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Understanding Peace Holistically

From the Spiritual to the Political

Scherto Gill and Garrett Thomson

Understanding Peace Holistically: From the Spiritual to the Political argues that spiritually rooted and morally oriented peacefulness is relevant to the socio-economic–political structures that provide the conditions for a culture of peace. As the authors build up a theory of peace from the spiritual to the relational and communal towards the socio-political, this book also identifies key principles that characterise international and institutional processes that nurture peace. The holistic conception of peace developed in this book may guide and inspire individuals, institutions, and international organisations with regards to how to make peace.

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Chapter 1: Understanding Peace



Understanding Peace

What is peace? This is an important theoretical question that deserves a systematic and thoughtful answer. It clearly isn’t the absence of conflict because conflicts are unavoidable. Peace isn’t even merely the absence of war and violence Because peace also has positive attributes. Furthermore, the term ‘peace’ applies to a wide range of situations. For instance, there is inner peace, and peace in international relations, in countries, local neighborhoods, in a family; there are peaceful processes, and peaceful relations, and peaceful states. We need to navigate through such complexities.

On the one hand, we should avoid a fractured account in which the term ‘peace’ has one meaning when used in international relations, another when it is employed in the context of interpersonal relationships, another when referring to processes that two parties embark on to reach common understanding, yet one more when it is applied to psychological states of individuals, and so on. In short, we want to eschew the postmodern call for many ‘peaces’.1 The word ‘peace’ should not be ambiguous in these different contexts; it is not like the two meanings of ‘bank’ or ‘bat’. Furthermore, a fragmented account of the concept ‘peace’ indicates a failure to get to the common core. On the other hand, we shouldn’t veer in the opposite extreme and assume that peace is a Platonic absolute entity or single ideal, the same in all circumstances and con←13 | 14→texts. We need a unified answer...

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