Aggression, Violence, and Peace Research Paper

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Although aggression, violence, and evil are interrelated, contemporary research is so specialized that it is unusual to group them together, and this research paper is unique in considering them together with ideas and research on peace. Why place such disparate fields in the same research paper? In part, it is because we study aggression and violence in order to avoid the evil that they occasion and to achieve peace. However, if peace were simply the absence of violence, it would not require separate treatment; and if peace were a completely independent field, it would be better to make use of separate papers. Typically, there are separate research papers on aggression and prosocial behavior. Here, however, we argue that the achievement of peace rests on an understanding of aggression, violence, and evil, yet requires us to go beyond that material to include not only what is usually conceived as prosocial behavior but the use of aggression in a struggle with violence and evil. Hence, we must consider these topics in conjunction with one another. The attainment of peace requires us to have an understanding of aggression, and the pitfalls of violence and evil, as well as the various paths that may lead toward a peaceful world.

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We begin with aggression because although it is often violent, aspects of aggression may be necessary for the achievement of peace. We will then sample the voluminous literature on forms of violence and the ways in which it may be controlled. Although many of these forms are clearly related to aggression, Gandhi asserted that the worst form of violence is poverty. Such violence is masked and occurs because of unjust economic and political structures. And when we turn to examine evil we find that a difficult moral judgment is involved. Although most contemporary judgment considers violence to be evil, much of our striving for peace and justice involves us in violence that we do not acknowledge as evil. This is one of the facts that requires us to base any quest for peace (valued as good) on a thorough understanding of violence and evil. In this way, we will not be naive when we finally come to consider how peace may be attained.


Aggression has different meanings that focus our attention on different aspects of behavior and lead to the creation of different approaches to its understanding. We may distinguish at least three different definitions:

  1. Aggression as behavior intended to hurt an other, whether this intent is motivated emotionally (as by anger, pain, frustration, or fear) or instrumentally, as a means to an end (as in punishing misbehavior or intimidating an other to attain one’s end.) There are two caveats to this definition. First, the intention to hurt may be embedded in larger intentions that have quite different meanings. Although the definition succeeds in avoiding the inclusion of hurting that is accidental or an unavoidable aspect of helping (as in washing a wound that needs to be cleaned), it does include behaviors as disparate as a swat on the bottom to correct a child and the dropping of a nuclear bomb to win a war. Second, the other who is hurt may be the self (as in suicide) and may include animals.
  2. Aggression as assertive, moving-out behavior that is aimed at getting what one desires (sometimes without regard for the wishes of others).
  3. Aggression as the assertion of one’s power in a relationship and the removal of challenges to what one believes ought to exist.

If we work from the first definition, we may view aggression as behavior that is clearly to be discouraged and socially controlled. However, the second definition is much more positive, at least in an individualistic culture, and we may want to support such behavior as long as it is balanced by a concern for others. The third definition raises a number of evaluative issues. It is morally neutral if one accepts challenges or power as a fact of life, but its presumption of a power relationship between persons or groups may be viewed as morally repugnant. These alternatives may be kept in mind as we examine four major approaches to aggression: as socially learned, as emotion based, as biologically grounded, or as embedded in conflict.

Social Learning Theories

Focusing on aggression as behavior that results in personal injury or property destruction, Bandura (1973) showed how people may learn such behavior by modeling the aggressive behavior of others. Shown an adult striking a large inflatable “Bobo” doll, children learn the observed pattern of behavior. The pattern is then encouraged or inhibited by what happens to the model. If the behavior is rewarded, the model is liked and chosen for emulation. Even when children are critical of the aggressive means that are used, the amount of their aggression increases. If the model is punished, the child’s subsequent aggression decreases. Models also function by suggesting the social acceptability of some forms of behavior, thus facilitating patterns of behavior that have already been learned.

Since the direct punishment of aggression is itself aggressive, it models aggression at the same time that it discourages it. Thus, although small amounts of nonabusive spanking can be beneficial in disciplining children between the ages of 2 and 6 years (Larzelere, 1996), physical punishment generally promotes aggression. The frequency of physical punishment is linearly related to the frequency of aggression toward siblings (as well as toward parents) across a wide range of ages (Larzelere, 1986).

The modeling of aggression may occur in families, neighborhoods, or on TV, and in each of these cases numerous studies show that children exposed to aggressive models are more apt to engage in aggressive behavior. Children growing up in abusive families are apt to assault their own children (Silver, Dublin, & Lourie, 1969); higher rates of aggressive behavior occur in neighborhoods where there is a subculture of violence that provides models and rewards aggressive behavior (Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 1967); children exposed to a film depicting police violence show more violence during a subsequent game of floor hockey than do children who had just watched an exciting film on bike racing (Josephson, 1987); the general aggressiveness of teenagers (as rated by teachers and classmates) is correlated to the amount of violence that they watched on TV when they were children (Turner, Hesse, & Peterson-Lewis, 1986); and both selfreported aggression and the seriousness of criminal arrests at age 30 is predicted by the violence level of the TV show persons watched at age 8 (as reported by their mothers 22 years earlier; Eron, Huesmann, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1972).

From the perspective of social learning theory, aggression is neither instinctive nor produced by frustration. It is a pattern of learned behavior that has been rewarded so that it is efficacious within a given society. Aggressive cultures assume that aggression is innate and natural, without realizing that there are other cultures where aggressive patterns of behavior do not occur or occur with far less frequency.Although emotional conditions often precede aggression, numerous studies have shown that loss, frustration, or anger lead to aggression only when an aggressive pattern of behavior has been learned and reinforced. For example, Nelson, Gelfand, and Hartmann (1969) involved children in competitive or noncompetitive play and then had them observe either an aggressive or a nonaggressive model. Those who had lost in competitive play were most prone to behave aggressively, but only when they were exposed to the aggressive model.

We may see aggression as a pattern of learned behavior, but Huesman (1986) has proposed that we may also conceptualize it as a more general social script, a program of how to act in problematic social situations. Children learn such scripts by observing how others behave in life and on TV. Realistic violence by a perpetrator with whom the child can identify is highly salient and easily leads to fantasy and rehearsal as a way of solving problems. Aggressive scripts may be used in quite different circumstances and provide ways to gain attention and get one’s way. Among middle-class peers, the use of such scripts is likely to result in unpopularity. The resulting social isolation may lead to increased television viewing, and an even greater reliance on the use of aggressive scripts, eventually producing the habitual use of violence.

In Huesmann’s (1998) informational processing model, people use a heuristic search process to retrieve a script that is relevant for their situation. The use of an aggressive script will depend on how situational cues are interpreted, the availability of aggressive scripts, the normative evaluation of such a script once it is activated, and the interpretation of consequences. Regarding the last factor, Huesmann pointed out that if a child is beaten for aggression, the child may feel disliked rather than interpret his or her behavior as unprofitable.

Although most researchers focus on the use of aggressive scripts by delinquents, the scripts are as available for use in international conflicts as in bullying and gang wars. McCauley (2000) pointed out that while the least socialized are more involved in personal violence, it is the best socialized who are often involved in the intergroup violence of war. In fact, personal scripts are an aspect of the societal myths that we shall consider when we deal with the concept of evil, and Schellenber (1996) pointed out that interpersonal violence may be more influenced by the extent to which a society engages in war than the reverse. Thus, Ember and Ember’s (1994) analysis of the relationship between war and interpersonal violence in 186 societies suggested that socialization for aggression and severity of childhood punishment appear to be more a consequence rather than a cause of war, and it is this socialization that is most directly related to interpersonal violence.

Aggressive scripts are available for use in any social conflict, and if aggressive behavior is perceived as justified, an observer is more apt to identify with the aggressor and more apt to model the behavior. In the context of competition, the goal of winning may entail a willingness to hurt, and this is easily conflated with a willingness to hurt in order to win. Paradoxically, the fact that context affects the meaning of a behavior is an argument for Bandura’s behavioral definition of aggression as that which results in (rather than intends) harm. For example, bomber pilots often do not intend to hurt civilians. Any intention to harm is embedded in the goal of carrying out a mission, and attention is directed toward mundane means (the pilot who carried the Hiroshima bomb was primarily concerned that added weight might prevent a safe takeoff).

Many social forces inhibit aggression, and Bandura (1999) has extended his earlier work by examining how aggression is more likely to occur when a person is morally disengaged from the victim. Such disengagement may occur by justifying the aggression, by using euphemistic labels, or by using advantageous moral comparison. It is facilitated by displacing responsibility for the damage that is done (as in Milgram’s, 1974, experiments), by diffusing responsibility (Zimbardo, 1995), and by increasing the distance between persons and evidence of the pain that they are inflicting (Kilham & Mann, 1974). Finally, moral disengagement occurs when dehumanization prevents empathic responsiveness (see Bandura, Underwood, & Fromson, 1975). Personally, I would argue that we witness the contrast between moral engagement and moral disengagement whenever we either empathize with the struggles of an ant or step on the nuisance. A scale measuring the extent of moral disengagement has been used in different nations and shown to be positively related to support for military action (McAlister, 2001).

Emotional Bases

In Bandura’s work on the modeling of aggressive behavior, the meaning of the behavior as intent to harm is implicit. Berkowitz (1993) emphasized that this meaning may be crucial. This becomes apparent if we focus on aggressive ideas and emotions. If one person tackles another in a football game, we may see the skillful, determined act of an athlete, or we may see a deliberate attempt to injure another person. For Berkowitz, it is only in the latter case that the model may activate the aggressive thoughts and emotional reactions that may lead to aggressive behavior. He pointed out that modeling is more apt to occur when a person identifies with the aggressor and when negative emotional states exist. He also distinguishes between instrumental aggression that occurs as a means of achieving some planned end and emotional aggression that is grounded in passion and is typically spontaneous and unplanned. The deliberate “taking out” of a star player is quite different from a blow thrown in temper.

Berkowitz tends to focus on emotional aggression, which he sees as pushed out, impelled from within, although this impulsion can be influenced by external cues. He sees such aggression as having both a motoric component (tightened jaw and fists, striking out, etc.) and an urge to hurt, injure, and destroy. He makes two major points. First, he argues that the emotional state that underlies emotional aggression is not only anger, but all negative affect. He shows that the discomfort produced by heat, cold, noise, overcrowding, frustration, or free-floating annoyance lead to the increased probability or strength of aggressive behavior. For example, when a student makes a mistake, other students behave more aggressively when they are in a hot room (Baron, 1977), and they use more punishment than reward when they are in pain. Riots are more apt to occur in hot spells (Baron & Ransberger, 1978), and domestic assaults occur more frequently when air pollution is high (Rotton & Frey, 1985; see also Berkowitz, 1982; Anderson & Anderson, 1998).

