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Plato's Conception of Peace

A Preliminary Exploration

Rick Benitez

This article examines some of the ways in which Plato conveys a concern with peace and what conceptions of peace he has a concern with. I first consider Plato’s attitude to war (πόλεμος) and its conventional opposite, peace (εἰρήνη). In this context we find very little concern with peace at all and, by contrast, a somewhat disturbing emphasis on the importance of war. However, if we turn from war to a different type of conflict, faction (στάσις), we find a distinct difference. Plato considers faction unproductive because of the internal divisions it sustains. Yet Plato does not specifically call the opposite of faction ‘peace’; instead, he uses terms that have different extensions for us, such as δικαιοσύνη (‘justice’). Nevertheless, it is possible to outline a positive Platonic conception of peace by tabling a set a of peace-related terms. I distinguish three categories of terms that describe (1) conditions of peace (or negative peace), (2) dispositions of peacefulness, and (3) relations of peace, where such relations result from the expression of peaceful dispositions. My examination suggests that positive peace, for Plato, is founded on the unity and integrity of character. Only when individuals are at peace with themselves can peace within society be achieved.

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Democratic and Perpetual Peace

Kant and Contemporary Peace Politics

Karel Mom

This article criticizes an empirical reading of On Perpetual Peace. It is also equally critical of the approach taken by philosophically minded scholars to give preference to Kant's philosophical outlook. Instead, it focuses on the peculiar oscillation between the philosophical and political aspects of the essay. Contrary to current concerns to update the conceptual framework of On Perpetual Peace—to rescue it from becoming obsolete—its salient irony, which mediates between both aspects, is singled out as a clue to an interpretation which seeks to account for both of them. Thus, the essay can still be a source of inspiration for peace research.

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Lesley Gill

Low-intensity conflicts, counter-insurgencies, and the so-called war on terror blur the boundaries between war and peace and, in doing so, collapse the distinctions between combatants and non-combatants. Scholars have used concepts such as `routinization of terror', `culture of fear', and `banalization of violence' to describe how fear regulates social life in places of extreme instability. These concepts often paint an overgeneralized portrait of violence that fails to examine the social relationships and institutional forms that give rise to terror and insecurity. This article examines the shifting qualities of war and peace in Colombia and argues that daily life in Barrancabermeja—a working-class city nominally `at peace' after a government-backed, paramilitary demobilization process—is a volatile arena of uncertainty in which some people are more vulnerable than others.

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Jeppe von Platz

According to both common wisdom and long-standing tradition, the ideal of peace is central to the morality of war. I argue that this notion is mistaken, not because peace is unachievable and utopian, though it might be for many of today's asymmetrical conflicts; nor because the pursuit of peace is counterproductive, though, again, it might be for many of today's conflicts; the problem, rather, is that the pursuit of peace is not a proper objective of war.

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Cat Moir

This article argues that G. E. Lessing should be viewed as one of the German Enlightenment’s foremost thinkers of peace alongside his contemporary Immanuel Kant, whose contribution to thinking peace in the eighteenth century is already well recognised. It makes this case by examining two of Lessing’s late works: the 1779 drama Nathan the Wise and the 1780 essay The Education of the Human Race. The dialogue between faith and reason characteristic of Enlightenment discourse is at the heart of both texts, but here it is argued that peace is a crucial third moment. While in Nathan Lessing asserts the need to find peace between the forces of faith and reason in a literary register, in the Education essay he does so in a more explicitly theoretical mode.

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From Security to Peace and Concord

The Building of a Free Commonwealth in Spinoza's Political Treatise

Stefano Visentin

The aim of this article is to discuss how Spinoza’s Theological- Political Treatise and Political Treatise deal with the development of a free and pacific commonwealth, taking into account both a comparison with the irenic tradition of Erasmus and the original position of Spinoza’s republicanism within the Dutch context of that period. To approach this issue, comparing Spinoza’s idea of security with the Hobbesian one can also be useful in order to demonstrate that security and freedom are not antithetical in Spinoza (differently from Hobbes) but rather support each other. Consequently, the role of peace and concord within the Political Treatise shall be considered the result of a collective self-emendation process of social interactions and political institutions. In this perspective, Spinoza’s concept of peace seems a very original attempt to build a free political community, where democratic institutions are both the cause and effect of pacific (i.e., rational and harmonious, although not necessarily irenic) relationships among citizens.

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Richard A. Lee Jr.

In Defensor Pacis Marsilius of Padua grounds the legitimacy of the kingdom, or the state (civitas), on the peace that rule provides the citizens. Looking at Aristotle’s claim that the civitas strives to be like an animal in which all parts in the right proportion for the sake of health, Marsilius argues that ‘the parts of the kingdom or state will be well disposed for the sake of peace [tranquilitas].’ Marsilius goes on to define peace as the agreeable ‘belonging together’ of all members of the kingdom or the state. In this way, Marsilius moves away from a theological ground of the legitimacy of the state towards one that is entirely secular. However, the ground is an unstable one in that it acknowledges the fact that the ‘members’ of the body politic are characterised by difference. As such, the ground of legitimate authority will be characterised as much by force as by peace or by the relation of force to peace.

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David Lethbridge

Sartre's interventions at the Vienna, Berlin, and Helsinki Congresses of the World Peace Council are examined in depth. Neglected and overlooked for over a half-century, it is argued that the themes Sartre elaborated in these speeches were consonant with the political and intellectual projects he had been developing since the mid-1930s. Although Sartre spoke as a Marxist who had allied himself with the Communist Party, his deepest concern was to build international unity in opposition to the escalating threat of nuclear war, and to restore political and economic sovereignty to a Western Europe crushed by dependency on America. Freedom for all the world's peoples, Sartre argued, depended on mutual interdependence between nations, built from the ground up by the popular masses.

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Introduction

The Digital Age Opens Up New Terrains for Peace and Conflict Research

Josepha Ivanka Wessels

The arrival of the Digital Age added a new way to preserve memories of war and conflict. These developments beg deeper reflection on the role of cyberspace and how memories of conflict have become publicly and collectively owned, shared and mediated in the digital space. Cyberspace offers a context for the deposit of digital memorials for victims and casualties of war from any adversary in a conflict. The final workshop in a three-part exploratory series entitled Virtual Zones of Peace and Conflict is the basis for this special section, which deals with digital memory. The three articles were selected because they reflect on the role of the Digital Age in peace and conflict studies, and specifically focus on the intersection between online (virtual) and offline (physical) realities and how cyberspace forms an enabling environment for digital memorializations.

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Anthropology Misapplied?

The Culture Concept and the Peace Process in Ireland

Andrew Finlay

This article is animated by a concern that anthropological ideas of culture, particularly the 'old' idea of culture as the way of life of a distinct people, have been misapplied in the government of Northern Ireland during the period of the peace process. Rather than accept disciplinary responsibility for this, I trace the provenance of the notions of culture and identity implicit in the Good Friday Agreement. While people trained in anthropology have been involved in implementing cultural policy, other disciplines—notably law, history and political science—have been more influential in its conception, with only occasional references to anthropology for legitimation. Paradoxically, the influence of the old anthropological concept of culture is a sign of the relative weakness of anthropological influence in government circles. Ultimately, though, anthropological circumspection in this regard might be preferable to the hasty and vainglorious claims of other academic disciplines.