Show Less
Restricted access

Albert Einstein

The Roads to Pacifism


Claudio Giulio Anta

Albert Einstein (1879–1955) is universally known as the father of the theory of relativity; however, he was also one of the most eminent pacifists of the first half of the twentieth century. Through his active, pragmatic and nuanced breed of pacifism, he sought to confront the dilemmas and problems stemming from the unstable political conditions of his time: the beginning of the Great War, the creation and failure of the League of Nations, the emergence of totalitarian regimes, the outbreak of the Second World War, the dawn of the Atomic Age, the escalation of the Cold War, the establishment of the United Nations with its apparent institutional weakness and the need for a world government. His reflections on the subject of peace led him into dialogue with the most prestigious figures of the political and cultural world: from Romain Rolland to Bertrand Russell via Georg Friedrich Nicolai, Sigmund Freud, King Albert I of Belgium, Léo Szilárd, Emery Reves and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (amongst others). This dialogue is further emphasized by the book’s final section, an anthology of Einstein’s writings and speeches, which significantly enriches this study.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 1. The Evolution of Modern Pacifism


← 2 | 3 →


The Evolution of Modern Pacifism

1.1  Ideas and Models in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

When we talk about pacifism, we refer to a doctrine, or even a set of ideas or attitudes, and their corresponding movements. At least two meanings denote all this: firstly, the condemnation of war as an appropriate means of resolving international disputes; secondly, the consideration of permanent (or perpetual) peace among states as a possible and desirable purpose. Therefore, pacifism includes the sum of all endeavours and programmes for the realisation of lasting or, if possible, perpetual peace among peoples who believe that this goal is of positive value and can be attained within the foreseeable future; this is a broader definition, of course, which refers to movements in favour of the total abolition of war. Pacifism has existed in all higher cultures and in different historical epochs as a more or less distinct and vivid idea; indeed, in its broadest sense, it dates back to Classical Antiquity (for example, we can find invocations for peace in Xenophon and Isocrates), and in the religious conceptions of the main Biblical prophets and the first evangelical Irenicism, which were handed down in certain Protestant sects (Quakers). This concept acquired authority in the theorisations of the “peace of submission”, from the Pax Romana of the Augustan age to the Pax Universalis supported by Dante Alighieri in De Monarchia (1312–1313) as a function of the Byzantine...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.