Second, he asserts that the emotional state consists of a network of feelings, ideas, memories, and expressive motor reactions that are associated with one another so that the activation of one part of the net will activate other parts. Unpleasant memories will promote a negative mood, and this will increase the probability of negative thoughts and aggressive behavior. An external cue that has an aggressive meaning (e.g., a weapon) may activate aggressive thoughts and—particularly if negative feelings are present—lead to an increased probability of aggressive behavior. Thus, in the classic experiment by Berkowitz and LePage (1967), angered subjects delivered more shocks to their partner when guns rather than badminton rackets were in the room (for further findings see Turner, Simons, Berkowitz, & Frodi, 1977). Even more disturbing, Berkowitz argued that cues associated with pain, frustration, suffering, and aversive stimuli in general may activate negative affect and increase the probability of aggression. Thus, Berkowitz and Frodi (1979) showed that when women university students were angered and distracted, they were more punitive when the child they were supervising was “funny looking” and stuttered. The activation of negative affect does not necessarily lead to aggression. Such behavior may be inhibited by either fear of punishment or empathic concerns, and a person may learn to respond with other behaviors. However, a person is susceptible to the influence of negative moods and external stimulation, and aggressive behavior is a “natural” response to negative affect that will tend to occur whenever self-control is reduced.

Biological Perspectives

From a biological perspective, many species of animals exhibit aggressive behavior, and we may consider a good deal of this to be instinctually based. Inasmuch as this is so, there are constraints on the ease with which we can modify aggressive behavior.The concept of instinct can be approached from the view of contemporary behavioral evolutionary theory or from its original conception as used by Freud.

Behavioral Evolution

Rather than view aggressive behavior as a learned response, we may conceptualize aggression as the product of evolutionary processes, that is, behavior patterns based on genetic influences that have persisted because they have been adaptive, helping members of a species survive in specific environments. Thus, we may find aggressive patterns of behavior programmed into the nervous system because the genes that served as the basis for these programs were selected by the reproduction of the organisms that possessed them. In its original conception, instinctual behavior was viewed as a sort of drive that, like hunger, was directed toward a goal, building if it were not satisfied and becoming less and less particular about the ideal goal object until it could be satisfied by something that would not ordinarily be chosen. However, it is difficult to imagine the goal of an aggressive drive because there are so many different functions for aggression. There is the aggression involved in predation, in the defense of the young, in the struggle between males for mates, and so on. It may be better to consider instinctual aggression as comprised of particular behavior patterns that can be released by particular cues in the environment. We may then consider both internal and external factors that may influence these aggressive patterns, as well as how the patterns may have adaptive significance. For example, in most species males engage in more intraspecies aggression than females, and this aggression is involved in the competition to fertilize females. In some species the struggle for mates involves the establishment and defense of territory and may function to spread members of a species out over territory, thus preserving food supplies.

When we examine the human species, we find that societies vary widely in the amount of aggression. However, within any given society males always appear more aggressive than females. Observational studies find boys more aggressive than girls (E. E. Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974); teenage males are more apt to offer more violent solutions (Archer & McDaniel, 1995); and violent crimes are more apt to be committed by men (J. Q. Wilson & Herrnstein, 1985). However, Straus and Gelles (1990) suggested that within-family aggression may be as prevalent in females.

The sex differences in aggression that are found appear to be related to testosterone, which seems to influence both the development of the brain and some of the physiology underlying current behavior (R. T. Rubin, 1987). However, the exact relationship between testosterone and aggression is unclear, in part because behaving aggressively appears to affect the release of testosterone and because testosterone levels may be related more to dominance behavior than to aggression as intent to hurt. Mazur and Booth (1998) argued that testosterone both rises in response to a challenge to dominance and increases in winners and decreases in losers. Alternatively, van Creveld (2000) argued that males gravitate toward violence because their bodies are better adapted for aggressive combat and because the exercise of this advantage is a way for men to solve the existential problem posed by the fact that they cannot bear children. They justify their existence by insisting on the necessity of violence and their preeminence in its exercise.

In humans, as in other animals, it is easy to imagine how aggressive behavior in a conflict between males could result in the reproductive advantage of stronger males and, hence, that the genes of aggressive males would be more likely to be reproduced in specific environments (Daly & Wilson, 1985). However, if we imagine early humans as existing in huntergatherer groups, it seems clear that cooperative behavior within the group would also contribute to survival. Even when the sacrifices involved in such cooperation might result in a disadvantage for a particular individual and his or her genes, genes related to cooperative behavior might be preserved if the cooperation favored kin or others who reciprocated the cooperation, or if the penalty of not cooperating was high, or (in certain conditions) if the group itself benefited (see D. S. Wilson & Sober, 1994). It seems probable that the genetics favoring cooperative behavior may offset those favoring male in-group aggressiveness. However, this may not be so when we consider intergroup combat. Thus, it has been noted that boys evidence more intragroup cooperation than girls when their group is in competition (Shapira & Madsen, 1974). In his studies on the conflict between Hindus and Muslims, Kakar (1996) observed that when boys and girls were asked to construct an “exciting” scene with toys and dolls identifiable as Hindu or Muslim, the boys constructed scenes of violence whereas the girls created scenes of family life. Further, Thompson (1999) has pointed out that group selection may also have favored the selection of aggressive individuals who are willing to die for their group when it is in combat.

Freudian Theory

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is written from a biological perspective that is based on the older idea of instincts as drives or needs. The development of his thinking about aggression is complex and has been described and critiqued by Fromm (1973). Taken literally, few would agree with Freud’s conceptualization. However, on a metaphoric level his theory allows a rather elegant statement of a viable theoretical position, best expressed in his letter to Albert Einstein on the cause of war (Freud, 1933). Working in the manner of evolutionary biologists today, Freud assumed that early humans lived in small groups. He postulated that these groups were initially dominated by the compelling aggression of the strongest male. This dominance could eventually be overcome by an aggressive union of weaker males. However, such a union had to be maintained by the growth of law and feelings of unity. As Freud (1933, p. 276) put it, “Here, I believe we have all the essentials: violence overcome by the transference of power to a larger unity, which is held together by emotional ties between its members.” As Freud surveyed history he was not encouraged by what he saw. Although aggression within groups is contained by laws that are enforced by group union, there is no way to contain aggression between groups. Some propose the ideal of a union between groups, but a mere ideal is not sufficient to overcome the aggressive drive of independent groups, and powerful groups are unwilling to grant sufficient power to a superordinate body.

In spite of the apparent cogency of the previous arguments, it should be noted that the consensus of contemporary social scientists is that there is no instinctual press for war per se. Thus, the group gathered at Seville to examine the problem declared, “It is scientifically incorrect when people say that war cannot be ended because it is part of human nature” (UNESCO, 1991, p. 10). The reasoning behind such a statement is well explicated by Fromm (1973). He pointed out that war, like slavery, is a human institution. Early huntergatherer groups had no reason to engage in warfare because there were no goods to plunder. Far from being an aspect of “primitive” man, warfare develops along with the development of civilization. Agriculture and animal husbandry lead to surpluses and the development of specializations and hierarchies of power that then become involved in the conquest of other peoples. Fromm pointed out that there were and still are peaceful peoples, as well as evidence for a relatively high degree of civilization in a number of matrilocal societies that existed before warfare began. Of course, these facts do not preclude a possible instinctive base for the in-group biases that are so prevalent whenever groups must share resources. Culture interfaces with a biological base for both cooperation and violence. Although chimpanzees show extensive cooperative behavior, Blanchard and Blanchard (2000) pointed out that they also form raiding parties and that this aggressiveness is inhibited when they are afraid.

Conflict Theories

Rather than focus on aggression as the response of individuals, we may examine the role it plays in the relations between people, as a way of wining conflicts, establishing dominance, or managing impression. This more sociological approach may be linked to both emotion and biology. Regarding emotion, I proposed that anger is best regarded as a response to a challenge to what a person asserts ought to exist (de Rivera, 1977, 1981). I argued that when persons become angry, they are attempting to remove a challenge in a way that is analogous to an animal defending territory. Learned aggressive responses are recruited to serve this end.

Considering aggression as an aspect of conflict is close to the biological perspective in that it considers the function of aggression in a specific cultural environment. In game theory the choice of a competitive or mistrustful, rather than cooperative, strategy may be regarded as involving aggression in the sense that benefits to the self are sought without regard for injury to the other. Research shows how many situations seduce persons to play aggressively even when this is not in their best interest (Deutsch, 1958). And the game theory used in the study of conflict is enriched by utilizing the perspective of evolutionary biology (D. S. Wilson, 1998).

Scheff (1999) asserted that emotional sequences play a crucial role in both interpersonal and intergroup conflict, and he focused on the roles of pride and shame as signals of solidarity and alienation. He argued that if shame is acknowledged, connections of solidarity and trust can be built. However, shame is often unacknowledged. Such unacknowledged shame may involve painful feeling with little ideation and is often signaled by furtiveness. When it is bypassed, it involves rapid thoughts that occur with little feeling and is accompanied by hostility or withdrawal from the other in ways that mask the shame. The unacknowledged shame feeds on itself, and the person becomes ashamed that he or she is ashamed, experiences a panic state, or enters a humiliated fury. A typical pattern is to mask the shame with anger, and Scheff sees such shame-anger loops at the heart of destructive conflicts. He suggested that they account for the need for vengeance and are at the heart of deterrence strategy. The danger of appearing weak, the underlying unacknowledged shame, is euphemistically treated as face-saving and status competition.

Seeing aggression as an aspect of conflict reminds us that at least two parties are involved and that aggression increases as the parties respond to one another. In their examination of conflicts between individuals, groups, and nations, J. Z. Rubin, Pruitt, and Kim (1994) described how conflicts escalate in aggressiveness. This escalation occurs in different ways: Influence attempts move from light to heavy tactics, from persuasive attempts to threats and violence; issues proliferate from small to large so that parties become increasingly involved in the conflict and commit more resources to it; issues move from the specific to the general so that the relationship between parties deteriorates; motivation shifts from simply doing well for the self to winning and then to hurting the other; and participants may grow from few to many. Thus, the strength of the aggressive responses (from a harsh word to a physical threat), the generalization of the attack (from one aspect of behavior to a description of character), and the extensity of the conflict (from a disagreement over one thing to disagreements over many) all may increase.

Fortunately, such conflicts often subside, decreasing as forbearance prevails, tempers cool, and apologies are made.This is particularly true when the parties to the conflict have common interests and a history of cooperation. However, conflicts that spiral and escalate may lead to structural changes that make it difficult for the conflict to subside. These involve psychological transformations. When groups are involved, there are changes in group and community dynamics. The psychological changes that occur involve the development of negative attitudes and beliefs about the other, the development of competitive and hostile goals, and the deindividuation and dehumanization discussed earlier. As R. K. White (1984) described, an intensely negative image of the other begins to develop, and the other becomes regarded as immoral, inhuman, and evil. When groups are involved, they become polarized. They become increasingly extreme in hostile attitudes and develop norms that resist compromise as well as contentious group goals that contribute to in-group solidarity at the expense of the out-group. They select militant leaders, become more liable to the problems of groupthink (Janis, 1983), and initiate the development of militant subgroups. The entire community may become polarized as members are forced to choose sides and neutrality becomes impossible without one’s loyalty becoming questioned.

