The following provides a brief overview of one of the founders of conflict studies, John Burton, and his Basic Human Needs theory. Since Burton is seldomly cited in contemporary scholarship1 the following relies heavily on the reflections of David Dunn, published in 2004 and on a collection of writings written by Burton’s colleagues in 1990. While a set of questions remain incredibly important — are needs universal, how do they differ from interests and desires, do they exist in a hierarchy of importance, and, what is the relation between needs and culture? — the following concentrates primarily on two features that deserve re-examination and further reflection: first, what is the significance of the difference between Burton’s understanding of “puzzle-solving” and “problem-solving” and, second, how does Burton envision the term his created term of “proventing” conflict. Finally, does Human Needs Theory provide an emancipatory agenda for action or does it simply offer a critique of existing institutions and systems? Do we need to go beyond Burton?
"Puzzles, Problems and Provention: Burton and Beyond,"
International Journal of Peace Studies: Vol. 24
, Article 5.
Available at: https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/ijps/vol24/iss1/5