By Nathan C. Funk
The writer is an Adjunct Professor of international Relations at the American University School of International Service, Washington D.C., and a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Peace at the same university.
CONCEPTIONS OF PEACE span religions and culture, incorporating such values as security and harmony as well as justice and human dignity. Every major system of faith and belief, whether religious or secular in character, has in some way or other promised peace as an outcome of the implementation of its precepts.
While peace is undoubtedly one of the most universal and significant of human ideals, Raimon Panikkar describes it as "one of the few positive symbols having meaning for the whole of humanity"―the ways that we think about peace are often diffuse and content-dependent. We profess to honour peace in the abstract―for example, within a framework of religious precepts and affirmations―while organizing our thoughts about life and politics around more mundane ends and objectives. Implicitly, we circumscribe the meaning of peace to accommodate a system of largely implicit beliefs about how the world works, about what power consists of, and about what is expedient. As a result, the peace ideal is either co-opted by competing value priorities or remains distant from our daily activities and experiences. The "ideal" becomes separated from the "real," and peace becomes a pious invocation, a means to an end, or an empty term of rhetorical self-justification.
It is precisely a desire to bridge this gap between the "ideal" and the "real" that attracts students to the M.A. programme in International Peace and Conflict Resolution of American University's School of International Service. Each year, our programme brings together several dozen more bright and highly motivated individuals, many form overseas, to pursue a course of studies dedicated to what Gandhi referred to as "practical idealism." During the spring 2002 semester, it was my pleasure to facilitate the entry of just over twenty new students into the programme, within the context of a core course called "Peace Paradigms." The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to the theoretical foundations of peace studies, through an intellectually and personally challenging exploration of five "paradigms" of peace, considered as intellectual and practical models for peacemaking based on different sets of explicit as well as implicit beliefs and assumptions. The course begins with consideration of approaches to peace premised on the exercise of coercive power (power politics), and then proceeds to paradigms for peace through international law and institutions (world order), peace through conflict resolution, peace through nonviolence, and peace through personal and community transformation. By the end of a semester of reading, writing, discussing, listening to guest speakers, and presenting creative projects, most students attest that they have learned a great deal not only about the history and development of thinking about peace, but also about their own deeply internalized beliefs and existential commitments.
Power Politics: Peace through Coercive Power
The first peace paradigm, power politics or "real politik," is the traditionally dominant framework in the field of international relations. This paradigm, grounded in classic works such as Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War as well as in a more recent body of political theory that invokes Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Hans Morgenthau, promulgates a pessimistic reading of human nature and a competitive model of international politics. Advocates of this paradigm, who refer to it as "political realism," contend that there are no universal values that can be held by all actors in the international system. Furthermore, the absence of a world government or "higher power" to which states must submit themselves renders politics among nations anarchic and unpredictable, characterized by shifting alliances and the ever-present threat of violence. In the face of chronic insecurity and shifting balances of power, states must craft policies that serve the private good of their immediate "national interest"―construed as the acquisition of material power and military capability to compel and deter others―while steering clear of broader, humanistic ideas that depend on the trustworthiness or goodwill of others for their fulfilment. In other words, because there is no shared moral yardstick that can be used as a basis for stable cooperation among nations, states have no choice but to compete with one another for scarce resources and for the security that these resources are believed to provide.
Though not necessarily indifferent to global problems linked to widespread poverty and ecological deterioration, exponents of power politics argue for an outlook of moral minimalism, in which the world is construed as a "self-help" system. Justice is defined as an absence of gross abuses of human rights, such as genocide, and peace is conceptualized simply as an absence of war or, more precisely, as a temporary suspension of hostilities secured by military power. "If you want peace," argue proponents of the power politics paradigm, "prepare for war.' Violence arises inevitably from human competitiveness and covetousness; peace is secured through the forceful imposition of order.
World Order: Peace through the Power of Law
The second approach to peace explored by the class is the world order paradigm. This paradigm, which views the "order" created by practices of power politics as a form of disorder, proposes that sustained cooperation among states and other significant actors, such as non-governmental (activist) organizations and intergovernmental organizations, is both possible and necessary. Cooperation is possible because human nature contains the potential for both selfishness and altruism; cooperation is necessary because the unmitigated competition favoured by the power politics paradigm cannot be sustained.
To affirm that principled cooperation is possible, the world order paradigm emphasizes human choice and intentionality while asserting that nation-states do not have a monopoly on power to shape global politics. The nation-state is not the only forum for political activity and accountability, and the national interest is not the exclusive criterion for desirable behaviour. In an age of globalization, politics involves a complex interplay of global and national as well as local loyalties, values, and interests. Modern communications and transportation technologies have empowered citizens to form transnational networks for advancing concerns linked to peace, human rights, ecology, and development. The concerns of these citizen networks have helped to define agendas both for national governments and for such institutions of global governance as the United Nations. Through conscious design, states and engaged world citizens can operate within the framework of these value-maximizing institutions to move beyond fearful and reactive behaviour, extend the rule of law into the international sphere, and provide global public goods.