Violence and Its Control

Violence seems to imply a damaging of the other, a hurting that is more than temporary pain. However, what is considered to be violent often seems to depend on one’s side. Thus, Blumenthal, Kahn, Andrews, and Head (1972) found that persons tend to distinguish between the violence of those they dislike and the “justified force” of groups they favor. Further, the violence that is ordinarily considered is the direct violence involved in using force to injure, damage, or destroy a person or to violate unjustly a person’s rights. We tend to overlook indirect violence. In this section on violence we consider the many forms of direct violence that occur between persons, within communities, and in and between societies. However, we also consider the violence that is done when human beings are distorted and prevented from developing their potential, the structural violence described by Galtung (1969).

Personal Violence

Violence often occurs in an interpersonal context. We first consider men who are particularly prone to violence, and then examine family violence, rape, and bullying.

Violent Men

Men committed about 90% of the violent crimes between 1960 and 1980 in the United States (J. Q. Wilson & Herrnstein, 1985). Although this percentage is changing (it is now 83%), men are more apt to be involved, and some are particularly prone to violence. Thus, Berkowitz (1993) cited a number of studies that present evidence for a degree of violent consistency across situations and across time. For example, Farrington (1989) reported on a longitudinal study of 400 working-class males that lived in a section of London. Youths and their parents were periodically interviewed; teachers rated their behavior; and court records were examined. Of the 100 youths who were most aggressive at age 9, 14% had been convicted of a violent offense by age 21 as compared with 4% of the other boys.

Aggressive scripts appear to be much more prevalent in some subcultures, are available to groups, and are promoted by negative affect. Thus, Dunning, Murphy, and Williams (1988) documented how the British football hooligans, who “have an aggro” and violently attack strangers, are workingclass males who grow up in families where they witness, receive, and are coached in violence until many enjoy the skills and thrills involved. However, it should also be noted that the studies showing how particular people are prone to violence also reveal the inaccuracy of prediction over time. Many people change to become more or less aggressive as they age. And it must also be realized that the reactions of others can amplify initial marginal deviance so that greater problems develop (Caprara & Zimbardo, 1996).

What are the motivations behind violent crime? Using peer interviews of 69 men who had records for repeated violence, Toch (1969/1993) distinguished nine types of motivational processes. His most frequent classification (used to describe 28 cases) involved the promoting or defending of a self-image that seemed to be constructed as a compensation for the fact that the person was not convinced of his own worth. By contrast, another 16 cases involved a basic egocentrism that evidenced a complete lack of empathy with others, who were simply seen as objects. Although Toch demonstrated that his classification can be used with some reliability, it is clear that often more than one process is involved, and his main concern was to point out that violence should not be treated as homogeneous. He also pointed out that once a man has been involved in violence, he may develop a habit of using violence. Violence creates its own needs and reinforces the very insecurities and egocentricity that was its source, and a person may define the self in a way that makes violence more probable in the future.

Baumeister and Campbell (1999) distinguished three distinct processes that they believe may be involved in an intrinsic appeal to commit violent acts (as opposed to instrumental motives for either selfish or idealistic ends). They differentiated sadism (the pleasure of inflicting suffering or terror involved in Toch’s bullying category) from violent thrill seeking. They argued that the former is an addictive process, while the latter is more the sporadic sensation seeking of the bored (and often drunk and impulsive). They estimated that sadism may develop in about 5% of persons who are repeatedly violent and possibly explained by Solomon’s (1980) opponent process theory. By contrast, they saw violent thrill seeking as motivated by boredom combined with high sensation seeking and low impulse control (and more likely to occur under the influence of alcohol). Both processes are, of course, opposed by any guilt feelings an individual may have.

A third process involves threatened egoism and, at first glance, appears to be related to Toch’s category of self-image promoting and defending. However, Toch views his category as involving persons who are not convinced of their own worth, while Baumeister and Campbell feel that the process they are describing is more a reaction when a narcissistic view of the self is threatened. This disparity may involve some important distinctions (along with some semantic and measurement issues). Baumeister, Smart, and Boden’s (1996) literature review seemed to show that aggressors tend to have favorable, even grandiose, views of the self, and Bushman and Baumeister’s (1998) laboratory study showed the highest aggression coming from the injured self-esteem of insulted narcissists. However, the review article often involved the aggression of psychopaths and rapists whom Toch would classify as egocentric, and narcissism also implies egocentricity. We may need to distinguish the inflated (and narcissistic) self-esteem of the bully from the poor self-esteem of other violent persons.

The previous analyses are useful in understanding persons whose violence is not condoned by the society in which they live, but how may we understand the tolerated violence of leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, or Poi Pot, lieutenants such as Himmler or Goering, or the masses involved in publicly sponsored killings such as those that occurred in the Roman coliseum or any number of blatant purges and massacres? Although we may assume a certain amount of egocentricity, objectification, and lack of empathy, there appear to be deeper motivational reasons, the sort of instinctual tendency for destruction postulated by Freud. An alternative is suggested by Fromm’s (1973) analysis of destructive character structure. Fromm distinguished between a biologically adaptive aggression that humans share with other animals and a malignant aggression that is distinctly human and maladaptively destructive, a point discussed more fully when we consider the nature of evil. One of the character structures he describes involves the worship of technique and the fusion of technique with the destructiveness seen in modern warfare. This may be objectively measured and related to political attitudes that favor military power and the repression of dissent (see M. Maccoby, 1972).

Family Violence

Although there are obvious differences between child abuse and domestic violence, it seems important to relate these two types of violence to each other and to the rather neglected topic of sibling abuse. For example, Patterson (1982) showed that the families of antisocial and abused children fail to provide consistent and effective discipline when children are aggressive, fail to monitor their whereabouts, and do not provide positive reinforcement for prosocial skills. He suggested that in such families, a problem child learns to be aggressive by attacking and dominating siblings, and a sample of such children shows that they attack siblings at almost 10 times the normal rate, as well as being involved in hitting their fathers and mothers and being hit by them (Patterson, 1986).

One often thinks of child abuse as involving physical or sexual abuse. However, by far the most prevalent form of abuse involves neglect. Thus, Sedlak (1990) reported an incidence rate of 14.6 per 1,000 as contrasted with rates of 4.9 for physical abuse and 2.1 for sexual abuse. Parental neglect usually occurs in situations of low family income and education and often where there is a high level of stress and a lack of social support (Garbarino, 1991). In such situations there is probably less parental maturity, less knowledge about child development, and a greater degree of attachment disturbances. Further, mothers (and one presumes fathers) may be quite depressed, and this may contribute to the neglect of children (see Pianta, Egeland, & Erickson, 1989). Poverty and the lack of social support also appear to be a factor in both physical and sexual abuse.

Azar (1991) pointed out that in order to understand fully how abuse occurs we must look at the interpersonal dynamics that occur within the social context. Her investigations of abusive mothers reveal that they often misperceive a child’s behavior. If a 3-year-old spills a glass of milk, the mother may perceive willful disobedience and may lack the skills to cope with what she perceives as a challenge to her authority. Learned patterns of aggression that occur in a situation perceived as a struggle for dominance may account for a good deal of physical abuse. In any case, in their review of theories of child abuse, Azar, Povilaitis, Lauretti, and Pouquette (1998) argued that the best way to understand child abuse is to focus on how a parent interacts with a child in a social situation that is influenced by both societal and cultural factors. The interaction will be influenced by a child who may be more or less pleasing and difficult and by a mother who may have more or less parental and social skills, impulse control, and ability to manage stress. And the interaction occurs in a context that may or may not provide helpful or aggressive models, be stressful, or lend social support. To some extent this overall model for understanding may also be applicable to sexual abuse. However, sexual abuse seems less dependent on societal stress and more on personality factors such as high familial dependence, psychopathy, or pedophilic tendencies (Rist, 1979), or, more generally, as having its origin within perpetrators rather than in the interaction between perpetrator and victim (Haugaard, 1988).

Domestic abuse in the sense of partner abuse is often attributed to male batterers, and the U.S. Department of Justice (1995) reported about twice as many wives and girlfriends killed by husbands and boyfriends as the converse (1,500:700). However, a telephone survey of 6,000 married or cohabiting couples found that as many females as males appeared to be involved in partner violence (Straus & Gelles, 1990). In many cases of extreme violence the superior physical strength of the males was offset by the more frequent use of weapons by females. In a similar vein, surveys of lesbian couples have found as much or more violence as in heterosexual couples (Waldner-Haugrud, Gratch, & Magruder, 1997).

Regardless of the degree to which violence in perpetrated by males, it seems important to distinguish between different sorts of perpetrators. Holtzworth-Munroe (2000) distinguished between three groups of men involved in marital violence: Those who become violent within the family only as a result of an inability to manage conflict escalation; those who have difficulty with trust issues and become overly dependent on their wives, resorting to violence when their needs are not met; and those who are antisocial and violent in all relationships. Clearly, the management of domestic abuse in each of these cases requires quite different strategies. In some cases couples therapy seems appropriate, but in others it would simply prolong abuse. In some cases separation offers a solution. However, Hart (1992) reported that about 75% of emergency room visits and calls to law enforcement, and 50% of the homicides, occur after separation.

Intervention programs attempting to teach men anger management and conflict resolution skills in small groups typically report a 53% to 83% success rate (Edleson, 1996). Although these rates are encouraging, the lower percentages occur when there is a longer follow-up time and when success is based on the reports of the victims or on arrest rates. Further, the rates are based on men who complete the programs (which last from 10 to 36 sessions) and appear to ignore differences in different types of abusers. In one evaluation, of about 500 men who contacted the program, only 283 attended the first session, and only 153 completed the sessions. Programs are also available for the treatment of aggressive women (see Leisring, Dowd, & Rosenbaum, in press), although these may face the same attendance problems as do the men’s programs.


Estimation of the prevalence of rape depends a great deal on how it is defined and how the statistics are collected (Muehlenhard, Powch, Phelps, & Giusti, 1992). In a welldesigned study involving over 3,000 college women, 15% reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual penetration because a man had used physical force or given them alcohol or drugs, and an additional 12% reported having had to resist physical force (Koss, Gigycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). Few of these instances were reported, and many may not have been termed “rape” or recognized as such.

After years of study, Malamuth (1998) presented data showing that coercive sex is most apt to be perpetrated by males who have both an orientation toward impersonal sex (often related to a violent childhood) and a hostile masculinity (involving feelings of rejection and a desire to dominate women). To some extent these risk factors may be mitigated by the ability to empathize.

