Intelligent Compassion: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Feminist Peace

  • Citation: Confortini, Catia Cecilia. Intelligent Compassion: Feminist critical methodology in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Oxford University Press, 2012.
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • feminism
    • peace
    • women’s organizations
    • feminism
    • international relations
    • methodology
    • peace studies

This book traces changes in ideas and policies of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF—the longest-living international women’s peace organization) over a thirty-year period, from 1945 to 1975. Focusing on three areas of the organization’s work (namely disarmament, decolonization, and the conflict in Israel/Palestine), the book addresses the agent-structure problem in international relations, specifically asking to what extent activists can transcend the practices of their era given that they are also shaped by them. Inspired by a feminist tradition that sees activists as theorists, this book finds answers to this question in the theoretical practices of WILPF. Through a cross-disciplinary approach involving peace studies, feminist studies, international relations, social movement theory, and history, this book shows that WILPF’s early understandings of peace were grounded in liberal modern principles and inscribed in the postwar international order. Gradually, WILPF began identifying the limitations of its ideological foundations and the international liberal order and formulating policies based on this critique. A detailed examination of the primary economic and security issues of the time as well as WILPF’s internal debates and normative struggles highlights how its theoretical practice made these policy and ideological shifts possible. The women of WILPF practiced a theoretically informed critical methodology to challenge the political, economic, and social milieu in which they operated. They thus moved away from a postwar liberal zeitgeist toward a more emancipatory vision of peace.

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