Blessed Are the Peacemakers

By Bruce, Willa | Global Virtue Ethics Review, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Bruce, Willa, Global Virtue Ethics Review


Blessed are the peacemakers and blessed are the lives they touch. At a funeral just last summer, a friend eulogized a colleague with the words, "blessed are the peace makers." The speaker went on to describe the crucial organizational peace-making roles that this person played during his career and to point out the many constructive ways that his peace making contributed to the working environment. Yet, public administration theory does not articulate peace making often as a desirable characteristic in a public administrator.

In the twentieth century, we think about public administration as functionalist, interpretive, and critical. It is never thought of as spiritual or religious. Rather, it emerged from a scientific worldview that we should devote our life at work solely to production, whether of ideas, services, or products. Public administration does not acknowledge, reward, nor theorize about the inter-persona, such as spiritual processes like peace making. Instead, our literature assumes such matters are personal or religious but not organizational. This paper begins to incorporate the peace-making process into public administration theory and suggests that peace making is essential to successful public administration.


Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God (.Matthew 5:9).

The idea for this paper about peace making in public organizations was born at the funeral of a colleague last August. His eulogist, Naomi Lynn, said of him, Luther was a peace-maker. She described the power of his peacemaking activities during a time of great change and turmoil in the university and credited the successes of that change to the efforts of this peacemaking man. Peace in organizational life! What a concept!

Peace, which is a normative condition, is a descriptor of how the world in which we live and work ought to be. A theory of peace in public organizations is much different from a theory of global peace, yet the two are related. Conditions and attitudes that contribute to personal peace should spillover into the workplace, and from the workplace of many to the world. This paper, however, focuses only on the public sector workplace and discusses peacemaking there.

Both physical violence and psychological violence are all too prevalent in the workplace, where, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 1994(U.S. Dept. of Justice), almost one million crimes occur each year. In a recent one-year period, one out of every four employees was harassed, threatened, or attacked while at work (Liou, 1999). Violence is more common in the public sector workplace than in the private. Although government workers account for only 18 percent of the total U.S. workforce, they account for 30 percent of all workplace victims of physical violence (U.S. Department of Justice, 1994). A call for incorporating peace making in public organizations seems in order on these grounds alone.

The United Nations declared the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and many communities celebrated January 1, 2000 as a worldwide day of peace (Fuhrig, 1999: p. 8). The United Nations and its fellow organizations established a number of web sites to educate people in the ways of peace and they encouraged people of all faith traditions around the world to join in the universal prayer, May peace prevail on earth (Worldpeace, 1999).

The purpose of this paper is to offer initial thoughts on organizational peacemaking and to generate dialog about peace in public organizations. The first challenge in developing a theory of peacemaking is to define "peace." The second is to explore the peace process in organizations, and the third task is to determine the conditions under which peacemaking is relevant to public organizations. The next sections address these issues.

Defining Peace

In his book, Seeds of Peace, Shannon observes that to develop a definition of peace, it is instructive to note how the Greeks and Romans spoke about peace. …

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