If the problem of sexual aggression were only a problem of restraining a relatively small percentage of males, it might be fairly easily addressed. Unfortunately, it seems clear that larger percentages can be influenced by subcultural norms in some gangs, military units, sports teams, and fraternities. These subcultures suggest that what seems like rape to some is merely normal masculine action. Such norms encourage the objectification of women as sexual objects and the reinforcement of rape myths (O’Toole, 1997). Fortunately, it appears that it may be possible to create intervention programs that decrease the acceptance of such norms (Flores & Hartlaub, 1998). However, it may also be possible to create conditions such as war that lead men to rape.

Although we have been examining rape as a form of personal violence, rape may also be used impersonally as an instrument of war (Copelon, 1995). Enloe (2000) pointed out the different ways in which such militarized rape may be used to achieve political objectives and may become institutionalized. The brutality of such rape is particularly devastating because victims are often subsequently rejected by their own communities (Turshen, 2000).

Bullying and Malicious Gossip

A defining aspect of bullying is that the behavior occurs repeatedly so that there is a pattern of abuse and intimidation (Boulton & Underwood, 1992). So defined, Bernstein and Watson (1997) reported that from 7% to 10 % of U.S. school children are victimized by about another 7% of the children who are active bullies. Similar percentages are found in Great Britain (Atlas & Pepler, 1998), with prevalence highest in the middle-school years. The average bully appears to have normal self-esteem (see Bernstein & Watson, 1997), and the average victim has less self-perceived social competence compared with other members of their peer group (Egan & Perry, 1998). There are a number of detrimental aspects to bullying. Those who are bullied feel unsafe at school and appear to be at risk for illness, failure, and depression (Wylie, 2000). The bullies begin to think that they can get what they want by using power to dominate others, something that often fails to work in adult life (Oliver, Hoover, & Hazler, 1994). In addition, the majority of children who witness the bullying typically feel fear and fail to intervene. Thus, they may be being trained to be ineffective bystanders. Fortunately, it is possible to train teachers, students, and parents in ways to intervene. Such training, involving the entire community, has proven effective in Scandinavia, where programs have reduced bullying by 50% (Olweus, 1991, 1993).

Community Violence

Although it sometimes takes personal forms, some types of violence are more communal than interpersonal. Among such forms are riots, gang extortion and warfare, and police violence. Although space considerations prevent an adequate discussion of these forms of violence, some contemporary work may be noted.


The failure of structural factors in predicting which cities would have the most commodity riots, together with difficulties in satisfactorily predicting which individuals would participate in them, has led McPhail (1994) to abandon both structural strain and relative deprivation as predictors and to advocate extending Snyder’s (1979) work of examining the factors that affect the interpersonal processes that assemble a riot. Such an approach inquires into communication patterns and the motives of individuals as they assemble to engage in collective goals. McPhail argued that it is important to distinguish between collective goals that do not intend violence (although violence may result) and collective goals that do intend violence (as is the case with England’s football hooligans). It would also seem wise to consider the group emotions that can occur when group members share attitudes and have a common sentience (see K. K. Smith & Crandell, 1984). Such group emotion may play a role in the generation of crowd violence in cases where police suppositions of violence may create a self-fulfilling prophecy of violence in sports fans (Stott & Reicher, 1998).

A nuanced account of the group emotions involved in riots is provided by Kakar’s (2000) description of the protracted communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Hyderabad, India. After a skillful delineation of economic, political, historical, demographic, social-psychological, and psychoanalytic accounts, he focused on the psychological shifts that occur at the outbreak of violence. He noted how the character of rumors begins to change from general threats to rumors that the body is threatened by previously benign substances, how the boundaries of individuals with peaceful religious identities and a basic sense of trust become replaced by a transcendent communal identity with a propensity for anxiety and violence, how individual behavior becomes governed by a different sort of morality, and how a history of coexistence is replaced by a history of violence. Of course, these shifts are perpetrated by demagogues, and much of the violence is perpetrated by gangs of young people, but Kakar’s point is that the entire community is caught up in altered identities and that certain norms are still in existence that enable people to return to their traditional religious identities and live in relative harmony after the violence subsides.

Gangs and Gang Warfare

In 1996 there were about 31,000 gangs with approximately 846,000 members in the United States (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998). It seems likely that gangs develop whenever societies fragment and lower-class males lack access to legitimate sources of power and prestige. It might be interesting to study gangs as quasi states. Certainly, delinquent gangs involve symbols of identification for group membership, territorial claims, leadership power struggles, in-group protection, and out-group antagonism (Capozzoli & McVey, 2000). When the Soviet Union collapsed, hundreds of violent groups emerged who, as Volkov (2000, p. 709) noted, “intimidated, protected, gathered information, settled disputes, gave guaranties, enforced contracts and taxed.” He argued that these entrepreneurs of violence created organizations that were essentially “violence-managing agencies.” The more successful gradually became legitimized by becoming involved in prosocial activities and absorbed in the process of state formation.

Hill, Howell, Hawkins, and Battin-Pearson (1999) noted four risk factors that predict adolescent involvement in gangs. On the community level these include poverty, high rates of mobility, and dysfunctional norms. Acrucial problem created by gang warfare (and by civil war in general) is the impact that violence has on children. Kostelny and Garbarino (2001) pointed out that in some Chicago neighborhoods, 38% of elementary school children have seen a dead body outside, and 21% have had someone threaten to shoot them. They have noted how repeated violence often leads to regression, a loss of trust, sense of no future, and increased aggressive behavior. They propose a series of measures to counteract these affects, including home visiting and early education programs, as well as specific violence prevention programs at both the elementary- and middle-school levels.

One might think that children who have suffered the sort of violence that occurs when civil society has disintegrated would themselves become violent. However, this is not necessarily so. What sort of moral character might develop in South Africa, where, after the violence of apartheid, children were subjected to criminal, domestic, and vigilante violence, often with a lack of clarity about the reasons for the violence? Dawes (1994) reported that the majority of children do not appear to have become violent or even to seek retaliation. In fact, many evidence an increased empathy. He points out that moral behavior is learned in a sociocultural context. People construct their identities and reputations as members of groups and learn moral conduct in settings that assign responsibility to the roles that people chose to play. Hence, children may learn that violence is called for in one situation but immoral in another. Although a culture may arise and lead some to assume violent roles, such violence is not automatically produced by being exposed to violence but is subject to the rhetoric and morality developed by a group in a situation.

Merely increasing the number of police in an area high in gang crime does not seem to be effective, but a study by Fritsch, Caeti, and Taylor (1999) suggested that if the additional police focus on curfew and truancy enforcement, it is possible to reduce gang-related crime. However, many investigators argue that suppression is less effective than social interventions that offer centers of activity for at-risk youth before they become involved in gangs (Spergel & Grossman, 1997), and there is some evidence that such centers are effective alternatives (Thurman, Giacomazzi, Reisig, & Mueller, 1996).

The Use of Violence in Social Control

Unfortunately, the process of maintaining social control often involves violence and far more violence than appears justifiable. In fact, it may be argued that punishment and the use of any violence, as opposed to an aggressive use of force and physical restraint, fails to deter violence and cannot be justified (Gilligan, 2000). When violence is used, it may occur in the form of police violence in the streets or violence within prisons in the form of torture or cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States the reported instances of death from police violence are relatively low, about 300 deaths per year. It seems evident that laws and strong civilian control must demand a professional force that minimizes the use of violence and that excellent training is crucial. Toch, Grant, and Galvin (1974) argued that the best way to achieve control over unacceptable police violence is to have peer review panels who review all arrest reports, tally deployed violence, and work with those officers who exceed a predefined number of incidents. Such officers are helped to understand their behavior and create alternative approaches to handling the situations that provoked their violence. When their incidents decrease, they themselves are enlisted to become members of the panel.

In the United States an increasing number of persons are being imprisoned: The prison population in maximumsecurity prisons more than doubled from 1987 to 1997. There are now over 1.6 million persons in federal and state prisons, and inmates outnumber guards 38 to 1 (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). Note that this figure does not include persons in county and city jails. Much of this increase is due to nonviolent drug offenders and targets African American and Black men. As Haney and Zimbardo (1998) pointed out, the increased use of imprisonment reflects a policy choice to imprison individual lawbreakers rather than to correct the social conditions that contribute to crime. There are troubling indications that the increased privatization of prisons is leading to abusive practices such as the increased use of stun belts and solitary confinement. Further, there is every indication that prisons are failing to rehabilitate a majority of those who are incarcerated. Thus, Beck and Shipley (1997) reported that an estimated 62.5% of the prisoners released from 11 state prisons were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of their release and that 41.4% were returned to prison or jail. Many prisons appear to be dominated by gangs (Lerner, 1984), and violence and domination occur between inmates and are often used by guards. It is evident that most prisons are providing an environment that encourages learning violence rather than responsibility (Haney & Zimbardo, 1998).

There are managerial approaches that reduce violence (Reisig, 1998), vocational programs that offer structure and reduce assault rates (McCorkle, Miethe, & Drass, 1995), and educational programs that reduce violence and recidivism (Matthews & Pitts, 1998). However, neither governmental officials nor the American public seems willing to spend money on what is often seen as coddling prisoners. There appears to be a general attitude that favors punishment over rehabilitation, a general failure to distinguish between what might help different types of prisoners, and a general lack of compassion for those who find themselves in prison.

Torture is the most troublesome form of police violence, and it often leaves its victims crippled both physically and psychologically. This is particularly true when, as is often the case, the aim of the torture was not to obtain information but to intimidate and destroy a person so that he or she could no longer function as a leader of resistance to those in authority. While victims differ widely in their posttorture symptoms and some have demonstrated an incredible capacity to forgive and heal, many need both physical and psychological treatment. Elsass (1997) has described effective treatment methods, and the journal Torture is devoted to the prevention of torture and the rehabilitation of its victims.

As defined in the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture involves the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, by or with the agreement of a public official, in order to obtain information or a confession, or to punish, intimidate, or coerce. Perhaps the most evident indication of the extent of the problem is that by the year 2000 only 119 of the 188 member states had endorsed the rules against torture promulgated by the UN convention.

Amnesty International (2000) enumerated a 12-point program to eliminate torture. These include calling for every nation to officially condemn and enact laws against torture, refuse evidence obtained under torture, make the location of all prisoners known, allow prisoners to communicate, have all allegations of torture investigated by an authority independent of the prison system, have authorities clearly state their opposition to the use of torture, punish torturers, and compensate victims.

Societal Violence

Although community violence often reflects what is happening within a society, there are forms of violence that occur throughout the society in which communities are embedded. This include the violence in its media and the violence that occurs when a society engages in war, issubjected to civil war, ethnic violence, and genocide, or must deal with terrorism.

