Over at Political Violence @ a Glance my friend David Cunningham sort of drinks the Kool Aid offered by my friends at Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), confusing the absence of violence with a positive state of human affairs. This is disturbingly common among contemporary Peace Science scholars, and very much a hobby horse of mine. Because he is the intellectual patriarch at UCDP I will pin this tendency at UCDP on Peter Wallensteen (pictured with me above at UCDP), with whom I had the distinct pleasure to interact regularly last fall while on sabbatical at Notre Dame.
So what, precisely, is my beef? The absence of violent conflict is not a uniform category: it can be usefully divided into two types. Though I do not favor ideal type conceptualization, it is convenient, so I will use it here. One of those two ideal types we can call harmony: people’s interests overlap sufficiently that the disagreements that exist can be settled to mutual agreement via some non-violent means. The other ideal type we might oppressed quiescence: some portion of society is dissatisfied with the status quo, but is cowed from acting collectively to challenge it because the state’s coercive apparatus and, in many cases, those of civil society, cow them into submissive quiescence and the adoption of everyday forms of resistance.
Why do I describe Cunningham’s post today as sort of drinking the Kool Aid? Because he offers this qualification:
There are all sorts of caveats to this discussion. One is the point brought up by Christian Davenport in his response to Stephen Pinker’s book—we do not have systematic data on what states are doing to their populations. The 500,000 plus Rwandans killed in 100 days in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, for example, are not included in the Lacina and Gleditsch data nor in the UCDP battle-deaths data. It is possible that, without facing the threat of armed dissent, states can get away with more than they were able to in the past and so that bad behavior on the part of states has actually increased.
Excellent. But I want more. The standard analysis of which the majority of Cunningham’s post is but one of many examples fails because it implicitly assumes that only one category of “peace” exists; it implicitly rejects my claim that we should conceptualize an absence of violent conflict as composed of two types; it implicitly claims that Johan Galtung’s structural violence concept is unhelpful. And I flatly disagree. Indeed, any analysis of trends in conflict that examines only violent conflict versus not violent conflict is a poor analysis that, in my view, leaves us worse off.
And so I beseech everyone who studies violent conflict to add to their list of mantras: “No Justice, No Peace.” This point has been made many, many times, in a variety of fora, and is widely distributed. Let’s begin with Hannah Arendt:
Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance.
Here is Malcolm X (I am blending two distinct quotes here):
I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against… [but] I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem just to avoid violence.
Those of you feeling Irie will remember Brother Bob Marley putting the highlight of Halie Selassie’s 1963 speech to the UN to music:
That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.