Edited by Brian C. Barnett (St. John Fisher College, State University of New York (SUNY))
|Summary||Pacifism is a commitment to making peace by nonviolent means of conflict resolution, such as civil disobedience (given the traditional construal of civility as requiring nonviolence). This commitment need not be absolute; some pacifists reject only certain forms of violence under certain circumstances, most commonly war-related violence (and the war-making system which supports it). By contrast, nonviolentism pertains to violence more generally, which in turn raises substantive debates concerning what counts as “violence.” Another conceptual concern is the pervasive temptation to negatively frame pacifism/peace/nonviolence in terms of an absence (e.g., the absence of violence). While this framing captures an important constraint on means and goals, it also perpetuates the widespread misconception that pacifism and nonviolentism are inherently passive—hence weak, ineffectual, and dangerous, thereby leading to misplaced criticisms. For this reason, it is crucial to keep sight on the more positive dimension: (pro)active methods by which to bring about certain goods (e.g., toleration, social justice, cooperation, harmony, and prosperity). Thus, a “positive peace” should be distinguished from a “negative peace,” pacifism from passivism, and nonviolence from non-violence (where hyphenation stresses mere negation—a convention adopted in some nonviolence circles). Ideally, peace and nonviolence theorists will provide and defend accounts of both dimensions. Accounts differ in their positive and negative aims, the means for procuring and maintaining those aims, and the justifications for those aims and methods. Justifications have been based historically on religious or moral considerations, and more recently on personal psychological well-being or strategic effectiveness. A strategic justification in particular leads to conflict studies—the relatively new and continually developing interdisciplinary field that investigates the nature, causes, and consequences of conflict with the aim of finding solutions.|
|Introductions||Encyclopedia entries include Page 2020, Fiala 2008, and Brownlee & Delmas 2021. For a brief but systemic introduction to nonviolence, see Gan 2013. For a thorough historical account of peace movements and ideas, see Cortright 2008.|
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
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