In Peace and Conflict studies positive peace is seen as an important thing to aspire to, but I don’t like it. It sounds good, but really, that’s about it.
Lets start with some definitions and background. To understand what peace is is fundamental to creating it as a goal. Peace is a strategy, and it can also be a tactic. It is good. Its better than the alternatives. Now, do the preceding sentences satisfy? No, they don’t. They waffle. They cannot be quantified, and quantification gives us a handle on the real world that lets us do things. This is why a separation between positive peace and negative peace are developed in the first place.
Negative peace = the absence of violent conflict.
Now, there’s a good term. Is anyone slapping me? No? Then I am quite definitely in a state of peace. If I’m being shot at, then I am not. A lovely little binary we can get some work done with. I send the gentle reader to Uppsala to be further enlightened on the importance – the critical to the survival of the species importance – of negative peace.
Positive peace = Negative peace + something else.
Now, there’s a rubbish definition.Â We know its useful, because there are other things in a peaceful existence other than not getting shot at.
Its a bit like love and respect – these are things that are important to me, but do I measure them by noting the pupil dilation of those I come into contact with?Â Funnily enough, yes I do! Not consciously though: I do it, along with a host of other cues, explicit and implicit, all the time.Â That “something else” in positive peace is something we manage to understand intuitively.Â Its good.Â It is an order of magnitude better than the Next Best Alternative, negative peace.
I think by using a different term for the same thing we can actually get to grips on what it actually is, and then start to be able to facilitate it, much the same way negative peace is facilitated by formal peacekeeping and negotiation.Â At one this morning I herald the coining (probably deeply unoriginal) of sustainable permanent peace.Â Sustainable gives us the entire discourse of environmentalism to be able to work within.Â Permanent is a nod of the hat to my old mate Lev Bronstein, for whom permanence was a process, not a goal.
Its not that I don’t want positive peace.Â Its just that I want to understand it in order to help it occur.
My next act will be discussing the landscape of sustainable permanent peace, and how we can build ourselves societies within it.Â Now, that feels like a nice project to be getting on with.