World Peace through the Town Hall
What would a culture of peace be like? 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?


The culture of peace should be understood as a process, in the original sense of the word "culture". We will not wake up one morning and find that a culture of peace has been built. My colleagues in Mozambique insisted, with good reason, on using the phrase "cultivating peace" instead of "building peace." Like agriculture, it will have its seasons of growth and harvest, and its seasons when the fields lie fallow and there seems to be no progress. And like agriculture, we must plant the seeds, help them grow by providing water and fertilizer and harvest the results in season.

With the preceding in mind, the strategy provided in this book will only provide the first steps in making possible a culture of peace. By constructing a new system of global governance that avoids state power, we will remove a great obstacle to the development of a culture of peace, but this is only a beginning.

The world will still be divided between the "haves" and the "have-nots." If anything, a global economic crash will increase this division. And ultimately a culture of peace will require economic justice, a reversal of the widening gap between rich and poor. How this will come about, we cannot yet imagine. One thing seems certain, however; it will not come about under the present system of states and their culture of war.

The conclusion of the monograph that I wrote for UNESCO in 1995 called the transition to the culture of peace the most radical and far-reaching change in human history :

"The transformation of society from a culture of war to a culture of peace is perhaps more radical and far reaching than any previous change in human history. Every aspect of social relations - having been shaped for millennia by the dominant culture of war, is open to change - from the relations among nations to those between women and men. Everyone, from the centres of power to the most remote villages, may be engaged and transformed in the process . . ."

One important consequence should be a reduction of violence at the local level, including within the family. There is good scientific documentation that much of the violence at a local level is the result of the culture of war at a national or tribal level. This has been shown by both cross-national and cross-cultural anthropological studies.

The cross-national study is in the book by Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner (1984). The authors found a strong correlation of homicide rates with warfare by the atate involved and suggested that it was caused by the state's legitimization of violence.

The cross-cultural study concerning non-state societies also showed that more war is associated with more homicide and assault. This was published by Mel and Carol Ember (1994) in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. They found significant correlation coefficients between frequency of war and individual homicide, individual assault and socially-organized homicide for non-state societies. Evidence indicates that the direction of the relationship is from war to homicide rather than the other direction. In particular, the relationship appears to be mediated by the socialization of boys for aggression in preparation for warrior roles. The researchers tested many possible explanations for high homicide and assault rates, but none were as strong as that of socialization for aggression. Further confirmation was found with the fact that if a society became pacified over time, there was a drop in the socialization for aggression, presumably because it was no longer needed to prepare for war. Looking at this process over time, it could be seen that the longer a society had been pacified, the lower its socialization for aggression, indicating that the pacification of the society was the causal factor, not vice versa.

In addition to the causal relationship of war -> socialization for aggression -> homicide and assault, the Embers also found a separate direct relationship of war -> homicide and assault. This, they suggest, may be due to the legitimization of violence by war, corresponding to the findings in the study of states by Archer and Gartner quoted above. The Embers conclude that "If we want to rid the world of violence, we may first have to rid the world of war":

"If this theory is correct, war is an important indirect cause of interpersonal violence within a society. War may also be a direct cause of more violence because war legitimizes violence. Our results imply that if we want to reduce the likelihood of interpersonal violence in our society, we may mostly need to reduce the likelihood of war, which would minimize the need to socialize for aggression and possibly reduce the likelihood of all violence. War and violence appear to be causally related. If we want to rid the world of violence, we may first have to rid the world of war."

Judging from the evidence quoted above, violence at the local level may be expected to decrease under a culture of peace. This will be facilitated by a reduction in state support for the illegal trade in drugs for guns. Probably the greatest reduction in violence can be expected in the community and family once the legitimization of violence by war and by the culture of war legal system are reduced. In particular, we can expect that women and children will no longer be victims of rape and beating to the extent that they have been under the culture of war.

The reduction in violence will help to reinforce culture of peace consciousness and support for local governance committed to a culture of peace. Education can be freed up from the demands of the "banking" and testing systems now in place and allowed to become "problem-solving education" in the sense of Paulo Freire. Mass media can be freed up from the present emphasis on violence and pessimism and become a vehicle for true discussion and learning. The culture of peace at the city and provincial level thus becomes a self-reinforcing process, just as at the beginning of history, the state with its culture of war became a self-reinforcing process. History itself is transformed.

The pessimism that one hears so often, that the state is necessary in order to keep in check the citizenry "because human beings are naturally violent and greedy," will begin to disappear as local violence is reduced and the mass media stops exaggerating its coverage of violence. Another source of pessimism, support of the state that is based on the mistaken belief that dominance and submission is inherent in human nature, will also be reduced as local governance and local economies begin to function autonomously. Leadership, in the absence of a culture of war, is not coercive. This is described in the response of the noted French anthropologist Pierre Clastres (1975) to an incredulous interviewer how the "primitive" people that he had observed in South America could exist without a state. He replied:

"There is no coercion in primitive societies . . . In our countries . . . it's society that is obliged to obey the chief, while the chief has no obligations. And why doesn't the despot have any obligation? Because he has the power, naturally. That's what is meant by power in our society: "Now the obligations are yours, not mine". In the primitive society, it's exactly the opposite. It is only the chief who has obligations to be a good spokesman, and not only to have the talent but to prove it constantly by pleasing people with his discourse, by his obligation to be generous . . ."

Clastres gives the example of a tribal leader who began to "go crazy" and give orders for a battle that was not based on the traditional framework of their wars, but based instead on a personal vendetta. The tribe simply turned their back on him and abandoned him as their leader. Losing face, the leader committed suicide.

In fact, as Clastres stresses, it is not domination that creates the state, but rather it is the state that creates domination. Clastres' analysis fits very well with those of Carneiro and others described earlier on the origins of the state.

"On the basis of my research and reflection simply in the context of primitive society, it seems to me that the state does not develop after the division of society into opposing social groups or classes or after the division of rich and poor, exploiters and exploited. Instead, the primary division and that from which all the others follow, is the division between those who command and those who obey, in others words, the state. Fundamentally, that is where it comes from, the division of society between those who have power and those who submit to power."

Continued on next page

To take part in a discussion about this page, click below on the Culture of Peace Dialogues:

discussion board

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