The Routledge History of World Peace since 1750
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The Routledge History of World Peace since 1750

Christian Philip Peterson, William M. Knoblauch, Michael Loadenthal, Christian Philip Peterson, William M. Knoblauch, Michael Loadenthal

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eBook - ePub

The Routledge History of World Peace since 1750

Christian Philip Peterson, William M. Knoblauch, Michael Loadenthal, Christian Philip Peterson, William M. Knoblauch, Michael Loadenthal

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The Routledge History of World Peace since 1750 examines the varied and multifaceted scholarship surrounding the topic of peace and engages in a fruitful dialogue about the global history of peace since 1750.

Interdisciplinary in nature, the book includes contributions from authors working in fields as diverse as history, philosophy, literature, art, sociology, and Peace Studies. The book crosses the divide between historical inquiry and Peace Studies scholarship, with traditional aspects of peace promotion sitting alongside expansive analyses of peace through other lenses, including specific regional investigations of the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and other parts of the world. Divided thematically into six parts that are loosely chronological in structure, the book offers a broad overview of peace issues such as peacebuilding, state building, and/or conflict resolution in individual countries or regions, and indicates the unique challenges of achieving peace from a range of perspectives.

Global in scope and supported by regional and temporal case studies, the volume is an essential resource for educators, activists, and policymakers involved in promoting peace and curbing violence as well as students and scholars of Peace Studies, history, and their related fields.

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Storia mondiale





Casey Rentmeester
World peace was not even a pipe dream for much of human history, much less an ascribable ideal. In Western civilization, the ancient Greeks understood peace roughly as agreement between peoples. The Romans, who borrowed much of their culture from the Greeks, had a more general understanding of peace as juridical order. With the rise of Christendom, peace took on a subjective conception, meaning roughly inner peace of the soul. It was not until the Enlightenment that peace came to be understood on a wider scale in which global peace became even conceivable. While French philosophers Charles Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were the first to propose a project of peace on a wide scale (i.e., beyond one’s immediate bordering countries), Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant provide the most comprehensive theories of world peace in the eighteenth century. Bentham, a utilitarian, argued that we should strive for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of persons, and since war causes the most suffering, we ought to strive toward universal and perpetual peace. Kant, an ethicist who emphasizes the duties humans have to each other, argues that it is our duty to work towards world peace and proposed a League of Nations in order to do so. This chapter chronicles the conceptions of world peace throughout the history of Western civilization from the ancient Greeks to the Enlightenment and show how Kant’s philosophy in particular influenced peace plans of the twentieth century.

Pre-Enlightenment conceptions of peace

The twentieth-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued that Western civilization began in ancient Greece since its philosophical doctrines and everyday routines began there.1 If Heidegger is right, then the most appropriate place to begin our chronicling of peace in the Western world is ancient Greece. The ancient Greek understanding of ειϱήνη (eirene) best captures their version of peace, the personification of which is found in the goddess Eirene. On a conceptual level, eirene was understood mainly as a harmony of one’s ethical and social relationships, and sometimes used as a synonym for ομόνοια (homonoia), meaning “of one mind” or unanimity.2
The two greatest philosophers of ancient Greece, Plato (428—348 BCE) and Aristotle (384—322 BCE), understood eirene in this sense. Plato makes it clear in Book V of his masterpiece, The Republic, that barbarians (i.e., non-Greeks) are “by nature enemies,” while fellow Greeks are “by nature friends.”3 Because Plato “drew very sharp lines between Greeks and barbarians, [Eirene] should apply to the household, to the village, to the city-state—and the maximum extension, a very audacious one, would be to all Greeks.”4 Plato’s most famous student, Aristotle, proposed that some people are born naturally as slaves, and even mentions that some Greeks considered all non-Greeks to be naturally regarded as slaves.5 Plato and Aristotle are representative of the ancient Greeks in that they display Greco-centric tendencies. Due to such tendencies, the ancient Greeks considered eirene as possible among Greeks but would have never considered it as a viable option on a wider scale. Thus, any concept of world peace would have been completely foreign to ancient Greek sensibilities.
The Roman equivalent of eirene is pax, from which the Romans named their goddess Pax. While the Romans clearly imitated the Greeks in various cultural aspects, including philosophy, religion, and art, pax is not identical to eirene. Johan Galtung, commonly regarded as the founding father of Peace Studies, states that the Roman pax was
a direct concept of order (including absence of violence) and unity—but no doubt an order and unity with a center—the center of the Roman Empire. Homonoia became concordia (“harmony”), extended, like citizenship, ultimately to everybody living in the Roman Empire and accepting the ruling from the center.6
For the Romans, then, pax was a more general concept than the Greek eirene since it was more closely linked with order in the empire; however both are similar in that they exclude barbarians.
The famous period of Pax Romana (i.e., Roman Peace, which lasted from 27 BCE to 180 CE) was certainly not “peaceful” for bordering “barbarian” peoples of Rome. Indeed, Ali Parchami has argued persuasively that “pax came to be closely associated and in some instances intertwined, with such terms as ‘pacification’, ‘victory’, ‘conquest’, and ‘empire’.” He continues, “Far from connoting peace in the modern sense pax had an unmistakable militaristic and hegemonic overtone.”7 This attitude of peace as pacification can be seen in the national epic, the Aeneid, written between 29 and 19 BCE. In it, Virgil, ancient Rome’s famous poet, perhaps put it best when he said, “Remember, Roman, these will be your arts: to teach the ways of peace to those you conquer.”8 Here Virgil implies that peace is something that must be enforced, rather than some sort of mutual treaty agreed upon. Thus, while the typical depiction of the goddess Pax displays reciprocity by representing Pax with babies at her breast, the actual version of pax was that of pacification by submission.
With the rise of Christendom in the Roman Empire, pax began to take on a different connotation. Instead of explicitly referring to a relationship with others, pax became associated with inner peace of the soul. Perhaps the best example of this shift occurs in Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 CE–430 CE), who was born of a Christian mother and a pagan father. In his Confessions, Augustine chronicles his conversion to Christianity. While he lived his first thirty-three years as a non-believer, he eventually converted to Christianity in 386 CE. In the very first paragraph of his Confessions, he states, “our heart is restless until it rests in [God].”9 And while he does speak of pax as a domestic peace between persons in Book IX, he states that true pax is oneness with God in Book XIII: “Love lifts us there, and your good Spirit exalts our humble estate from the gates of death. In a good will is our peace [pax].”10 It is fitting that this quote deals with death because the common epitaph used today, “Rest in peace,” is a translation of the Latin phrase “Requiescat in pace,” a hope that the soul of the deceased will find peace in the afterlife (pace in this context is a derivation of pax). In the Christian sense, this peace can only be found through unity with God. Thus peace of mind with an eye toward unity with God becomes the primary understanding of peace for people living in Europe’s Middle Ages.

