Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies

Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies

Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies

Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies

Synopsis

Approaches to Peace provides a unique and interdisciplinary sampling of classic articles and short literary selections focusing on the diverse aspects of peace and conflict studies. Readings cover the causes of war and proposed means of preventing it, so called negative peace, and also reflect upon the universal concern for positive peace. The material examines nonviolence movements, peace movements, religious inspirations, and our future prospects for peace. Contributors include Johan Galtung, Kenneth Boulding, Elise Boulding, and Alva Mydral. Contemporary pieces by Jonathan Schell, Richard Falk, Betty Reardon, and Vaclav Havel, and timeless classics from Leo Tolstoy, the Bhagavad Gita, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Thoreau are included as well. The book's balanced and unbiased approach makes it easily adaptable to both general discussions of peace and conflict as well as the rapidly changing issues of the moment. Approaches to Peace is able to stand on its own as a foundation text in any introductory peace studies course. It is also compact enough to use as a supplement with more specialized readings, allowing instructors to assign additional readings consistent with their own particular orientation. Each selection is prefaced by a short introduction highlighting the author's background, the work's historical context, and the selection's significance in terms of the "big picture." Study questions and a list of suggested readings at the end of each selection also provide a useful resource for students.

Excerpt

“There is no way to peace,” wrote theologian and antiwar activist A. J. Muste. “Peace is the way.” Maybe so, but there are, at least, ways of approaching peace, and this book will investigate some of them.

Rephrasing Muste, we might say that peace is never fully achieved; it can only be approached. Mathematicians call something “asymptotic” if it can be infinitely (or rather, infinitesimally) approached, but never quite reached. Peace, then, may be an asymptote. Unfortunately, we do not yet have the luxury of bemoaning a “near miss,” regretting that although we approach peace very closely, it continues to elude us, remaining just beyond our grasp. The hard reality is that peace can barely be glimpsed, never mind grasped; what is frustrating, therefore, is not that peace is so close, but that it remains so far away.

Yet there is cause for hope. The Cold War is over. From Berlin to Johannesburg, seemingly intractable systems of oppression have collapsed, with remarkably little overt violence, and, in at least some cases, with the beginning of genuine reconciliation. More people—especially in Latin America—live under democracy than ever before. Environmental consciousness is widespread and increasingly acknowledged, along with the importance of human rights. Nonetheless, human beings are faced with many problems: a polluted and otherwise threatened planet composed of resources that are finite and whose limits may soon be reached (or may in many cases have already been exceeded); gross maldistribution of wealth, as a result of which the great majority of human beings are unable to realize their potential and vast numbers die prematurely; persistent patterns of social and political injustice, in which racism, sexism, and other forms of unfairness abound, and in which representative government is relatively rare, and torture and other forms of oppression are distressingly common. And this is only a partial list.

Despite all of these difficulties, daunting enough even if the world was to cooperate actively in their solution, the remarkable fact is that enormous sums of money and vast reserves of material, time, and energy are expended, not in solving what we might call the “problems of peace,” but rather, in threatening and actually making war on one another. If it wasn’t so tragic, the situation would be so absurd as to be high comedy. It seems unlikely that human beings will ever achieve anything approaching heaven on . . .

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