Violence and Peace
To discuss the idea of peace we shall start from three simple principles: (1) The term ‘peace’shall be used for social goals at least verbally agreed to by many, if not necessarily most; (2)These social goals may be complex and difficult, but not impossible, to attain; and (3) Thestatement ‘peace is absence of violence’ shall be retained as valid.What we intend is only that the terms ‘peace’ and violence’ be linked to each other such that‘peace’ can be regarded as ‘absence of violence’. Everything now hinges on making a definitionof ‘violence’.
On the definition and dimensions of violence
As a point of departure, let us say that violence is present when human beings are beinginfluenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potentialrealizations. This statement may lead to more problems than it solves. However, it will soon beclear why we are rejecting the narrow concept of violence—according to which violence issomatic incapacitation, or deprivation of health alone (with killing as the extreme form), at thehands of an actor who intends this to be the consequence. If this were all violence is about, and peace were seen as its negation, then too little is rejected when peace is held up as an ideal.Highly unacceptable social orders would still be compatible with peace. Hence, an extendedconcept of violence is indispensable but that concept should be a logical extension, not merely alist of undesirables.The definition points to at least six important dimensions of violence. But first some remarksabout the use of key words above: ‘actual’ and ‘potential’. Violence is here defined as the causeof the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and whatis. Violence is that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual, and thatwhich impedes the decrease of this distance. Thus, if a person died from tuberculosis in theeighteenth century it would be hard to conceive of this as violence since it might have been quiteunavoidable, but if he dies from it today, despite all the medical resources in the world, thenviolence is present according to our definition. Correspondingly, the case of people dying fromearthquakes today would not warrant an analysis in terms of violence, but the day after tomorrow, when earthquakes may become avoidable, such deaths may then be seen as the resultof violence. In other words, when the potential is higher than the actual is, but definition,avoidable and when it occurs when it is avoidable, then violence is present.When the actual is unavoidable, then violence is not present even if the actual is at a very lowlevel. A life expectancy of only thirty years during the Neolithic period was not an expression of violence, but the same life expectancy today (whether due to wars, or social injustice, or both)would be seen as violence according to our definition.The meaning of ‘potential realization’ is highly problematic, especially when we move fromsomatic aspects of human life, where consensus is more readily obtained to mental aspects. Our