Media Violence

We saw how aggressive behavior can be learned by following the models provided on film and TV. Hence, it is troubling to note that Hepburn (1997) reported that 57% of the TV programs monitored at four different locations in the United States contained some sort of violence, whereas only 4% presented an antiviolence theme.American children are exposed to vast amounts of violence on TV; Signorelli, Gerber, and Morgan (1995) estimated that the average 12-year-old has seen over a 100,000 acts of violence. There is little doubt that this sort of exposure contributes to violence (see Eron, Heusmann, Lefkowitz, & Walder, 1996). The violence is most apt to be learned when an attractive perpetrator with whom the viewer can identify engages in justified and rewarded violence that fails to depict the harm suffered by the victim of the violence (S. L. Smith & Donnerstein, 1998).

Media violence appears to promote violence in a number of different ways (see Berry, Giles, & Williams, 1999). Besides modeling violent behavior and weakening inhibitions about violence, it numbs or desensitizes reactions to violence and decreases empathy for victims. Similar negative effects occur as a consequence of playing violent video games (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). Although the evidence for the danger of viewing violence is increasing, warnings against viewing such violence appear to be decreasing in the U.S. mass media (Bushman & Anderson, 2001).

Interstate Warfare

Richardson (1960a) began the statistical study of war when his concern for human life led him to define war in terms of human deaths rather than in terms of declarations or historical significance. Setting 1,000 deaths as a lower limit and the log of deaths as a scale of magnitude (thus 1,000 deaths is a magnitude-3 war), he argued that counting was the best antiseptic for prejudice and proceeded to count the wars between 1820 and 1945. He showed that many magnitude-6 wars (about a million deaths) were not remembered because they lacked political significance (e.g., the Taiping rebellion, the war in La Plata), and many of the 188 magnitude-3 wars were completely overlooked. He also established that the nation responsible for the most wars keeps changing in different periods so that focusing on containing any given aggressor cannot prevent war.

Richardson proposed a sort of molecular model of war that imagined nations as bumping up against each other, with some of these conflicts resulting in war. Those with more borders and energy have a greater chance of collisions. In accord with such a model, he shows that the number of wars that a nation fights correlates highly with its number of borders (he includes colonies in this count), and the number of wars breaking out in any given year follows a Poisson (chance) distribution. Factors we might think of as lessening the probability of war, such as common language or religion, do not. What does lessen the probability of war between peoples is the number of years in which they live under a common government. The probability of war decreases geometrically with each decade of common government.

Which disputes result in war? Vasquez and Henehan (2001) showed that the probability of war is greater when there is a territorial dispute than when there is a policy dispute. Wallace (1979), who investigated 99 serious international disputes occurring between 1815 and 1965, reported that 26 resulted in war and that in 23 of these cases the war was preceded by an arms race. There were only five cases where an arms race did not lead to war, and we are probably fortunate that the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union proved to be in this category.

When arms races occur, there is instability in the balance of power, and the race accelerates exponentially in a way that Richardson (1960b) can describe with a simple pair of differential equations. Basically, this elegant mathematical model reveals that races occur when a pair of nations are more afraid of each other than they are concerned with the cost to their own economy. A more complex model dealing with more than two nations and chaotic transitions is described by Behrens, Feichtinger, and Prskawetz (1997). Richardson’s model stresses deterministic factors, and Rapoport (1960) has pointed out how such an approach may be contrasted with an approach that involves strategic gaming over interests or struggles involving different ideologies. Applying this latter approach, R. Smith, Sola, and Spagnolo (2000) demonstrated that in the conflict between Greece and Turkey, the amount each nation spends on arms does not depend on what the other is spending but is a function of bureaucratic and political inertia. Current spending by the United States also appears to evidence this pattern.

Subsequent to Richardson’s work, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has kept an ongoing account of wars that focuses on number of deaths. Their statistics reveal millions of largely overlooked deaths, with 10 magnitude6 wars that have occurred since 1945 and about 30 wars going on in any given year. Over recent years the number of interstate wars has decreased while the number of intrastate (civil) wars has increased. There have also been an increasingly large percentage of civilian deaths, which now account for about 85% of the casualties. One ray of hope for decreasing interstate conflict is offered by statistics that demonstrate that fewer militarized disputes occur when nations have important trade relations and when nations are democracies (Oneal, Oneal, Maoz, & Russett, 1996). Under such conditions war is not in the interest of those in power. However, these statistics do not consider support for covert interference, as in the U.S. involvement in overthrowing the democratically elected governments of Guatemala and Chile. Nor do they consider that the number of reasonably democratic nations is not high and that the conditions for democracy may be difficult to achieve (see de Rivera, in press). Nevertheless, we are reminded that interstate war is not inevitable.

Civil War, Ethnic Violence, and Genocide

Although civil wars sometimes simply reflect a struggle for power within a dominant group, they often involve ethnic group interests or ideological differences that become involved in a struggle for power. Their complexity is nicely captured in a series of case studies that deal with the wars in CentralAmerica, Ireland, Israel, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka from a psychological point of view. In Ireland (Cairns & Darby, 1998), Sri Lanka (J. D. Rogers, Spencer, & Uyangoda, 1998), and many other nations, important ethnic groups have both inflicted and experienced the sort of prejudicial treatment so aptly demonstrated in Tajfel’s (1982) studies. Niens and Cairns (2001) applied social identity theory to the understanding of ethnic conflict and have concluded that overcoming the stereotypes that are involved requires contact situations in which people’s group memberships are more rather than less emphasized.

In considering these disputes it is important to note that there are often many people within each group who are willing to treat the other group fairly. However, extremists within each group oppose any efforts to take the interests of the other group into consideration. Rather than creating a common intergroup political front, the moderates appear constrained by their intragroup identity with their extremists so that rational compromises that would be in the interest of both groups are impossible to achieve. Some methods that may be helpful in resolving these conflicts will be discussed when techniques of negotiation are considered.

Gurr (1996) identified 268 politically significant national and minority peoples (about 18% of the world’s population), three fourths of whom experienced political disadvantages. Almost 100 of these groups participated in violent conflict between 1945 and 1990. He argued that it is important to recognize the grievances of minorities, the fact that cultural identities are important aspects of human being, and that it is not always possible to assimilate a minority culture. Acritical problem is posed by the fact that conflicting parties often find it difficult to create a common historical narrative. An example is furnished by Rouhana and Bar-Tal’s (1998) balanced account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Gottlieb (1993) argued that some conflicts may be managed by allowing people to have two identities, a formal national identity and a state identity. The national identity could control some language use in education, local law, and marriage rites. The state identity could control currency, border defense, and other factors necessary for a nation-state to survive in a global economy. Psychologically, such an arrangement makes sense because, as Brewer (1999) notes, it is quite possible to have a positive in-group identity that is independent of negative attitudes toward out-group members. Such in-group identities may be less threatened when clear boundaries between groups are recognized within the bounds of a common state.

In some nation-states, such as in Turkey in 1915, Germany in the 1930s, Iraq in the 1980s, and Rwanda in the 1990s, political decisions lead to genocide. Most students of genocide argue that genocides are not the inevitable results of ethnic differences. They point to the fact that people often have lived together peacefully for years, often with a considerable amount of intermarriage. The genocide occurs when leaders emphasize group identity, often in order to consolidate power or mobilize support in a power struggle. Yet the genocide is only possible when rapidly arousing fear and hatred. In the case of Rwanda, D. N. Smith (1998) argued that official hate propaganda combined with projective sexual envy, a belief in sorcery, authoritarianism, and a breakdown in traditional restraints and opportunities.

Staub (1989) examined a number of genocides in an attempt to conceptualize the common processes involved. He finds that they occur under circumstances of material deprivation and social disorganization that frustrate basic human needs. In such circumstances, individuals feel helpless and increasingly rely on their group membership. The seeds of genocide are sown if the group develops a destructive ideology in which an enemy group is perceived to stand in the way of the fulfillment of a hopeful vision. The conditions for the genocide evolve as violence begins to occur and is justified by an increasing devaluation of the enemy group, a devaluation that may easily be mobilized for political purposes. Although Staub emphasized that genocide is the outcome of normal group processes, he noted that there appear to be cultural preconditions. These include prejudices that become part of a cultural background, an ideology of antagonism, and the lack of a pluralistic culture. In many cases there also appears to be a particularly strong respect for authority that makes it difficult to resist immoral orders and may contribute to the threat and anxiety experienced when authority is unable to fulfill basic needs.

Once civil war has occurred, processes of reconciliation must restore the fabric of the society. The difficulties are immense, requiring a balance between needs for justice, the saving of face, and the support of sources of power that may be implicated by revelations of human rights abuses. Above all, as Lederach (1997) observed, the relationship between groups must change so that out-group members are no longer excluded from one’s moral framework, and this must occur at the grassroots level as well as at the level of top leadership. Lederach stressed the need for years of work in rebuilding trust in teams from different strata of the society. He showed that such reconciliation requires the assistance of third parties who can accompany disputants with an attitude of humility as they, both individuals and communities, wrestle with the problems of combining truth, justice, and mercy.

Governmental initiative is often required, and certainly the most successful effort to date has been the South African government’s establishment of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Rather than attempting to punish those responsible for the torture and murders that occurred during the maintenance of apartheid, the commission was charged with establishing what happened—making known the fate of victims and providing them with the opportunity to relate their accounts and achieve some measure of reparation, facilitating the amnesty of offenders who made full disclosure, and recommending measures to prevent future violations (de la Rey, 2001). Although justice was not achieved in the sense of adequate reparations, of punishment of the guilty, or even of an adequate admission of guilt or request for forgiveness, the public hearings held by the commission provided a forum that allowed a public acknowledgment of what had happened and the establishment of a common moral framework. In contrast to the situation in Argentina, where there is still no public recognition for the abuses under the military dictatorship or condemnation of those involved in torture and disappearances, the South African public can speak of what occurred and move on with a new public identity and history.


Terrorism may be distinguished from the guerilla tactics of rebels who are fighting a military opponent within their own territory. Terrorism involves random attacks on civilians as a means of gaining political ends and has been used by both states and revolutionaries (J. R. White, 1998). In the former case, a government that is engaged in a war attempts to destroy its opponent’s will to fight, or a despotic government maintains its power by creating an emotional climate of terror that prevents the organization needed for political opposition (de Rivera, 1992). In the latter case, groups without access to political power use terror to publicize their grievances, extort concessions, or overthrow a regime that is experienced as repressive. All cases involve the training for aggression and moral desensitization described in the section on aggression. However, terrorism is situated in historical circumstances that have interesting and largely unexplored psychological aspects.

