Summary of "Stable Peace"

Summary of

Stable Peace

By Kenneth Boulding

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Boulding, Kenneth. Stable Peace. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1978, 143 pp.

Stable Peace presents policies for creating and sustaining stable international peace. Modern warfare is increasingly devastating and costly. Nations can no longer afford to merely hope for peace. Instead proactive policies for promoting peace must be developed and adopted.

Stable Peace will be of interest to those who are interested in conflict and conflict resolution at the international level. This work is divided into five chapters, with a preface. Chapter One discusses the meaning of peace, and elaborates a theory of peace-war systems. Peace is defined as the absence of war. The author distinguishes between conflict and war, and agues that being at peace does not preclude all conflict. A stable peace is a situation "in which the probability of war is so small" that it plays no significant role in people's plans. This chapter begins to explore the factors which produce either stable peace, unstable peace, stable war or unstable war.

Chapter Two investigates the sources of stable peace by exploring the dynamics which govern transitions between the various states of peace and war. These dynamics are described via the concepts of strain and strength (resistance to strain). The author argues that there are no simple general causes of war; "war-peace systems are multicausal." The author offers a "tentative listing" of variables which are relevant to assessments of strength or strain. These include structural variables, such as: images of the past, the degree of professionalization of conflict, the political structure. This listing also includes dynamic variables, such as: an arms race, a repression race, economic downturns, and differential population and economic growth.

Chapter Three discusses peace and justice. Justice is treated as a special variable within the peace-war system. The issues regarding "just war," and the factors which legitimate (or justify) either war or peace are discussed. Perceptions of justice or injustice are important aspects of both strength and strain in a war-peace system. The author describes those characteristics of a social system which create the sense that that system is just or unjust. These characteristics included equity, degrees of oppression or liberation, and alienation.

Chapter Four describes policies for achieving and sustaining stable peace. Nations should declare their intent to pursue peace. They should pursue a policy of Graduated and Reciprocated Initiative in Tension-Reduction (GRIT). Nations should "develop strategies and organizations for nonviolent change and resistance to unwanted change." Peace oriented international nongovernmental organizations should be encouraged. Further research in peace and conflict management should be encouraged. Chapter Five goes on to discuss (then) current research being done on peace issues, and to suggest areas for improvement.

Stable Peace discusses the meaning, sources and justice of peace, and describes policies and research which promote stable peace.