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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 9: Peacefulness in Global Political Systems



Peacefulness in Global Political Systems

In this chapter and the next, we will show how political-economic structures can be inherently violent or peaceful. We shall assume that such structures refer to the ways relevant institutions are systematically organized in relation to each other, as defined by a set of principles. This means that assigning peacefulness (or the lack of it) to a social structure isn’t the same as describing the human relationships that occur within that structure.1 Structure isn’t reducible to relationships between individual persons, and so peacefulness requires a new characterization when applied to political-economic structures. It requires identifying the relevant principles and how they shape the institutions, such as the nation state or the corporation.

The critique of just war theory indicates the need for peaceful international structures. Even if war is justifiable from the limited perspective of a country, that still doesn’t make it good. When a country decides to go to war, its decision is taken within the existing international political framework or system. But if that framework is itself unpeaceful, then we can’t conclude that some decisions to go to war are best for peace. Decisions taken within an unreasonable structure may appear reasonable without being so. Given such deliberations, the key question is: ‘Is the political-economic framework within which the current decision to wage war is taken a peaceful one?’ In other words, ‘Is the structure peaceful?’ We will turn to economic structures in the...

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