An example is provided by the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States. Most of the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Although the government is repressive in that there are no ways to express discontent, the United States supports the regime in exchange for access to oil. The alternative to the king Monarchy would probably be an Islamic state rather than a secular democracy. Such a state is fundamentally religious and is conceived hierarchically rather than democratically. Vatikiotis (1986) noted that it is not based on the skepticism, experimentation, and tolerance essential to pluralistic politics. It is based on a different psychology, and its stability would require the cultivation of a different set of emotional relationships and customs (de Rivera, in press). Hence, we are dealing with the problems of psychological identity and the ambiguous role of religion that will be considered when we discuss the nature of evil. An examination of past attempts to deal with revolutionary terrorism suggests that the more successful have involved meeting the underlying needs that fuel the terrorism, as well as the suppression of terrorist elements.

Structural Violence

The concept of structural violence has been articulated by Galtung (1969, 19751980, 1996) to capture how economic and political structures may place constraints on the human potential. It sees violence as present when humans are diminished and points to the fact that this occurs when social structures prevent the meeting of human needs. Galtung pointed out that modern society is organized hierarchically and that those on top often use their position in ways that exploit those below, preventing them from having the resources they need. The top dogs are in control of resource distribution, and their decisions determine who has access to education, health care, and good jobs. Further, he argued that the top dogs maintain their power by a series of devices that work against the underdogs organizing a resistance.

One measure of structural violence is furnished by the human poverty index (HPI; United Nations Development Programme, 1999). This index uses five variables that reflect the loss of potentials that could be resolved by public policies. These are the percentage of the population dying before age 40, the percentage of underweight children (under age 5), the percentages of the population without access to potable water and without health care, and the percentage of illiterate adults.

It is important to realize that the hierarchies of power and privilege that exist within each society are connected to those in other societies in ways that support one another. The top dogs in a poor nation are often quite wealthy and well connected to the top dogs in other nations, so they are positioned to use aid in ways that maintain their power. Although Galtung does not deny that domestic problems may generate international conflict, he stresses that many domestic problems are exacerbated by the policies of exploitation of the elites in powerful countries. The entire system—the hierarchies and the connections between them—completely masks the responsibility for the terrible violence that it occasions. For specific examples from Sub-Saharan Africa see Nathan (2000) and Tandon (2000).

While we have discussed both direct violence and the structural violence that can be attributed to greed and the fear of losing power, a considerable amount of violence on both the personal and state level is motivated by what can only be considered as “good” motives. As Butigan (1999, p. 13) pointed out, “Violence is often motivated by fear, unrestrained anger, or greed to increase domination or power over others. It can also be motivated by a desire for justice in the face of injustice: a longing to put things right, to overcome an imbalance of power, or end victimization or oppression.” This fact requires us to look at the nature of evil.


While aggression and violence are largely matters of fact, evil involves a moral judgment. We must consider how it is conceptualized and how religions attempt to contain it.

Conceptions of Evil and Its Experience

What is meant by evil? Berkowitz (1999) argued that it should be distinguished from mundane badness and that there is a commonly shared prototype for evil. This prototype reflects action that not only is morally wrong but also reveals an excessive departure from social norms. The judgment of evil has to do with the helplessness of victims, the responsibility of the perpetrator, and the imbalance between the great wrong that is done for a relatively small gain.

Staub (1999) argued that a conscious intention to destroy is not a necessary aspect of evil. Rather, the word evil is appropriately used to categorize the repetition of intensely harmful actions that are not commensurate with instigating conditions. He recognizes that the term communicates horror, and although he is opposed to romanticizing evil as mythic and incomprehensible, he believes that the concept of evil may be a useful way to mobilize prosocial group norms. As an example of evil and the need for the concept, he discusses the evil involved in bystanders who allow genocides to occur. Stohl (1987) showed that nations are typically bystanders, and this is reflected in the minimal news devoted to accounts of genocidal actions. However, the judgment that genocide is evil is reflected by the development of an international norm against genocide that may eventually be enforced by the establishment of a permanent international court.

Without the concept of evil it might be easy for people to avoid making judgments that need to be made. In this regard, Miller, Gordon, and Buddie (1999) have evinced concern that situational explanations of criminal actions may result in persons’ condoning such actions. They demonstrate that when persons make judgments after situational explanations, they have less unfavorable attitudes and punitive responses toward the perpetrator. However, they do not show that the criminal action is condoned, and many would argue that the action rather than the person should be considered evil. To consider a person or group evil may evade an examination of the situational conditions.

Although psychologists have considered the concept of evil, they have not yet addressed evil as an experience. The concept of evil implies an objective judgment; the evil is experienced as “real.” Of course, one may argue that evil and all values are really subjective and relative—simply what a person likes or wants. Value in this view is reduced to what someone is willing to pay. Yet we continue to experience value as existing apart from ourselves and as different from mere taste. As F. Heider (1958) asserted, value differs from what we want. It is characterized by what an objective order wants. We experience goodness and evil as objective in nature, as existing apart from our judgment of them, although we may recognize that our judgment may be faulty and may change with time. In the latter regard, Rozin, Markwith, and Stoess (1997) pointed out that smoking has recently become moralized. That is, smoking is now regarded by many as bad in a moral sense, an object of disgust. Note that the process of moralization involves emotional responses that help constitute the very value that is perceived as objective.

Evil exists in relation to what is Good, and the latter is what is necessary for life, for fertility, health, and success in getting food and outwitting enemies. In any society that is not completely secularized, Goodness exists because humans exist and could not exist without it. Evil is more problematic. Although some persons and religions regard Evil as essential and in primary opposition to the Good, others view it as secondary and existing because of the actions of humans; still others view it as illusory, as existing only as an object of our perception. Likewise, the relationship between Good and Evil may be seen in different ways. Evil may be viewed as a malevolent force or as ignorance, as repellant to Goodness or as the simple absence of Goodness. Thus, it may be symbolized as an active Devil or as darkness, as destructive choice or as the obstacles between humans and Goodness. Ricoeur (1967) pointed out that humans have symbolized evil in three quite different ways that reflect different experiences and conceptualizations. As stain, evil is contagious, and one may unintentionally become contaminated by its impurity. As sin, evil is a ruptured relationship with God, a departure from a path or missing of the mark that may be affected by the actions of one’s people. As guilt, evil is a personal responsibility that occurs because of one’s intentions. In all cases, one is removed from Goodness and must be relived of the stain, sin, or guilt in order to reconnect with Goodness.

  1. G. Heider (1991) argued that in some cultures the basic moral conflict of life is more between order and disorder than between good and evil. Thus, in Indonesian and Japanese films the dominant concern appears to be the restoration of order rather than the triumph of the good over the bad. This may be related to a cultural tendency to see persons as more socially embedded than individually autonomous. The “villain” is not inherently bad but is more an agent of disorder who is easily welcomed back into the fold once order is restored. However, the restoration of order may involve the recognition of evil and its removal. Thus, Wessells and Monteiro (2001) described how child soldiers who have engaged in unjustified killings may participate in purification ceremonies to be reintegrated into the community.

Every society, and certainly our own, appears to have myths about evil, perhaps because we humans seem to need to give meaning to our suffering. In Western society, Ricoeur (1967) distinguished four such myths that continue to influence our thinking: the Greek tragic and Platonic myths and the Babylonian and Judaic creation myths. Each views the source of evil quite differently. In the Babylonian myth, the world is created in the process of a power struggle between the gods; violence is used to create the order that prevents the agony of chaos; and humans must serve the state in order to prevent chaos. By contrast, in the Judaic myth a God peacefully creates an essentially good world in which evil enters when people do what they are not supposed to do. Both of these myths are operative in our contemporary society. On the one hand, Wink (1992) has pointed out that much of the violence portrayed onTVexemplifies the Babylonian myth.That is, there is a power struggle between bad chaotic forces and good order, and the good guys use violence to restore order. Likewise, the strategic policy of the (putatively Christian) United States is actually based on the use of violence to maintain peace. On the other hand, the nation as a whole still subscribes to Judeo-Christian ideals of justice and believes in the freedom to choose between good and evil.

The Ambiguous Role of Religion

Taking Otto’s (1923) idea of the Holy as a starting point, Appleby (2000) argued that the sacred can either be the locus of violence as a sacred duty or a militant nonviolence dedicated to peace. Defining religion as a response to a reality that is perceived as sacred, he showed that it gives the authority to kill or to heal and argued that religious leadership determines which course is taken, appealing to religious identity either to exploit or to transcend ethnic animosities. On the one hand, Appleby showed how religion was an important element in the destruction of Bosnia and the development of Islamic terrorism. He distinguished fundamentalism as a response to secularization (describing the terrorist violence that developed in 2 of 10 such movements) from the ethnonationalistic use of religion (and often violence) to unify a state and discussed how both differ from cult violence. On the other hand, he gave concrete examples of dozens of Gandhi-like figures who have worked for peace and discussed the role that religious organizations have played in peace meditations. He convincingly demonstrated that religion is always a construction of a sacred past and has the potential to inculcate nonviolence as the religious norm. He argued that religious education should be devoted to this end and supported with the technical skills and material resources it needs to organize peace.

The choice between good and evil is central to Fromm’s (1955, 1973) analysis of evil. He pointed out that human beings, as distinct from all other animals, are aware of themselves as apart from nature and aware of their ultimate death. This existential dilemma creates common needs that must be met. These include needs for an object of devotion and for affective ties, unity, effectiveness and stimulation. Each can be met in either life-enhancing or life-destroying ways. An object of devotion can be an ideal or an idol; affective ties can be of love or sadomasochism; unity can be achieved by practicing an open religion or by losing the self in a trance state or a social role, effectiveness by creating or destroying, stimulation by active or passive excitation. Fromm sees these choices as determining whether a society and individual will become good or evil.

While Frommemphasized the role of choice in determining how to meet basic needs, both Staub (1999) and Burton (1990) saw evil as stemming from the frustration of basic needs such as security, identity, connective ties to others, effectiveness, control, and autonomy. They believe that if persons cannot fulfill these constructively, they will engage in destructive behavior. Such an analysis lies in our understanding of some of the conditions that promote destructive behavior and in encouraging those with power to consider the needs of others. However, the emphasis on need fulfillment appears to neglect the role of personal responsibility and the fact that a large amount of violence stems from greed. It reflects a liberal view of basic human goodness (if only needs were met by the state) as opposed to a conservative view that sees everyone as basically selfish (and needing the state to enforce law and order).

The previous analyses begin with the needs of individuals. By contrast, Macmurray (1961) argued that individuals exist only in relationships with others. He sees these relations as composed of two strands: a love (caring) for the other and a fear (concern) for the self. Although both strands are always present, one always dominates. When a caring for the other dominates, the person is unified. However, any real or perceived hurt, betrayal, or abandonment causes the fear for the self to dominate, and when this occurs a person suffers dualistic splits (mind from body, reason from emotion, the practical from the ideal, the self from the other). At this point a person (or society) may focus either on individualism (“if the other doesn’t care for me, I’d better care for myself”) or on a conforming collectivism (“if I’m good, then they will care for me”). Because people assume that others are similar, the former leads to a Hobbesian analysis (the need for a strong state to enforce contracts between basically selfish people), whereas the latter leads to Rousseau, Marx, and the idea that people are basically good and will agree about basic needs. However, Macmurray asserted that people must continually wrestle with the choice as to whether concern for the other or concern for the self will dominate action. In his view, selfdevelopment occurs only when acceptance, understanding, forbearance, and forgiveness lead to the restoration of the dominance of caring for the other. Then, a person’s unity is restored and, with it, the ability for genuine freedom and cooperation (see de Rivera, 1989).

