Friday, October 22, 2004

Peace Culture: The Problem of Managing Human Difference

by Elise Boulding
Peace culture, neither a fantasy nor accident, is as central to human nature as war culture.
The creative management of differences is at the core of peace culture; in other words, it is not a culture without conflict. Since every human individual is different from every other, conflict is a basic part of any social order. Each of us sees, hears, and experiences the world uniquely, and we spend our lives bridging the differences between our perceptions (and the needs and wishes they generate) and the perceptions of others. Even though it is reasonable to ask why we do not fight constantly, given our differences, much of the time we do this work peacefully. The explanation lies in the two opposing needs for bonding and autonomy. Every human being needs to bond with others. We need to be part of a community; we need others to care for us; we need to care for others. Children who do not experience this caring have trouble dealing with others throughout their lives. At the same time, we need autonomy, our own space -- room enough to express our individuality.

ELISE BOULDING is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Dartmouth College and former Secretary-General of the International Peace Research Association. Full text of article available at: