World Peace through the Town Hall
The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace:
The strengths and weaknesses of civil society
A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?


Continued from previous page

The strengths and weaknesses of civil society. Because of its enormous scope and complexity and energy, it is tempting to think that the civil society itself, working independently of the state, and gradually coalescing into a global movement, could eventually bring about a transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. No doubt, civil society is a powerful force for the culture of peace, and must play a very important role, but for the following reasons, I believe that the civil society cannot do the job alone.

First, civil society organizations are not truly representative of the peoples of the world. Civil society organizations are not elected by the people. Instead, they are self-appointed, and their leadership develops independently within each organization. Of course, they wish to be recognized by the people they serve, and they try as much as possible to involve these people as a force to strengthen and expand their capacities, but, at the same time, they are not required to obtain a mandate from the people. In some cases, they give the people they serve a voice in the decisions about how and what to undertake, but the leadership of the organization itself is not usually chosen by the people at large. This is both a source of strength and a source of weakness. On the one hand, it gives civil society organizations the freedom to be "ahead of their time" and be an educational force for the future. On the other hand, they do not have the democratic legitimacy to become a political counterforce to the culture of war of the state; in the final analysis, the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace is a question of political power, not just a struggle of ideas and good works.

Second, civil society organizations are often locked in a fierce competition, one against another, for limited resources. For example, many organizations must devote a high proportion of their efforts to finding enough money to pay their staff on an ongoing basis. In doing so, they are competing with other organizations doing the same thing, and the overall effect of the various organizations is greatly reduced.

Third, there is often a lack of synergy among organizations working for different components of the culture of peace. Organizations working in one area, for example, freedom of the press, do not necessarily join forces with organizations working for other areas, for example, disarmament or women's equality. This "fragmentation" of the culture of peace is unlike the unity of the various components of the culture of war. For example, those working in the arms industry know full well that they are in synergy with those working for economic exploitation, male domination, propaganda for enemy images, and vice versa, those working in these other areas recognize their alliance with the arms industry, etc. The various forces of the culture of war pool their energies in the traditional political process, ensuring that most national presidential campaigns support the various aspects of the culture of war, explicitly or implicitly.

Fourth, much of the energy of civil society is directed toward trying to change policies of the state. No doubt this is important and many important victories have been won, including the prevention of some wars. But in the long run, for the reasons provided earlier, it is not likely that the transition to a culture of peace can be accomplished at the level of the state. It will be more productive in the future, as will be argued further below, to put more of the energy of the civil society into making changes at the local level, while continuing to think globally.

For all the above reasons, it makes sense to redirect the primary emphasis of the civil society toward working together with elected officials at the local level. That does not mean abandoning completely their national and international work, which will continue to help restrain the culture of war at that level. But it does mean a radical shift of emphasis and priorities if we are to arrive at a culture of peace.

First, by working together with local elected officials the civil society can achieve the legitimacy of working for the people as a whole, and it increases the possibility of broadening the base of involvement to include everyone in the community.

Second, by working together with local elected officials, the civil society can find common ground, above the level of their competition for limited resources. For the projects with city or town officials, resources may be provided by the city or town budget or by foundations and other financial sources that will give their money to a city or town project while they might not give it to a particular non-governmental organization.

Third, by working together on the culture of peace, the civil society organizations that would normally concentrate on their own particular area can now take part in a more holistic and mutually-reinforcing approach.

Fourth, by putting energy into local government, they can help build the base for a new world order that is free from the culture of war. This is the topic of the following section.

End of chapter

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The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-arms trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war