How may we relate aggression to values of good and evil? In an attempt to distinguish between a “good” aggressive audacity, necessary for human progress, and an aggression that intends to destroy, Kelly (1965) proposed that the latter involves hostility. Hostility occurs when there is a threat to a person’s belief system and the person extorts evidence in an attempt to maintain beliefs and the way that one is living one’s life in the face of contrary evidence. Examples include fundamentalist terrorists or the middle-class Germans who became Nazis. Kelly might assert that the latter were not simply frustrated by inflation. Rather, they saw their belief system—their commitment to the value of hard work and thrift—crumple as the savings from their hard work were wiped away by inflation (see Moore, 1978). For Kelly, the alternative to hostility is to allow the experience of tragedy. It is this experience, rather than the certainty that one’s beliefs are valid, that is the basis of hope.

Kelly’s analysis is supported by aspects of Peck’s (1983) examination of the “group evil” involved in the MyLai massacre. On one level, Peck pointed out that it is easier for groups to commit atrocities because of the diffusion of responsibility and the normal narcissistic influences of group pride and out-group denigration. However, on a societal level, Peck argued that the group that killed innocent villagers manifested a broader societal problem. The group contained men who had been rejected from the broader society to do the dirty work that others did not want to see. The war itself was an attempt to defend a narcissistic image of American perfection, and when the situation in Vietnam presented evidence of the fallibility of the American worldview, the government was willing to destroy Vietnam rather than acknowledge this error. It may be noted that the research that was recommended to prevent future atrocities was rejected on the grounds that it might prove embarrassing.

The unwillingness to admit the tragic is an aspect of refusing to acknowledge evil, and Macmurray (1944) argued that a major problem is posed by the fact that one may do what one ought to do and yet still be involved in evil. A “just war” may be necessary; but when thousands of innocents are killed, the war is still evil, and the morally correct action of participating in the war does not absolve a person from having participated in that evil. Note that a person holding such a point of view is protected from the sort of dissonance reduction that is involved when a person hurts another and then justifies the aggression by devaluating the other. This suggests that public ceremonies of atonement might protect a society from becoming involved in any more evil than is necessary. Perhaps if Americans had the opportunity to mourn the deaths of all the Koreans and Chinese killed in the Korean War, there would have been less readiness to become involved in Vietnam or continuing sanctions against Iraq. In any case it seems desirable to confront the evil that is within as well as without. Such a confrontation leads us to examine the possibility of peace.


By peace we do not mean the “negative” peace that is the absence of war but a “positive” peace (Barash, 1991) that is the opposite of evil—not the absence of conflict but the resolution of conflict in creative rather than destructive ways. We may imagine different aspects of this peace: the personal peace of inner harmony and compassion, the communal peace that exists when social norms and institutions promote a concern for the welfare of others and a peaceful resolution of conflict, and the peace that results from an environment that allows people to satisfy their basic needs. There are at least four different paths to peace: paths of strength, negotiation, justice, and personal transformation. Each may be viewed as involving types of aggression.

Peace Through Strength

It is said that the sword is the olive leaf’s brother, and it seems self-evident that weakness invites attack while strength discourages it. Bullies pick on the insecure; criminals flourish in the absence of police; and history is filled with one people’s expanding at the expense of another. Few would argue against the idea that some sort of strength is necessary for peace, and some, like Sumner (1911), would argue that peace is attained only by the imposition of order that occurs when states use their strength to expand their dominion. However, there are some problems with conventional interpretations of this path or with relying on it to produce positive or even negative peace. Empirically, Singer and Small’s (1979) statistics, examining 59 recent wars, fail to show a significant relationship between strength and the probability of being attacked. Consider three problems:

First, it is not clear how much strength is sufficient to provide a sense of security. Surveys repeatedly show that a majority of the American public feels secure against foreign attack and favor nuclear disarmament (Kay, 1998), and in 1997 U.S. military expenditures were 172% of all its possible enemies combined (Council for a Livable World Education Fund, 1998). However, the government continues to spend far more than appears necessary (Defense Monitor, 2000). In part, the excess funding is due to economic pressure from the military-industrial complex (Fogarty, 2000), the need to maintain a weapons industry, and the desire to export weapons to maintain a favorable balance of trade. However, to a large extent the extraordinary funding seems driven by an underlying insecurity that was not present before the beginning of the Cold War.

Second, if we assume that the weak will be attacked, the obvious converse is that the strong will expand and attack. Hence, those who build strength will become involved in using power to impose their will. This appears to be true of the United States.

Third, when two powers come into conflict with each other, they each build strength so that the other will not dominate them, and the resulting conflict is simply more deadly. History gives us Athens versus Sparta, Rome versus Carthage, the United States versus the Soviet Union, and dozens of other examples, and we saw earlier that structural changes in conflict spirals often have disastrous outcomes. In the future we may witness a race to dominate space weaponry.

These problems have given rise to two quite different solutions: the development of nonviolent defense systems and the strengthening of the United Nations so that it could begin to function as a world government with an international police force.

Nonviolent Defense

Nonviolent defense may not be as impracticable as one might imagine. There are effective nonviolent self-defense forms such as aikido and tai chi, in which the defense maintains a calm center of gravity to take advantage of the momentum of an attack and the fact that the attacker is likely to be unbalanced. The defender gains control of the attack and turns it aside (Ueshiba, 1921). There are forms of community policing in which the community prevents violence by maintaining civilized norms (J. Q. Wilson & Kelling, 1989), and Canada (1995) has called for the use of unarmed peace officers trained and organized by local colleges. Finally, there are many examples of the successful use of nonviolent resistance against dictatorial governments. Sharp (1973) published the results of a historical survey that carefully examines the methods and dynamics of nonviolent action to influence political decisions. He gives specific examples of 198 techniques that have been used, ranging from public assemblies and marches, through boycotts and strikes, to noncooperation, civil disobedience, and the establishment of alternative structures of government, including successful uses against the Russian and British empires, the Nazis, Latin American dictators, and the Soviet Union. Sharp’s (1990) pragmatic examination of when nonviolent defense has worked and what factors make such resistance possible distinguishes between situations conducive and nonconducive to nonviolent resistance. Relative power is not as important as one might imagine. The contest is really one of wills, and a central factor is the cohesiveness of the nonviolent group and the ability to maintain communications so that tactics can be adapted to the changing situation.

Although civilian defense may be an alternative to military might, it may be argued that any defense that is organized by the state will be used to maintain structural violence. Citizens give the state a monopoly of violence so that it may maintain order and curb crime. And it may be argued that a democratically run state succeeds in having adequate police control and adequate control over its police. However, from an anarchist standpoint, states—at least nation-states based on centralized power—commit far more violence than their citizens do. Hence, Martin (1984) argued that working with state systems will never abolish war because states themselves are the problem. His anarchist solution is to use grassroots strategies to build alternative institutions to the state and its existing bureaucracies.

Developing the United Nations

To some extent we already have the rudiments of a democratic world police force. The United Nations forces have been engaged in over 50 missions. These have included the monitoring of elections, the provision of the international police presence needed after civil turmoil, the maintenance of buffer zones between former combatants, and armed interventions needed to prevent extensive civilian casualties.

Clearly, the last case, armed interventions, is the most problematic form of intervention. Studies of the military interventions in northern Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Haiti (Weiss, 1999) have attempted to assess the degree of the civilian costs incurred before intervention, the cost of military intervention, and the civilian benefits of the intervention. Weiss discussed the quandaries faced by those hoping to use military forces to achieve humanitarian assistance and recommended careful “conflict impact assessment” before attempting to use military force in situations where a presence is not desired by both sides of the conflict.

Although many problems are posed by military intervention once armed conflict has erupted, it may be argued that to have the possibility of military intervention may be helpful in influencing decisions in the early stages of a conflict that threatens to degenerate into military struggle. This is the position taken by Jentleson (2000) in his analysis of the possibilities of preventative diplomacy. He argued that the parties to a conflict are often driven to military action by the uncertainty of a situation in which the other side may strike first. In such situations, diplomacy—with the possibility of intervention and rewards—may be used to influence the calculus of whether to attack or negotiate. The participants in the volume edited by Jentleson present 10 cases where preventative diplomacy either succeeded in averting potential disaster (as in the Baltics and North Korea) or missed opportunities (as in Chechnya and Yugoslavia). They discuss the use and misuse of intelligence; the strategy of using mixes of deterrents, inducements, and reassurances; and the necessity for fast action.

Unfortunately, fast action is currently limited by the fact that there is no permanent UN military force so that each UN action requires the new recruitment of troops, equipment, and money from whatever nations are willing to donate (Holt, 1995). It would be easy to create a small standing force, but the major powers are reluctant to set a precedent and begin an international force that could conceivably challenge their military preeminence. Given the fact that the United States has a veto power in the Security Council (which must concur in the use of any UN forces), an interesting psychological problem is posed by why conservative representatives feel the need to maintain tight national control by blocking any permanent UN forces. This need for the maintenance of control is manifested also in the reluctance to endorse a nuclear test ban treaty or an international criminal court for war crimes.

Peace Through Negotiation

Instead of regarding the other as an enemy, it is often possible to search for mutual gains, and trade has often been an alternative to war. While horse trading has been known for millennia, there have been a number of advances in the tactics and strategies of negotiation. One promising approach that has been advanced by Fisher and Ury (1981) is “principled” negotiation. Rather than either strongly maintaining a bargaining position or softly compromising in order to maintain a valued relationship, they argue that one should search for the interests that underlie the bargaining positions. The negotiator than attempts to create a solution that meets the interests of both parties and searches for objective criteria to determine what is fair. Note that this approach uses aggression in the sense of attempting to get what one wants and insisting on fairness.

Although principled negotiation is a practical approach that can often be used, it assumes that the conflict to be negotiated is essentially a conflict about interests. However, some conflicts involve past wounds, different values, and the very identities of the parties to the conflict. This is often true when ethnic conflicts are involved. The Israelis and Palestinians, for example, do not simply have conflicting interests concerning security and sovereignty, but issues about the identity of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples as well. To deal with these sorts of conflicts, Burton (1990) advanced a form of “transformative” negotiation in which the negotiating process deals with the sharing of underlying needs and identities as well as interests. Such negotiations require a deeper level of trust and, when successful, involve a transformation of identities so that definitions that reflect enmity or involve devaluations of the other are no longer aspects of identity. A discussion of such needs may be helpful in intractable conflicts. For example, Cross and Rosenthal (1999) randomly paired 20 Jewish and 20 Arab students to discuss the dispute over the control of Jerusalem, and they contrasted different methods of negotiation. Participants who used a method in which they identified needs and fears about identity, recognition, and security before they attempted to generate ideas for mutual satisfaction became less pessimistic about the conflict and showed a more positive attitude change toward the other.

