HAS the peace movement outlived its usefulness?
For peace activists Elise and Kenneth Boulding, the question -
put to them during a two-hour interview earlier this month in their
book-stacked apartment near the University of Colorado campus where
they both maintain offices - seems deeply relevant but slightly
It is relevant because, as the cold war winds down, the
once-mighty peace movement has lost its most potent motivator: the
fear of an East-West nuclear conflict. Since the Reagan-Gorbachev
summit in Washington in 1987, American peace organizations have seen
a steady drop in public support (see box below).
But it is silly because, in the eyes of these two doyens of the
international peace movement, the need for peace has never been
"Everybody was mesmerized by this East-West thing," says
Norwegian-born Elise Boulding, a sociologist and author who is
secretary-general of the International Peace Research Association
and a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee. "We didn't really understand
that the basic problem is what I call the 10,000 societies living
inside 168 nation states."
By focusing on a "simplistic, bipolar view of the international
system," she explains, the world's peace organizations "have not
solved any of the problems of how different cultural, ethnic,
linguistic, and religious groups live together within states, let
alone between states." Case in point: the "terribly complex" issues
behind the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. She sees that situation as an
example of "something that has been going on beneath the surface for
many decades that we just haven't paid attention to."
"The critical thing," says her husband, Kenneth, the English-born
economist whose more than 30 books have made him one of the most
respected commentators on contemporary ideas, "is how you turn
enemies into opponents." A coiner of the term "conflict resolution"
in the 1950s, he now prefers "conflict management."
"One definition of peace is `well-managed conflict,"' he
explains. "War is a very poor form of conflict management." The
peace movement today, he says, is at last "broadening its interests
very substantially" and paying more attention to the kinds of
internal conflicts exemplified by Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, and
The United Nations, he says, has been somewhat helpful in
moderating internal conflicts in Cyprus and the Israeli-occupied
Golan Heights. But such efforts are "rather crude," he adds, noting
that "we haven't really developed very much in the way of organized,
professional skills" for dealing with such problems.
What is more, Mrs. Boulding says, these internal problems have
sometimes been exacerbated, rather than lessened, by changes in
superpower relations. …