July 19, 2006

Yo, What Happened to Peace?

In the realm of universal history, balance of power was concerned with states whose independence it served to maintain. But it attained this end only by the continuous wars between changing partners... The fact that in the nineteenth century the same mechanism resulted in peace rather than war is a problem to challenge the historian.

The entirely new factor, we submit, was the emergence of an acute peace interest. Traditionally, such an interest was regarded as being outside the scope of the system. Peace with its corollaries of crafts and arts ranked among the mere adornments of life. The Church might pray for peace as for a bountiful harvest, but in the realm of state action it would nevertheless advocate armed intervention; governments subordinated peace to security and sovereignty, that is, to intents that could not be achieved otherwise than by recourse to the ultimate means. Few things were regarded as more detrimental to the community than the existence of an organized peace interest in its midst. As late as the second half of the eighteenth century, J.J. Rousseau arraigned tradespeople for their lack of patriotism because they were suspect of preferring peace to liberty.

Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation (emphasis is mine)

Posted by Abe at July 19, 2006 12:00 AM

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