It is precisely because of the failure of competitive, state-centered models of international relations to secure human interests, that advocates of the world order paradigm argue that broader and more intense efforts to achieve international cooperation are necessary. In a shrinking and increasingly technological world, issues such as poverty (well over a billion of the world's people live in conditions of "absolute" poverty), environmental deterioration, infectious diseases, human rights abuses, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are of concern to all. These problems cannot be addressed within the overwhelmingly competitive framework of the power politics paradigm, and require the articulation of new values, norms, and programmes for multilateral action through international dialogue and cooperation. When governments pool sovereignty in international institutions and collaborate with non-governmental organizations and social movements to provide global public goods, a more equitable and sustainable system can be realized.
The world order paradigm paints a different picture of the world than the power politics paradigm, a picture that foregrounds the roles of concerned citizens and ethical values in politics. Power is not only the ability to coerce others through the capacity to hurt or punish (destructive/threat power―"the power of the stick"), but also the ability to reach shared objectives through collaboration (productive/exchange power―"the power of the carrot") and solidarity (integrative/social power―"the power of the hug'). Whereas the "power politics" paradigm views peace as a temporary absence of war within a self-help system of sovereign states, the world order paradigm equates peace with the presence of certain value conditions that are required for human flourishing and for long-term survival within a global context: nonviolent conflict resolution, human dignity, development, ecological balance, and political participation. "If you want peace," proposes the world order paradigm, "prepare for peace." Peace can be actively sought through policies and efforts that build consensus, reduce injustice, create opportunity, and provide multilateral frameworks for responding to common challenges.
Conflict Resolution: Peace through the Power of Communication
The third paradigm, conflict resolution, offers a highly pragmatic approach to peace through the development and refinement of skills for analyzing conflicts and responding to them with effective strategies of communication and negotiation. Where protagonists of world order concern themselves primarily with macro-level, structural issues such as distributive justice and the institutionalization of international cooperation, practitioners of conflict resolution focus more on processes of interaction among individuals and groups and on the relationships that characterize them.
According to the conflict resolution paradigm, conflict is natural at all levels of human interaction and organization, from the interpersonal to the interethnic and international. Although it can cause estrangement and great human suffering, conflict does not inevitably lead to violence, and is often necessary for major changes in relationships and social systems (e.g. the American civil rights movement). Peace, then, is understood as a continuous process of skillfully dealing with and, whenever possible, preventing or transforming conflict. To manage and resolve conflicts effectively, we must become aware of our attitudes towards conflict and our habitual conflict management styles (competitive, collaborative, avoidant, submissive, etc.), so as to attain greater freedom to define our own responses in a proactive and coordinated (as opposed to reactive and incoherent) way. Such awareness increases our chances of achieving "win-win" rather than "win-lose" or "lose-lose" solutions. We learn to understand and work with our own emotions, to generate openness to more authentic communication, and to control processes that might otherwise lead to escalation.
To respond effectively to conflict, conflict resolution theorists and practitioners underscore the importance of cooperative, non-adversarial processes for problem solving and relationship building, which are often conducted with the assistance of an external third party or mediator. These processes direct attention to underlying interests and human needs (e.g., security, identity, bonding, control, development) beneath superficial positions and demands, and highlight the significance of culture in human interactions. They affirm the importance of empathy, creativity, and "shared positive power" ("power with" rather than "power over") in all conflict resolution processes, whether between individuals, groups, or states. They also underscore the potentially positive role of non-official processes of dialogue and engagement in today's major international conflicts, most of which involve powerful feelings of ethnic and communal identity. Proponents of the conflict resolution paradigm, then, approach peace through direct interaction with the "other." "If you want peace," they suggest, "train for the processes of peace. Develop skills for communication and coexistence."
Nonviolence: Peace through Willpower
One of the most common misconceptions about the fourth approach to peace, nonviolence, is that it is a paradigm that enjoins passivity. From the standpoint of nonviolence activists, this assumption reflects the dominance of power politics assumptions, which equate power with the ability to hurt and therefore regard it as the exclusive possession of governments and armed militant groups. In response, the nonviolence paradigm proposes that the power of any government derives primarily from the consent of the people, and only secondarily from coercion. By consenting to any given state of affairs and operating within the framework of norms that it offers, human beings empower that order and, if its norms are dehumanizing, disempower and dehumanize themselves. Alternatively, by defining their own behaviour as moral agents irrespective of external norms and pressures, they may become agents of change who can awaken others to new possibilities.
As Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others have underscored, nonviolence is action animated by principle and informed by the proposition that means and ends are inseparable. Rhetoric about the ends of social change must always correspond with the actual effects of the means that have been chosen to advance these ends. Peace between human communities cannot be achieved through violence, nor can democracy be secured through armed insurrection within a society. Peace, then, cannot be disconnected from justice, and justice entails an absence of oppression, whether perpetrated indirectly by inequitable structures and institutions or directly through use of weapons. In other words, peace entails an absence of violence, broadly conceived as avoidable insult to human needs (and, we might add, to the balance of nature). Genuine peace can only be attained through peaceful (and therefore just and nonviolent) means of action―actions that seek to undo conditions that degrade human beings and to break cycles of retaliation that cheapen the value of human life.
The paradigm inspired by nonviolence maintains that, in situations defined by unjust laws or oppression, change may be sought by steadfast, principled measures (Satyagraha―"clinging to truth") through which individuals with shared commitments refuse to participate in any actions that they deem unjust and immoral. These measures may take many forms, from symbolic protests to boycotts, parallel institutions, and direct nonviolent intervention. Actions taken to promote nonviolent change are intended both to initiate a process for realizing shared objectives and to invite a response―be it cooperative or repressive― from the society or governing authority. By refusing to dehumanize their adversary even in the face of repression or provocation, nonviolent activists empower themselves to work in creative ways rather than enter into the destructive, "eye-for-an-eye" behaviour that, as Gandhi put it, "leaves the whole world blind." Instead, by overcoming their own fear and anger, they offer to others a new way of seeing the reality around them, and deny legitimacy to institutions and actions that violate human community and the principle of ahimsa ("no harm').
According to the nonviolence paradigm, genuine power derives from willpower and human solidarity rather than from violence, which undermines community and sows the seeds of its own destruction. Nonviolence offers an approach to peacemaking that has been used not only to counteract forms of social discrimination and political repression but also to resist foreign imperialism or occupation. "If you want peace," assert nonviolence activists, "work for justice―justly." This commitment to work for peace by peaceful means through training, strategic planning, constructive programmes, and personal discipline implies a revolution of the human spirit, and points to the possibility of a shift in human consciousness in which ahimsa becomes a way of life transformation.
Transformation: Peace through the Power of Love
The final approach to peacemaking investigated in the peace paradigms course is the transformation paradigm, a paradigm that focuses on the centrality of education, cultural change, and spirituality in all genuine attempts to make peace a reality in daily life. From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, peacemaking is not only an effort to end war, remove structural violence, or establish the presence of external value conditions. It is also a profoundly internal process, in which the transformation of the individual becomes a metaphor for and instrument of broader changes. Transformation, then, involves the cultivation of a peaceful consciousness and character, together with an affirmative belief system and skills through which the fruits of "internal disarmament" and personal integration may be expressed. Transformation unites doing with being, task with experience. Inner freedom is felt in the midst of action, and sacred ideals are personalized for application by the individual. Peaceful behaviour is learned behaviour, and each individual is a potential and needed contributor to a culture of peace.
From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, spirituality implies insight into the deep interconnectedness and sacredness of all levels and compartments of reality. It is innate to the person, and may be understood as a universal human "attempt to grow in sensitivity to self, to others, to non-human creations and to God" that recognizes and seeks to accommodate the presence of the divine in all actions and relations. Recognition of this divine presence and claim begets spontaneous loyalty, which cannot be restricted by boundaries of religion, race, class, or gender. This universal loyalty, in turn, inspires actions born of loving commitment to the wholeness and integrity of creation. The personal has become the political in the most creative and inclusive sense possible, as we seek to make public life reflect non-partisan spiritual value. We become present in the moment, yet responsible for a shared and hopeful future inspired by the injunction, "If you want peace, be peace. Be an instrument of peace."
Taken together, these five paradigms―power politics, world order, conflict resolution, nonviolence, and transformation―attest that the paths to peace are many and that they are travelled not only by statesmen and diplomats, but also by advocates, educators, volunteers, and many other varieties of "ordinary" citizens. By exploring each paradigm, we learn to more actively wrestle with our assumptions and evaluate claims in the light of our full range of experiences. We exercise both our reasoning faculties and our intuitive sense of what is "right," "real," and "true." In such a manner, we make peace a more integral aspect of our lives, and become more aware of the homes we have built for our moral imaginations. We prepare to lay the foundation for our own unique and original peace paradigm―a structure built of precepts and practices of our own choosing.
Source: Gandhi Marg, October-December 2002, Vol. 24, No.3