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Peace as a Transnational Theme

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2013

Extract

Peace is normally understood as the absence of war among nations. But that definition presupposes the overarching importance of nations as the key units of human association. There are, however, many other non-national entities, such as races, ethnic communities, religions, cultures, and civilizations. These entities, too, engage in conflict from time to time, as exemplified by the interracial violence and religious antagonisms in various parts of the world today and, of course, that which took place in the past. Yet why do we preserve the terms “war” and “peace” only for interstate relations? This is a very limited perspective, inasmuch as wars are a phenomenon whose appearance long preceded the formation of nations in the modern centuries; and besides, a presumed state of peace among countries can conceal serious hostilities between races or religions within and across national boundaries. Nazi Germany was technically at peace with all countries till 1939, and yet violent acts were committed there against groups of people domestically who were not considered racially acceptable. In today's world, there are no large-scale international wars, but domestic tensions and physical assaults occur daily within many countries. Terrorists wage war against states and their citizens alike, but they are not nations. To counter their threat, war preparedness in the traditional sense may be useful, perhaps, but it is much less effective than the coming together of individuals and groups to create a condition of interdependence and mutual trust. World peace must fundamentally be founded on a sense of shared humanity, regardless of which country people happen to live in. To consider war and peace purely in the context of international relations, therefore, is insufficient, even anachronistic. What we need is less an international than a transnational idea of peace.

Type
Roundtable: Reflections on International Peace
Copyright
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 2013 

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References

NOTES

1 The best account of the use of the word “transnational” by Bourne and others is in Saunier, Pierre Yves, “Transnational,” in Iriye, Akira and Saunier, Pierre Yves, eds., The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)Google Scholar.

2 Evangelista, Matthew, Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999)Google Scholar.

3 Snyder, Sarah, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 See Conway, Martin and Patel, Kiran Klaus, eds., Europeanization in the Twentieth Century: Historical Approaches (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Bose, Sugata and Manjapra, Kris, eds., Cosmopolitan Thought Zones: South Asia and the Global Circulation of Ideas (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)Google Scholar.

6 I discuss this phenomenon in greater detail in Global and Transnational History: The Past, Present, and Future (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)Google Scholar.

7 Saunier, Pierre Yves, Transnational History (London, Palgrave Macmillan: forthcoming)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Neiberg, Michael S., Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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