What Is Peace?

And how is it sometimes considered a negative thing?

Learn the definitions of negative and positive peace and explore the comparisons between the two with this insightful look at the differences between the two states of freedom from conflict. Well-known experts weigh in on why peace is more than just the absence of violence and conflict.

This article can be used in conjunction with the more comprehensive Perspectives on Peace resource, or as a standalone resource for research, discussion groups, and more.


What Is Peace?

NEGATIVE PEACE is the absence of direct violence (physical, verbal, and psychological) between individuals, groups, and governments. (1)

Efforts to achieve negative peace emphasize:

  • Managing interpersonal and organizational conflict in order to control, contain, and reduce actual and potential violence.
  • Reducing the incidence of war by eliminating the extreme dangers of the war system and limiting war through international crisis management. (2)
  • Preventing war through strategic deterrence and arms control. (3)

  • The concept of NEGATIVE PEACE addresses immediate symptoms, the conditions of war, and the use and effects of force and weapons. Words and images that reveal the horror of war and its aftermath are often used by writers, artists, and citizen groups in their efforts to stop it.

    POSITIVE PEACE is more than the absence of violence; it is the presence of social justice through equal opportunity, a fair distribution of power and resources, equal protection and impartial enforcement of law. (1)

    Efforts to achieve positive peace emphasize:
  • Establishing peace through world order by supporting international law, compliance with multilateral treaties, use of international courts, and nonviolent resolution of disputes, participation in international organizations, trade, and communication. (4)
  • Establishing social equality and justice, economic equity, ecological balance; protecting citizens from attack, and meeting basic human needs. (5)
  • Establishing a civil peace that provides the constitutional and legal means necessary to settle differences nonviolently (6)
  • Eliminating indirect violence, that shortens the life span of people, sustains unequal life chances, or reduces quality of life for any citizen (7)
  • Practicing conflict resolution as a foundation for building peaceful interpersonal and institutional relationships.
  • The concept of POSITIVE PEACE involves the elimination of the root causes of war, violence, and injustice and the conscious effort to build a society that reflects these commitments. Positive peace assumes an interconnectedness of all life.

    1. Galtung, Reader in Peace Studies
    2. Nye, Hawks, Owls, and Doves
    3. Morgan, Deterrence
    4. Mendlovitz, On the Creation of a Just World Order
    5. Reardon, Reader in Peace Studies
    6. Adler, Haves Without Have-Nots
    7. Brock-Utne, Reader in Peace Studies

    Back to "Perspectives on Peace"
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