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Nuke war outweighs structural violence – prioritizing structural violence makes preventing war impossible



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Nuke war outweighs structural violence – prioritizing structural violence makes preventing war impossible


Boulding 78 [Ken, is professor of economics and director, Center for Research on Conflict Resolution, University of Michigan, “Future Directions in Conflict and Peace Studies,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp. 342-354]

Galtung is very legitimately interested in problems of world poverty and the failure of development of the really poor. He tried to amalga- mate this interest with the peace research interest in the more narrow sense. Unfortunately, he did this by downgrading the study of inter- national peace, labeling it "negative peace" (it should really have been labeled "negative war") and then developing the concept of "structural violence," which initially meant all those social structures and histories which produced an expectation of life less than that of the richest and longest-lived societies. He argued by analogy that if people died before the age, say, of 70 from avoidable causes, that this was a death in "war"' which could only be remedied by something called "positive peace." Unfortunately, the concept of structural violence was broadened, in the word of one slightly unfriendly critic, to include anything that Galtung did not like. Another factor in this situation was the feeling, certainly in the 1960s and early 1970s, that nuclear deterrence was actually succeeding as deterrence and that the problem of nuclear war had receded into the background. This it seems to me is a most dangerous illusion and diverted conflict and peace research for ten years or more away from problems of disarmament and stable peace toward a grand, vague study of world developments, for which most of the peace researchers are not particularly well qualified. To my mind, at least, the quality of the research has suffered severely as a result.' The complex nature of the split within the peace research community is reflected in two international peace research organizations. The official one, the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), tends to be dominated by Europeans somewhat to the political left, is rather, hostile to the United States and to the multinational cor- porations, sympathetic to the New International Economic Order and thinks of itself as being interested in justice rather than in peace. The Peace Science Society (International), which used to be called the Peace Research Society (International), is mainly the creation of Walter Isard of the University of Pennsylvania. It conducts meetings all around the world and represents a more peace-oriented, quantitative, science- based enterprise, without much interest in ideology. COPRED, while officially the North American representative of IPRA, has very little active connection with it and contains within itself the same ideological split which, divides the peace research community in general. It has, however, been able to hold together and at least promote a certain amount of interaction between the two points of view. Again representing the "scientific" rather than the "ideological" point of view, we have SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, very generously (by the usual peace research stand- ards) financed by the Swedish government, which has performed an enormously useful service in the collection and publishing of data on such things as the war industry, technological developments, arma- ments, and the arms trade. The Institute is very largely the creation of Alva Myrdal. In spite of the remarkable work which it has done, how- ever, her last book on disarmament (1976) is almost a cry of despair over the folly and hypocrisy of international policies, the overwhelming power of the military, and the inability of mere information, however good, go change the course of events as we head toward ultimate ca- tastrophe. I do not wholly share her pessimism, but it is hard not to be a little disappointed with the results of this first generation of the peace research movement. Myrdal called attention very dramatically to the appalling danger in which Europe stands, as the major battleground between Europe, the United States, and the Soviet Union if war ever should break out. It may perhaps be a subconscious recognition-and psychological denial-of the sword of Damocles hanging over Europe that has made the European peace research movement retreat from the realities of the international system into what I must unkindly describe as fantasies of justice. But the American peace research community, likewise, has retreated into a somewhat niggling scientism, with sophisticated meth- odologies and not very many new ideas. I must confess that when I first became involved with the peace research enterprise 25 years ago I had hopes that it might produce some- thing like the Keynesian revolution in economics, which was the result of some rather simple ideas that had never really been thought out clearly before (though they had been anticipated by Malthus and others), coupled with a substantial improvement in the information system with the development of national income statistics which rein- forced this new theoretical framework. As a result, we have had in a single generation a very massive change in what might be called the "conventional wisdom" of economic policy, and even though this conventional wisdom is not wholly wise, there is a world of difference between Herbert Hoover and his total failure to deal with the Great Depression, simply because of everybody's ignorance, and the moder- ately skillful handling of the depression which followed the change in oil prices in 1-974, which, compared with the period 1929 to 1932, was little more than a bad cold compared with a galloping pneumonia. In the international system, however, there has been only glacial change in the conventional wisdom. There has been some improvement. Kissinger was an improvement on John Foster Dulles. We have had the beginnings of detente, and at least the possibility on the horizon of stable peace between the United States and the Soviet Union, indeed in the whole temperate zone-even though the tropics still remain uneasy and beset with arms races, wars, and revolutions which we cannot really afford. Nor can we pretend that peace around the temper- ate zone is stable enough so that we do not have to worry about it. The qualitative arms race goes on and could easily take us over the cliff. The record of peace research in the last generation, therefore, is one of very partial success. It has created a discipline and that is something of long-run consequence, most certainly for the good. It has made very little dent on the conventional wisdom of the policy makers anywhere in the world. It has not been able to prevent an arms race, any more, I suppose we might say, than the Keynesian economics has been able to prevent inflation. But whereas inflation is an inconvenience, the arms race may well be another catastrophe. Where, then, do we go from here? Can we see new horizons for peace and conflict research to get it out of the doldrums in which it has been now for almost ten years? The challenge is surely great enough. It still remains true that war, the breakdown of Galtung's "negative peace," remains the greatest clear and present danger to the human race, a danger to human survival far greater than poverty, or injustice, or oppression, desirable and necessary as it is to eliminate these things. Up to the present generation, war has been a cost and an inconven- ience to the human race, but it has rarely been fatal to the process of evolutionary development as a whole. It has probably not absorbed more than 5% of human time, effort, and resources. Even in the twenti- eth century, with its two world wars and innumerable smaller ones, it has probably not acounted for more than 5% of deaths, though of course a larger proportion of premature deaths. Now, however, advancing technology is creating a situation where in the first place we are developing a single world system that does not have the redundancy of the many isolated systems of the past and in which therefore if any- thing goes wrong everything goes wrong. The Mayan civilization could collapse in 900 A.D., and collapse almost irretrievably without Europe or China even being aware of the fact. When we had a number of iso- lated systems, the catastrophe in one was ultimately recoverable by migration from the surviving systems. The one-world system, therefore, which science, transportation, and communication are rapidly giving us, is inherently more precarious than the many-world system of the past. It is all the more important, therefore, to make it internally robust and capable only of recoverable catastrophes. The necessity for stable peace, therefore, increases with every improvement in technology, either of war or of peace.


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