Antony Adolf, Peace. A world history, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2009, 285 págs.

Bogumil Maria Terminski-Mrowiec 


 

ABSTRACT: Presented book provides a synthetic discussion of development of the institutional and legal conditions and the practical implementation of the concept of peace in history. It thus reflects the growing importance of research undertaken in that issue in recent years. Nowadays we are witnessing the growing importance of search for answers to fundamental question of international cooperation and international order: how to achieve and maintain a state of peace between nations? Studies on the determinants of peace seem to be an important for all the theories of contemporary international relations. The book may be interest source of knowledge for all persons interested in the history of peace, both in its individual as well as international and global dimension.

KEYWORDS: Anthony Adolf, Perpetual peace, Eternal peace, Politics.

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo a few days ago, as well as the reflection on the evolution of the current shape of international politics has led me to read several monographic works, published in recent years, devoted to the question of peace in international relations. I drew a lot of attention especially to the book Peace. A world history by Antony Adolf, published in 2009 by Polity Press.

This book is a part of a trend of growing interest in issues of peace among the specialists in various fields of knowledge. Researches on international peace have taken a truly interdisciplinary character in recent years. They are performed not only on the basis of philosophy or law, but also, and perhaps in particular, on the basis of political science and history. Even more important seems to be the universalisation of the idea of peace research and undertaking of studies in this field not only in Europe or the U.S.

The basic factors affecting the development of twentieth-century peace studies include the achievements of the Enlightenment and positivism, emerging theory of foreign policy and the development of science. To realize how impressive were the studies conducted in this scope, it is enough to recall the names of prominent political scientists: Raymond Aron and Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, a sociologist Johan Galtung and creator of the theory of systems – Anatol Rappoport. Based on the methodology and conceptual apparatus in various fields, they have tried to show diversity, as well as the correlates of the main factors affecting the preservation of peace. The research, conducted on the basis of social science, have focused on the analysis of the evolution of the concept of peace throughout history, and their influence on contemporary institutional arrangements (for example, the shape of international institutions – the European Union or United Nations). The dynamics of research on peace has very often been shaped by political factors. Interestingly, research in this area has best developed in the first years after the end of major military conflicts. It was so, for example, during the presidency of Wilson in the United States, in the late forties in Western Europe, or in connection with plans to revitalize the United Nations in the early nineties of the last century.

For over two years we can observe a significant intensification of scientific studies in the field of peace, led notably by American researchers. This fact can be associated with the current overvaluation in the shape of international order and global power balance. The fundamental factors influencing the development of scientific thought on the issue of peace include: 1. Attempt to redefine U.S. foreign policy from imperial hegemony and confrontation for polycentric order and cooperation; 2. Increasing institutional dynamics of the European Union; 3. The reduction in the number of international conflicts and widening the space of democracy in many countries of the world is evidenced also in the social implications (for example, reducing the number of refugees); 4. Noticeable depoliticisation and economization of international relations as well as an attempt to develop effective mechanisms of cooperation in the world of crisis times.

Anthony Adolf’s book well reflects the growing importance of research on peace for the shape of contemporary discourse in the history of political ideas and public institutions. In presenting the evolution of the idea of peace in different historical periods, the author is based on three basic categories of heuristics, in which, the above mentioned notion can be understood. Among them there is an individual peace (of keeping peace between individuals), group peace (associated with maintaining peace within the community) and the collective peace (related to the maintenance of peace and cooperation between groups). Such concept of peace is therefore both an idea of political nature (a set of ideas about methods of its conservation) and an institutional and public phenomenon of a purely pragmatic nature (illustrated from the angle of human activities in order to preserve the peace, the history of the concept of eternal peace, pacifist movements, etc.). The approach presented by the author is therefore not restricted solely to the political aspect of this issue. Equally important appears to be the understanding of peace as an abstract philosophical idea, the result of religious motivation, or difficult to define category of ethics.

In the substantive part of the book, the author presents the development of the concept of peace as well as practical actions for sustaining peace in different historical periods. Especially creative and cognitively interesting seems to be the analysis of the peace phenomenon in the most distant times (prehistory and antiquity). It would seem that the quest for peace is primarily the result of the socialization process as well as profit and loss achieved by us in cooperation with others. Following in the footsteps of behavioural geneticists and psychologists, however, the author makes us aware that people do not seek to inflict harm to other people and they do not seek permanent life in the Hobbesian state of nature. In another passage, the author draws attention to the development of the concept of peace in antiquity, especially devoting much space to the realities of the atomistic Greek poleis as well as established in the first century BC the institution of pax romana.

The next section is devoted to the evolution of the concept of peace in the civilizations of the East (Japan, China and India) as well as to the shaping of concept of peace in the monotheistic religions, fundamental to our culture. But it is hard to resist the impression that this part of the work itself was a bit schematic, but rather from the perspective of a historian and specialist in religion studies than a political scientist.

Critical to the historians of ideas and political institutions, we can find a references in a fragment devoted to medieval and Renaissance concepts of peace and the formation of the modern system of sovereign nation states (Westphalian order). A valuable element, quite apart from the schematic analysis of the views of Hobbes, Machiavelli, Erasmus of Rotterdam and utopian authors seems also the author's views on the importance of the concept of peace for the emerging modern international relations and diplomacy. Further fragments of major cognitive importance should be recognized in the chapters devoted to the influence of colonialism, imperialism and modern economic institutions on the development of a more modern concept of peace. We should however remember, that the fact that the negative effect of imperialism, the development of colonial states and the idealism of Versailles system for negating peace has already been pointed out by Hannah Arendt in the middle of the last century.

An extensive piece of work was devoted to the development of twentieth-century concept of peace. Next to showing the importance of the liberal concept and the importance of political factors (such as the Cold War) for the development of international peace, much space is devoted to the modern face of this phenomenon and its development prospects. In the last part of the book the author appealed, inter alia, to the importance of the globalization process and also to a very archaic Francis Fukuyama's concept on the end of history for the development of a global peace, cooperation and human rights. Let us remember that the intermingling of the two largest political phenomena: war and peace, is (despite the opposition of supporters of the liberal concepts, members of the pacifist movement, etc.) a sine qua non condition for the functioning of each person performing the power and political interests (whether it is a family, professional group or a superpower like China or the United States). It is clear that without the competition of various factors, forces (the specific interests, power) and conflicts characterizing them, or cooperation, politics do not exist as such.

To summarize these considerations, it is worth to identify the basic advantages and disadvantages of the present study. At the number of publication in recent years about the peace, it is getting harder to find innovative and creative works, which present in-depth approach to the elaborated topic. Among the recently published publications on peace in the context of the history of political ideas or philosophy, one can simply mention studies by Randall Lesaffer (2004), Pierre Allan and Alexis Keller (2006), Dieter Senghaas (2007) and David Cortright (2008).

The main advantage of the publication must be regarded as an attempt to portray the institutional development of actions for peace and broad, erudition references of the author to shaping the idea of making peace in various historical periods. According to the author, the peace constitutes a kind of institution in constant state of construction, which development takes place both in political and legal, as well as cultural, ethical or religious dimension. The deliberations in the work are not limited only to the political or institutional dimension of peace, though many of the considerations in this regard are author's creative perspective on the views already presented before.

For the basic shortcoming of the work, one can also consider the little visibility of the importance of certain ideas and philosophical concepts to a later form of specific political solutions. Some reservations of a European reader may arise from simplifications in some parts of the work, applicable to certain currents of American science. Indicated elements, however, constitute a source of much debate, rather than the real disadvantages of this extremely interesting book. [Recibido el 29 de octubre de 2010].


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