About This Issue

One of the articles in The Foundations Of Peace (IC#4)
Originally published in Autumn 1983 on page 2
Copyright (c)1983, 1997 by Context Institute

THE QUESTION OF PEACE is very much with us these days, what with small wars simmering in a number of spots around the globe, the arms race moving full speed ahead, and the threat of nuclear planetary annihilation hanging over all of us. There is much in this that calls for immediate crisis response, but that is not the focus of this issue of IN CONTEXT. We are calling this "The Foundations Of Peace" to emphasize a hopefully deeper and longer perspective.

What do we mean by peace? That question will be explored throughout the coming pages, but it might be useful to start with some distinctions. Our concern for peace usually focuses on three major levels: personal or inner peace, interpersonal and social peace, and international peace. These are all interconnected, but our primary concern in this issue will be with international peace and its relationship to the development of humane sustainable culture.

A central theme running through all the issues of IN CONTEXT is the idea that humanity is now involved in a world-wide cultural transition as profound as the beginnings of agriculture and civilization. Cultural transitions of this magnitude affect all the major institutions of society, and what we call warfare is no exception. War has not always been as it is today, and indeed it has not always been. Years ago, Margaret Mead (see Asia, August 1940, pp. 402- 405) argued from extensive anthropological data that warfare – organized violence of one group against another – is not a universal human institution. It is simply one form that human aggressiveness and intergroup relations can take.

That "one form" is in fact many forms. Military historian Sue Mansfield, in her book The Gestalts of War (Dial Press, see also Psychology Today, June 1982, p.56), describes seven major phases through which warfare has gone, from hunting and gathering cultures that had no warfare to our present nuclear age. She describes the following different styles of war with their associated cultures:

  • War as a religious rite designed to repeat the act of creation (Neolithic/tribal)
  • War conducted for individual honor and glory (Bronze Age/heroic period)
  • War used by the political elite to acquire new territory and wealth; rooted in greed and guilt (AgricuItural/peasant-based cuItures)
  • Holy war, fought to insure salvation (Medieval Crusades and Islam)
  • Mechanized, standardized war fought out of fear of impotence and paranoia (industrial/technocratic period)

The obvious question all this raises is, "what’s next?" Will we find "a better game than war" as Robert Fuller suggests in one of the following articles, or will we put an end to war (and everything else) through one vast nuclear mega-tantrum?

We’ll explore this question from a variety of perspectives in the articles that follow. These have been grouped into two broad sections. "Facing The Issues" focuses mainly on what is, and on the broad picture. "Building Peace" then looks at what we can do to help assure that what’s next will in fact be a better game than war.

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