Monday, September 13, 2010

David Cortright: Peace is more than the absence of war

Peace is more than the absence of war. It is also "the maintenance of an orderly and just society," wrote [Michael] Howard -- orderly in being protected against the violence or extortion of aggressors, and just in being defended against exploitation and abuse by the more powerful. Many writers distinguish between negative peace, which is simply the absence of war, and positive peace, which is the presence of justice. "Peace can be slavery or it can be freedom; subjugation or liberation," wrote Norman Cousins. Genuine peace means progress toward a freer and more just world. Johan Galtung developed the concept of "structural violence" to describe situations of negative peace that have violent and unjust consequences. Violence in Galtung's expansive definition is any condition that prevents a human being from achieving her or his full potential. Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian priest and theologian, employed the term "originating violence," which he defined as an oppressive social condition that preserves the interests of the elite over the needs of the dispossessed and marginalized populations. Originating or structural violence can include impoverishment, deprivation, humiliation, political repression, a lack of human rights, and the denial of self-determination. Positive peace means transcending the conditions that limit human potential and assuring opportunities for self-realization. (7)

Cortright, David. Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas. Cambridge UP, 2008.

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