Thinker's Corner

Dilemmas of Decommissioning (Politeia, 22 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HR, 020-7240 5070, £5.) The timely re-release of the Schulze, Smith and McDougall pamphlet investigates what has become one of the most contentious issues in the Northern Ireland peace process: the decommissioning of paramilitary arms. The deconstruction of the historical and strategic factors crucial in the manoeuvrings of the IRA, UDD/UFF and UVF demonstrates the complexity of decommissioning. Nevertheless, the authors maintain that it is neither impossible nor un-realistic. The comparisons with Lebanon, El Salvador and Mozambique are the first to convince us that decommissioning has been integral to much conflict resolution since the end of the cold war. The international comparisons likewise provide us with practical recommendations for mutual confidence-building, such as the use of neutral parties for weapons-collecting and the provision of civilianisation schemes for ex-combatants.

Family Business (Demos, Panton House, 25 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4EN, 020-7321 2200, £9.95) Demos's latest publication explores the idea that the family is undergoing what it describes as a "cultural earthquake". The traditional nuclear family unit has not emerged unscathed from major shifts in the economic, political and social foundations of society. The book documents the effects that the post-industrial age has had on previous conceptions of the family unit. In resisting pressures for a return to the traditional nuclear family, Family Business offers a refreshing and inventive consideration of the family's future in the new millennium. It also illustrates the importance of the family in sustaining the formal economy, showing the necessity of supporting it through incorporation in a new economic equation - one that is sensitive to the politics of gender, time, care and sustainability. A must read for anyone juggling work and family life.