Enter the Enlightenment: Peace for all of Europe

Rene Descartes (1596–1650) is commonly considered the father of the Enlightenment (which is typically considered to run from the late 1600s to the early 1800s) in that he shifted the locus of the criterion of truth from God or the priest to oneself. With his famous “cogito, ergo sum” (i.e., “I think, therefore I am,”) Descartes posed the possibility that an individual can determine what is true not through God, but by oneself.11 During the Enlightenment period, we find an emphasis on the individual over authority figures (such as God), an emphasis on reason over faith or passion, and an emphasis on progress over stagnation. All three of these emphases help explain why the leading philosophical figures of this period attempted to work out plans for world peace using rational argumentation in the quest for spiritual progress as a species.
Charles Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre (1658–1743) offered the first robust philosophy of peace in the Western world during the early 1700s with what he called his “project for perpetual peace.” As a French public official, Saint-Pierre worked as a secretary to one of the members of the Congress of Utrecht, which ended the wars of Louis XIV. Having seen the peace that was struck between France and its enemies, he set his sights on a loftier goal: Peace for all of Europe. He stated, “Mankind may live in peace so long as they have nothing of any sort to be disputed or divided between them.”12 He saw commerce as the uniting factor between countries, and disputes regarding commerce as causes of division. To restore concord, he proposed a “perpetual Congress” or Senate with representatives of each European country to arbitrate such disputes.
Saint-Pierre’s project would likely not be given any contemporary attention if the young Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) were not selected to edit his collected works. Rousseau tells us in his Confessions that he was acquainted with the elder Saint-Pierre in his youth, and in taking on the project of editing his works he found that Saint-Pierre was mistaken in one respect: He naively believed that humans could be guided by reason alone in their actions, rather than being led by the passions. Rousseau states, “The high opinion [Saint-Pierre] had of modern knowledge made him adopt that false principle of perfected reason, the basis of all the demonstrations he proposed, and the source of all his political sophisms.”13 Fancying himself a realist (perhaps ironically, since most philosophers consider Rousseau to be an idealist), Rousseau held Saint-Pierre’s view to be too optimistic, though he was taken by the possibility of creating his own project for perpetual peace.
Rousseau’s “A Lasting Peace through the Federation of Europe” offers a detailed account of his plan for perpetual peace for Europe. Here, he proposes a government to “unite nations by bonds similar to those which already unite their individual members, and place the one no less than the other under the authority of the Law.”14 Upon chronicling the various ways in which Europeans are already united (religion, civil institutions, etc.), he makes the case for what he calls a “general League” among European countries by showing the mutually beneficial nature of such a body. He lists four essential aspects this League must contain in order to be successful: