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Gari Melchers, Mural of Peace, 1896.

Peace (symbol: ) is a quality describing a society or a relationship that is operating harmoniously. This is commonly understood as the absence of hostility, or the existence of healthy or newly-healed interpersonal or international relationships, safety in matters of social or economic welfare, the acknowledgment of equality and fairness in political relationships and, in world matters, peacetime; a state of being absent of any war or conflict. Reflection on the nature of peace is also bound up with considerations of the causes for its absence or loss. Among these potential causes are: insecurity, social injustice, economic inequality, political and religious radicalism, and acute racism and nationalism.

From the Anglo-Norman pas , and meaning "freedom from civil disorder", the English word came into use in various personal greetings from c.1300 as a translation of the biblical terms pax (from the Vulgate) and Greek Eirene, which in turn were renderings of the Hebrew shalom. Shalom, cognate with the Arabic "salaam", has multiple meanings: safety, welfare, prosperity, security, fortune, friendliness. The personalized meaning is reflected in a nonviolent lifestyle, which also describes a relationship between any people characterized by respect, justice and goodwill. This latter understanding of peace can also pertain to an individual's sense of himself or herself, as to be "at peace" with one's own mind attested in Europe from c.1200. The early English term is also used in the sense of "quiet", reflecting a calm, serene, and meditative approach to the family or group relationships that avoids quarreling and seeks tranquility — an absence of disturbance or agitation.

In many languages the word for peace is also used a greeting or a farewell, for example the Hawaiian word Aloha. In English the word peace is used as a farewell, especially for the dead as in Rest In Peace, RIP.

Peace and conflict studies


Detail from Peace and Prosperity (1896), Elihu Vedder, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Main article: Peace and conflict studies

Peace and conflict studies is an academic field which identifies and analyses violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as the structural mechanisms attending social conflicts with a view towards understanding those processes which lead to a more desirable human condition.[1] A variation on this, Peace studies (irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, deescalation, and solution of conflicts. This is in contrast to war studies (polemology) which has as its aim the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts. Disciplines involved may include political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history, anthropology, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as a variety of others. Peace is a world of love not animosity.

Religious beliefs and peace

See also: Peace in Islamic philosophy and Catholic peace traditions

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File:Justitia et pax - Brescia - Pinacoteca Tosio-Martinengo - 13-4-2002.jpg

"Justice and Peace shall kiss" depicts a biblical scene, referring to King James, Psalms#Psalm 85 Psalms 85.

Buddhists believe that peace can be attained once all suffering ends. To eliminate suffering and achieve this peace, they follow a set of teachings called the Four Noble Truths — a central tenet to their philosophy.

Jews and Christians believe that true peace comes from a personal relationship with God. Jesus Christ (also called the "Prince of Peace" in the Book of Isaiah) stated: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27 )

Inner peace

Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being "at peace" is considered by many to be healthy homeostasis and the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss and happiness.

Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer, meditation, T'ai Chi Ch'uan or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself. Finding inner peace is often associated with traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.


Main article: Satyagraha

Satyagraha is a philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance developed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also known as "Mahatma" Gandhi). Gandhi deployed satyagraha in campaigns for Indian independence and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa. Satyagraha theory also influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. during the campaigns he led during the civil rights movement in the United States.

Movements and activism

Peace movement

Main article: Peace movement

A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars), minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, often linked to the goal of achieving world peace. Means to achieve these ends usually include advocacy of pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, moral purchasing, supporting anti-war political candidates, demonstrations, and National Political lobbying groups to create legislation.


Main article: Pacifism

Pacifism is the opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes or gaining advantage. Pacifism covers a spectrum of views ranging from the belief that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved; to calls for the abolition of the institutions of the military and war; to opposition to any organization of society through governmental force (anarchist or libertarian pacifism); to rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals; to the condemnation of force except in cases where it is absolutely necessary to advance the cause of peace; to opposition to violence under any circumstance, including defense of self and others.

Pacifism may be based on moral principles (a deontological view) or pragmatism (a consequentialist view). Principled pacifism holds that at some point along the spectrum from war to interpersonal physical violence, such violence becomes morally wrong. Pragmatic pacifism holds that the costs of war and inter-personal violence are so substantial that better ways of resolving disputes must be found. Pacifists in general reject theories of Just War.

Theories on peace

Template:Expand section Many different theories of "peace" exist in the world of peace studies, which involves the study of conflict transformation, disarmament, and cessation of violence.[2] The definition of "peace" can vary with religion, culture, or subject of study.

Peace is a state of balance and understanding in yourself and between others, where respect is gained by the acceptance of differences, tolerance persists, conflicts are resolved through dialog, people's rights are respected and their voices are heard, and everyone is at their highest point of serenity without social tension.

Game theory

Main article: Peace war game

The Peace War Game is a game theory approach to peace and conflict studies. An iterated game originally played in academic groups and by computer simulation for years to study possible strategies of cooperation and aggression.[3] As peace makers became richer over time, it became clear that making war had greater costs than initially anticipated. The only strategy that acquired wealth more rapidly was a "Genghis Khan", a constant aggressor making war continually to gain resources. This led to the development of the "provokable nice guy" strategy, a peace-maker until attacked, improved upon merely to win by occasional forgiveness even when attacked. Multiple players continue to gain wealth cooperating with each other while bleeding the constant aggressor. Such actions led in essence to the development of the Hanseatic League for trade and mutual defense following centuries of Viking depredation.[4]

Democratic peace theory

Main article: Democratic peace theory

The democratic peace theory holds that democracies — usually, liberal democracies — never go to war with one another.

Active Peace Theory

Borrowing from the teachings of Johan Galtung, Norwegian co-founder of the field of Peace Research, on 'Positive Peace', and on the writings of Maine Quaker Gray Cox, a consortium of researchers and disputants in the experimental John Woolman College initiative have arrived at a theory of Active Peace. This theory posits that Peace is part of a triad, which also includes justice and wholeness (or well-being), consonant with scriptural scholarly interpretations of the meaning of the early Hebrew word S-L-M or 'Shalom', called by some the Bible's word for salvation, justice, and peace. Furthermore, the consortium have integrated Galtung's teaching of the meanings of the terms peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building, to also fit into a triadic formulation. Vermont Quaker John V. Wilmerding, Jr., founder of John Woolman College, posits five stages of growth applicable to individuals, communities, and societies, whereby one transcends first the 'surface' awareness that most people have of these kinds of issues, emerging successively into acquiescence, pacifism, passive resistance, active resistance, and finally into Active Peace, dedicating themselves to peacemaking, peacekeeping, and/or peace building.

Plural peaces

Following Wolfgang Dietrich, Wolfgang Sützl, and the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies, some "peace thinkers" have abandoned any single and all-encompassing definition of peace. Rather, they promote the idea of many peaces. They argue that since no singular, correct definition of peace can exist, peace should be perceived as a plurality.[5]

See also


  1. Dugan, 1989: 74
  3. Shy, O., 1996, Industrial Organization: Theory and Applications, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
  4. from conversation with NCSU Professor of Sociology Kay M. Troost
  5. A Call for Many Peaces, in: Dietrich/Echavarría/Koppensteiner: Key Texts of Peace Studies, Vienna, LIT Verlag, 2006. pages 282-305.


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Template:Social and political philosophy

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