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About this book

This volume examines the possibility – or need – of a revitalization of pacifism as a world-political practice. It takes as its point of departure the observation that although ‘just war thinking’ has long been dominant in Western debates about war and peace, recent events have served to temper enthusiasm about the doctrine. Pacifism has been much less prominent a stance in recent decades, but there is the impression that it may be staging a return. Just war thinking has to a large extent failed. Outright bellicism remains as undesirable as ever. Pacifism presents itself again as a possible alternative. Once upon a time the peace movement was popular, and pacifism with it. Pacifism appealed to people. It stirred hearts and minds. It inspired political action and institutional designs. This volume examines whether pacifism can claim its ground again and how it should be redefined in light of today’s world-political circumstances.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: Why Pacifism?

Pacifism has intuitive appeal. It is built around a moral intuition. Most people do not enjoy the actual exercise or direct experience of violence. Hence one would expect that pacifism would have wide popular support. For most of its history, however, pacifism has been a minority position. At the same, we appear to be witnessing a comeback of pacifism. The purpose of this book is to examine the appeal of pacifism. What are the chances of its renewed appeal being more successful today?
Jorg Kustermans, Tom Sauer, Dominiek Lootens, Barbara Segaert

Contemporary Ethos of Pacifism


Chapter 2. War, Hostilities, Terrorism: A Pacifist Perspective

How do pacifists respond to the violence of today? The question is important because the nature of war has changed from that which modern pacifism first confronted. We no longer live in a world of wars of the traditional model; rather, we live in a world of what I call hostilities, terrorism being the best example. I begin by distinguishing two aspects of pacifism: pacifism as the theoretical condemnation of war, and pacifism as the practical opposition to war. I explore the relation between these, and how they frame the question of pacifist politics. I then consider several different pacifist responses to the violence of today, all of which, I argue, are preferable to the options that a politics of violence presents to us.
Cheyney Ryan

Chapter 3. Pacifism as Re-appropriated Violence

In this chapter, I introduce a novel conception of pacifism. This conception arises out of considering two key insights drawn from Cheyney Ryan’s work, specifically, his characterization of the ‘pacifist impulse’ as a felt rejection of killing and his analysis of contemporary Western attitudes to war and methods of fighting, as reflecting a condition of alienated war. I expand on these claims and argue that considering them together reveals an important problem for pacifism. Specifically, the alienated condition of contemporary violence renders the pacifist impulse impotent with respect to its usual function, i.e. to inhibit violence. In response, I propose re-conceiving of pacifism: Building on the Marxist-Hegelian notion of alienation and re-appropriation, I describe this proposed alternative view of pacifism as re-appropriated violence.
Amanda Cawston

Global Intellectual History of Pacifism


Chapter 4. The Pacifisms of the Peace Movement

Since its emergence in the late eighteenth century the peace movement has been a coalition of two groups: absolutists, who reject military force in all circumstances and are what the English-speaking world normally understands as ‘pacifists’; and reformists, who work to abolish war but accept that until this is achieved force may legitimately be used for self-defence or for upholding international law and who have received the academic label ‘pacificists’. Both groups are highly variegated. Pacifists have been divided along three main dimensions: the degree of violence which makes war unacceptable, the inspiration for rejecting war, and the policy implications of doing so. Pacificists have been divided mainly on ideological grounds because liberals, radicals, socialists, feminists, and ecologists have had different explanations for war.
Martin Ceadel

Chapter 5. Tolstoy’s Pacifism and the Critique of State Violence

The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy became a prominent proponent of pacifism during the final phase of his life, based on his highly personal interpretation of Christian doctrine. Tolstoy extended his pacifism to include a rejection of the state as a form of institutionalized violence, expressed through war and internal repression. Tolstoy regarded normative change, or a change of values and beliefs, as the key to social and political change. Furthermore, Tolstoy views Christianity as primarily a moral doctrine, based on the ‘law of love’ and non-resistance to evil. Tolstoy’s combination of ethical commitment with his critical evaluation of contemporary political and social issues provided him with a platform to promote pacifism as a relevant and persuasive response to war, violence and social conflict.
Iain Atack

Chapter 6. Toward a Global Understanding of Pacifism: Hindu, Islamic, and Buddhist Contributions

