today the telecommunications and transport revolution has made the world a smaller place offering both an opportunity and challenge to the major leading countries to come together to shape the world, overcome violence and create a peaceful global community. John Paul Lederach presents a powerful case for the use of the moral imagination in rising to this challenge, thus creating authentic new possibilities. This book provides a valuable contribution to peacebuilding literature and I welcome it wholeheartedly." —John Hume, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace

"This is a wonderful book it resonated, provoked and exhilarated me, challenging me to think very carefully and deeply about why peace builders do what they do. It also offers some profound compass points for direction which may help to keep many of us sane and focused in the midst of the chaos and violence that so often makes up our world." —Mari Fitzduff, Brandeis University

"The Moral Imagination is an eloquent and personal meditation on the challenge of peacebuilding by one of the fields most insightful theorists and practitioners. Professor Lederach correctly observes that the years following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, represent a precious opportunity to address underlying cycles of violence and insecurity, locally and globally. It will take courage and creativity, but it is an opportunity we must not let pass us by."—Jimmy Carter, Chairman, The Carter Center

"Much exists in the conflict resolution literature about method and technique, little about art and soul. John Paul Lederach, a theorist of great insight who also happens to be a practitioner of high skill, brings us deep into his own process of learning—and the results are marvelous. He offers us a rich fare of insights, stories and metaphors that captivate the moral imagination this world so badly needs. Consider this book a precious treat!" —William Ury, co-author of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In and author of The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop

"In its depth of wisdom regarding the dynamics of soul, spirit and society that lead good people to become effective practitioners of conflict transformation in war zones, The Moral Imagination could serve as the magnificent capstone to a life's work. The thrilling fact, however, is that Lederach stands not at the end but at the midpoint of a remarkable journey of conciliation, peacebuilding and ethical reflection. This book is a milestone in that journey; there is nothing quite like it in the literature of social change, peace and conflict studies, theology, ethics, and spirituality—for it weaves those disciplines together into a seamless, riveting whole."—R. Scott Appleby, Professor of History and John M. Regan, Jr. Director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

"In The Moral Imagination, John Paul Lederach has written an inspiring and uplifting book that goes straight to the heart of what is required to bring a change in a destructive cycle of violence, to alter an oppressive social relationship, or to understand the foundation of an intractable conflict. Lederach uses the tools of natural science, poetry, folk lore, and physics, as well the wisdom of people who have exhibited courage in the face of violence, to consider the essence of effective peacemaking. This is a book that will help deepen the thinking and the peacemaking practice of all who read it."—Bernard Mayer, author of Beyond Neutrality: Confronting the Crisis in Conflict Resolution

"Peacemaking is about imagining what seems impossible in the midst of conflict. It is about discerning and stretching the moment of opportunity. This is a superb book, offering theory born in practice and best practices grounded in critical theory. It raises problems and suggests solutions. The work of activists, scholars and practitioners in conflict transformation and peacemaking who read this book will be profoundly influenced by it."—Charles Villa-Vicencio, Executive Director, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Cape Town, South Africa

"Anyone who feels the call of peacemaking should read this book and reflect deeply." —The Mennonite Quarterly Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199747580
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/26/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 459,846
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Paul Lederach is one of the world's foremost experts on peacebuilding and reconciliation. He is Professor of International Peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and Distinguished Scholar at Eastern Mennonite University's Conflict Transformation Program. Among his many books are The Journey Toward Reconciliation (1999) and Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (1997).

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Table of Contents

1. On Stating the Problem and Thesis
2. On Touching the Moral Imagination: Four Stories
3. On This Moment: Turning Points
4. On Simplicity and Complexity: Finding the Essence of Peacebuilding
5. On Peace Accords: Image of a Line in Time
6. On the Gift of Pessimism: Insights from the Geographies of Violence
7. On Aesthetuics: The Art of Social Change
8. On Space: Life in the Web
9. On Mass and Movement: The Theory of the Critical Yeast
10. On Web Watching: Finding the Soul of Place
11. On Serendipity: The Gift of Accidental Sagacity
12. On Time: The Past That Lies before Us
13. On Pied Pipers: Imagination and Creativity
14. On Vocation: The Mystery of Risk
15. On Conclusions: The Imperative of the Moral Imagination

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