The Peace Reform in American History

The Peace Reform in American History

The Peace Reform in American History

The Peace Reform in American History

Synopsis

As the United States tries to grapple with the Soviet downing of the Korean 747, multiple conflicts in Central America and the Middle East, war in Afghanistan, and potential problems in Africa and elsewhere, Charles DeBenedetti's concise and comprehensive survey of the peace movement or movements in American history is more timely than ever. "DeBenedetti... has produced the new synthesis which peace scholarship has so long needed." -- Reviews in American History "[The Peace Reform in American History]conveys forcefully the heterogeneity of the groups... that have made up the drive for peace; it sets developments in their domestic and international context; it relates peace reform to other movements; it is written with verve and clarity." -- Journal of American Studies

Excerpt

There is no reform that Americans have talked of more and done less about than that of world peace. From the time of the Puritan migrations, Americans have thought of themselves as a people uniquely dedicated to the cause of peace. Yet their record of continental and insular expansion has been persistently scarred by acts of war and physical violence. Clearly, stretches of organized violence dominate the great surface of American history. Interestingly, however, there exists beneath that surface a substratum of organized citizen activism which has insistently valued peace as too important to be left to prevailing authority. the purpose of this book is to explore that substratum and to remember that large numbers of Americans have long struggled to do more than talk about living peace. They have worked to sustain it.

Historically, the pursuit of peace has occupied a major part of the American reform tradition, absorbing innumerable individuals and organizations in a commitment to peace as the first principle of social action and reformation. Understandably, the forms of their commitment have been diverse and changing. Many have limited their commitment to specific antiwar activities, standing in opposition to American involvement in various wars for any number of reasons. Others have devoted themselves to the cause of internationalism, arguing that peace would appear with the institutionalization of procedures and organizations established for the prevention and settlement of disputes among nations. Others have subscribed to various pacifist ethics, ranging from utter nonresistance to governing authority to nonviolent resistance to injustice, on the grounds that peace subsists in a mode of ongoing human relations that precludes the resort to violence. Others have pursued their peace vision through antimilitarism, certain that the existence of large standing armies posed a threat to individual liberty and constitutional democracy as well as to peace. and still others have worked toward the peace reform as an enterprise integrally connected to their allied interests in the advance of capitalism, feminism, anarchism, or socialism. Plainly, American peace seekers have always been a mixed lot. But then they were not acting out of a need to fit the categories of latter-day historians.

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