Although pacifism as an absolute commitment to abstain from the use of armed force remains a minority position in all religio-cultural traditions and an unpopular concept in many of them, the idea of moral power and spiritual presence has much broader resonance. When applied cross-culturally, a reconstructed conception of pacifism understood as active peacemaking driven by nonviolent forms of power can enable profoundly meaningful dialogue and different interpretive traditions. In this chapter, we explore examples of what might be called ‘nonviolent social hermeneutics’ as experienced in different historical and contemporary religious and cultural individuals and communities; especially reflected in Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism.
Meena Sharify-Funk

Chapter 7. Judaism, Zionism and Pacifism: Past, Present, Future

In this chapter, I attempt to explain aspects of traditional, Jewish-religious understandings of pacifism, as developed in the Talmudic and Jewish commentary literature, and the attitudes toward pacifism expressed in the modern Zionist movement in its early phase in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. My focus in the section on Judaism is capital punishment specifically concerning the rebellious son. Regarding Zionism, I center on Theodor Herzl’s relationship with Bertha von Suttner (Die Waffen nieder) and his success in winning this Nobel-prize winning author and pacifist for the Zionist cause.
Mark H. Gelber

A Pacifist Global Order?


Chapter 8. Emancipation from Violence Through Global Law and Institutions: A Post-Deutschian Perspective

From a post-Deutschian perspective, common institutions may aggravate the problem of conflicts and violence, but they can also be part of its solution. Contradictions and conflicts arise from shared processes and especially those of global political economy. Contradictions can be overcome through learning and building common institutions. Social contexts differ in terms of their self-transformative capacity, which is closely related to the question of democracy. While a hardening will means trouble; actors, rules and institutions can be made more open to challenge and revision. In essence, what emerges from these considerations is a normative vision of, and an argument for, pluralism and democratic governance of the world system. This is not a panacea, however, and many contingencies must be taken into account.
Heikki Patomäki

Chapter 9. ‘Pacifism’, and China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’ and ‘Peaceful Development’

China’s ‘reform and opening-up’ policies that have started in the late 1970s have increasingly reshaped global economy and politics. In addressing ‘China’s rise’ on the world scene, Chinese academic studies and political statements unvaryingly refer to China’s Confucian past. Confucianism is herein characterized as a philosophy of ‘harmony’. This contribution assesses ‘China’s rise’ from an analysis of the country’s Confucian past. It is outlined how ‘harmony’ is a different concept than what is in the Western world usually understood as ‘peace’. Developing from this analysis, the ramifications a global implementation of ‘universal harmony’ may have for ‘universal peace’ are discussed.
Bart Dessein

Chapter 10. Just Peacemaking as a Bridge to Ecumenical and Interfaith Solidarity for Peace

As articulated by Glen Stassen (1936–2014), just peacemaking is a paradigm that seeks to transcend the traditional, “just war versus pacifism” divide by proposing a third way that emphasizes proactive war-prevention and peacemaking efforts. Rather than focus on whether war might ever be justifiable, just peacemaking orients discussions toward shared values and normative practices that make for peace. This chapter examines the relevance of just peacemaking to a world in which religious and cultural divides have become increasingly salient. After examining the origins and logic of just peacemaking as a framework for ecumenical Christian ethics in the nuclear era, attention turns to contemporary applications in interfaith dialogue and to ways in which keys aspects of the paradigm might prove beneficial in Muslim-Christian relations.
Nathan C. Funk

Chapter 11. Conclusion: On the Appeal of Pacifism

Pacifism is often charged with singing a siren song. In their defence, pacifists insist that the idea that pacifism captures a moral intuition. They also deny the (false) accusation that pacifism equates passivism. And they argue that pacifists have a sounder grasp of the problem of war and the war system than their opponents do. Another feature of twenty-first-century pacifism is that it presents itself in a subdued tone. Twenty-first-century pacifism is a chastened pacifism. A not unappealing picture of pacifism emerges. And yet it has all the appearance that also today’s pacifism will remain a minority position. Pacifism’s limited appeal probably results from its inconvenient nature: the ideas of pacifism place a demand on people that many of us experience as overwhelming.
Jorg Kustermans, Tom Sauer, Barbara Segaert


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