The Strategy of World Order - Vol. 1

By Richard A. Falk; Saul H. Mendlovitz | Go to book overview
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On the causes of war and the conditions of peace

WERNER LEVI

One of man's fundamental problems is to live in peace with his fellow men. He cannot live alone. Yet, in coexistence with others, conflicts inevitably arise. It is therefore characteristic of individuals, alone or organized in groups, to seek power for the satisfaction of their interests. Lest this lead to an eternal state of war, men organize themselves to reap the greatest benefit from cooperation and to reduce as much as possible conflict and strife. In particular, it is the minimum goal of social organization that the satisfaction of vital interests--usually bodily integrity and survival--should not lead to violent conflict but should, rather, be assured by peaceful methods or, failing these, by the application of supreme coercive power which is socially organized and usually vested in a central authority.

The social organization of the state 2 is intended to provide adequate means for peaceful adjustment of conflicts and to obviate the need for individual violence. Even when the means prove inadequate, the state simply does not permit violenceexcept as a matter of self-defense. The individual's personal accumulation of power is limited to most kinds of power short of physical force. As a compensation the state guarantees, as a minimum, the physical integrity and survival of the contestants in a conflict. This arrangement rests upon a habitual way of life and mental attitudes of the citizens indicating the existence of a community. The more complete the integration of the members into the community, the more successful.

In the international society, that loose association of states, the situation is basically different. Relations between states are ordered by routine practices and a vast network of international organizations promoting and regularizing the satisfaction of national interests. Much expedient cooperation exists between states, with well-established rules, regulations, and institutions. Innumerable conflicts of interest are resolved by accommodation and adjustment, either mutual or one-sided, depending upon the power relationship of the states involved. But this possibility is severely restricted because the society of states lacks an organized authority endowed with the legitimate supreme coercive power to guarantee the integrity and survival of each state, which is in turn merely an indication of the absence of any sense of solidarity among the peoples of the world. Every state is the guardian and guarantor of all its own interests. It must be ready to defend them at all times and for this purpose must possess power. In contrast

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1
This article is a chapter in a forthcoming book, tentatively entitled Principles of International Relations.
2
It should be understood throughout this article that "state" is used as a shorthand expression. It does not refer to any organism but rather, depending upon the context in which the word is used, to those making decisions on behalf of the people, those influencing these decisions, or all the citizens.

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