In order to deal with the pain and shame of past injuries and the conflicts between identity needs, C. R. Rogers and Ryback (1984) and Kelman (1996) used problem-solving workshops in which people may share underlying pains, fears, and needs. In the approach used by Rogers and Ryback, a facilitator models the role of respectfully listening and accepting the initial hostility expressed by both parties. Without the accepting presence of the mediator, the hostility would be responded to defensively, but the authors write that after the mediator accepts the hostility, the underlying pain is expressed, and this is responded to sympathetically. This approach should be contrasted with the reframing of hostile statements in couples therapy, in order to avoid shame-hostility cycles, which is advocated by Scheff (1999).

Kelman’s workshops are carefully structured in ways that lead both parties to share their underlying needs. Since political leaders are usually hindered by the demands of their position and constituency, he attempted to work with opinion leaders and those who may come into political power in the future. These workshops are quite effective in getting participants to understand and empathize with opposing views. However, the participants are then confronted with the problem of explaining their new tolerance to their compatriots in ways that avoid an accusation of being traitors. From my outsider perspective it appears that these sorts of workshops need to occur between the liberal and conservative parties within the opposing sides of a conflict. It would be fascinating to see the extent to which transformative negotiation could be used to arrive at creative solutions to the sort of classic problems that have divided political parties.

Differences in values are usually expressed in the rhetoric of political parties and typically are debated by having opponents state their conflicting views and then rebut the views of their opponent as both attempt to create a rhetoric that will influence third parties and capture their support. However, Rapoport (1960) has advocated another strategy, which he believes is more apt to produce creative solutions and minimize devaluation of the opponent. He suggested that each opponent should state the other’s point of view until the other agrees that it has been correctly presented. Then, rather than rebutting the other’s view, the opponent should create ways to agree with the other’s view, not by role playing the other side but by honestly finding points of agreement. Rapoport pointed out that any statement has a region of validity. Thus, if the other says, “11 plus 2 is 1,” a person may respond by agreeing to the extent that one is referring to clock time. Preliminary studies (de Rivera, 1968) have shown that the technique is usable, and it would be interesting to see if it could be used to create acceptable public policies for divisive issues such as legalized abortion.

When a negotiation between parties can be arranged, it is more successful than third-party mediation. Jackson (2000) studied 295 conflicts that occurred between 1945 and 1995 and found 1,154 negotiation efforts, with 47% success (82% lasting more than 8 weeks), and 1,666 mediations, with 39.4% success (51.7% lasting). Of course, mediation is probably more often attempted when the level of hostility is high and interferes with negotiation, but it seems clear that third parties should first encourage direct negotiation. When hostility is high, there are innovative approaches to conflict management that stress the use of third parties as go-betweens. Galtung and Tschudi (2001) argued that when emotions hinder the ability of conflicting parties to dialogue with one another, it is often possible to create better dialogue with neutral conflict workers who can then work separately with the conflicting parties to create a solution that transcends deep differences. Patai (1973) pointed out that in Arabic cultures a mutually respected third party may be used to request solutions that conflicting parties can grant out of generosity and respect, without appearing to give in to the other party with whom they are in conflict, and Pedersen (2001) reminded conflict workers that collectivistic cultures may manage conflicts in ways that are substantially different from those favored in the West.

Negotiation is increasingly being used to settle civil disputes, and in the future it may be used increasingly in criminal cases. Zehr (1990) convincingly argued that many crimes rupture human relationships and that it is these relationships that need to be repaired. Currently, crime is viewed as contrary to the state, and the state punishes an offender (who is made into a “criminal,” who often attempts to avoid responsibility by offering a defense) and largely ignores the victim. Zehr suggested that, as an alternative, the state ask the victim if he or she would like to meet the offender and see what the offender could do to restore the human relationship between them. Studies of trial programs of such “restorative justice” have found that about 50% of victims want to meet the person who wronged them, that it is usually possible to negotiate a way to restore the human relationship, and that in such cases there is much less recidivism. Justice has been attained nonviolently, by restoration rather than retribution.

Peace Through Justice

There are times when repressive forces are so strong that a completely unjust “peace” may exist for years. However, situations inevitably change, and when opportunities arise, rebellion and revolution occur, often killing some who opposed the injustice that existed. Yet the path of peace through justice is much more than an attempt to stave off violent revolution. It is an attempt to achieve a positive peace, a fundamentally just world.

The conflict between those desiring justice and those resisting it could be achieved by negotiation. However, this can only occur if parties are willing to negotiate, and there are many situations in which people with property and power do not wish to negotiate, particularly when oppression and exploitation are involved. Hence, the building of structural peace often requires the creation of social strain and disequilibria (Montiel, 2001). Attempts at organization are often met with violence, and this may result in counter violence. Even when the oppressed succeed in using counter violence, it often happens that the success only replaces one system of exploitation with another. Knowing these facts and facing injustice within the context of the British colonialism led Gandhi to create his method of nonviolent resistance.

By nonviolence (literally, satyagrha or “truth power”) Gandhi (1983) did not mean either passivity or the use of socially acceptable nonviolent tactics to coerce his opponent to give in. He meant asserting the truth as one saw it while being open to the perceptions of opponents and their interests, treating them with respect and attempting to convince them, and accepting suffering rather than inflicting it or giving in to injustice. Inherent in his approach are the unity of means and end and the unity of all life. Gandhi’s approach is aggressive in the sense of asserting one’s will, and some have argued that his methods were coercive. However, Burrowes (1996, chap. 7) established that he always attempted to change the heart of his opponent and that any coercion that existed was a coercion for a negotiation that could satisfy the needs of both parties. Several of his nonviolent campaigns have been described and evaluated by Bondurant (1965); a general history of nonviolent methods and the dynamics of how they influence political decisions has been presented by Sharp (1973); and the psychology of nonviolence, in both its positive and problematic aspects, has been discussed by Pelton (1974). A recent history of nonviolent social movements since 1970 may be found in the volume by Zunes, Kurtz, and Asher (1999), and Sutherland and Meyer (2000) contrasted the role played by both nonviolence and violence in the struggle for freedom and social justice in Africa.

Peace Brigades International (PBI) is an example of current nonviolence in practice. This nonhierarchical organization furnishes unarmed volunteers who accompany human rights workers who are committed to nonviolence but have received death threats because of their work. Working in a nonpartisan way with the government of the nation where atrocities are being committed, and backed by an international emergency response network that communicates with embassies throughout the world, PBI has been successful in the effort to open the political space essential for democracy (see Mahony & Egeren, 1997). Building on such efforts, Hartsough and Duncan (2001) are attempting to organize a volunteer nonviolent global peace force that could be used in situations where unarmed peacekeepers could function as neutral observers.

Peace Through Personal Transformation

Although each of the previous paths toward peace have merit, it may be argued that correctly following any of them requires a sort of personal development that can only be called transformational. This is perhaps most evident in the person who commits to Gandhi’s path of nonviolent action and develops a willingness to suffer rather than inflict injury as he or she acts to further justice. However, it is also required in the negotiator who develops an ability to acknowledge shame and refuses to allow egoistic needs to interfere with the skillful conduct of a negotiation, or the practitioner of defense who remains centered and balanced in dealing with a situation of potential violence, the type of self required if we are to have a more peaceful world (de Rivera, 1989). Forming such a self constitutes another path toward peace that takes personal transformation as its means. Rather than focusing on strength, negotiation, or justice, it emphasizes the development of an inner peacefulness that may spread outward to influence the conduct of others. An exemplar is the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh (1991).

Thich Nhat Hanh, who has helped thousands of refugees and has established a number of meditation centers, is committed to living in the sacredness of each moment and developing a compassion for all being. He and dozens of other activists who have published accounts, along with hundreds of less well known activists (see True, 1985), have dedicated their lives to a practical living of nonviolence that they assume will influence the people around them and gradually create an atmosphere of peace that will affect the communities in which they live and, eventually, national policy. Although there are numerous anecdotal accounts of the sorts of effects they have generated, there has been little systematic study of their influence. The personal transformations involved in the development of nonviolence may be examined in the context of character development or in uses of the imagination to promote the development of peaceful action.

Character Development

Although the public is acquainted only with a few wellknown peace activists, there are many persons who have risked or devoted their lives to working for peace and justice, and one may ask how such commitment develops. Oliner and Oliner’s (1988) inquiry into the background of people who risked helping Jews during the Holocaust reveals a family background that combined both warmth and caring within the family with the welcoming of people from different groups into the family. Both these factors seem important in Hannon’s (1990) study of a sample of 21 Boston peace activists. He found that many had some sort of religious socialization that provided a moral basis that was challenged by radicalizing college experiences. He argued for an identity crisis that could in part be understood in terms of Erikson’s (1963) fifth stage, in which the adolescent seeks an ideology that can be affirmed by peers and that defines what is good and evil. However, in these activists the resolution of the crisis also involved a transition to Kohlberg’s (1973) postconventional moral reasoning and Fowler’s (1981) transition from conventional to individualistic/reflective faith. This was often influenced by one or more adults who served as a sort of sponsor to the new identity, which usually also involved participation in a network of like-minded peers. In their study of 28 moral exemplars, Colby and Damon (1999) reported that the exemplars did not begin as exceptional people but became increasingly caring as their goals were transformed by their interactions with others. They found that the exemplars were characterized by an absence of conflict between selfish and moral goals. In accord with Macmurray’s (1961) conceptualization, the absence of the more typical split between self and other coincided with a faith in the eventual triumph of goodness for humanity.

The Use of Imagination

Boulding (1988) pointed out that action is guided by a vision of the future and that many people lack a vision of what a peaceful world would be like. (In my own experience, students find it much easier to imagine alien abductions than a peaceful world.) Accordingly, she has experimented with workshops in which people are asked to imagine a future world that is peaceful. She has found that such a world needs to be placed about 30 years in the future so that it seems possible but not too remote.After imagining some of the details of a peaceful world, participants are asked to imagine the steps that enabled such a world to come into being and, finally, to come up with a plan for the steps they might personally take.

Working from a neo-Jungian perspective, Watkins (1988) postulated that the imagination needed to work for peace is checked by a conflict with other aspects of the self. She asked persons to imagine the part of them that wants to work for peace and to construct a character to represent that part (Is it a man or a woman, rich or poor, how old, how dressed?). Similarly, persons create a character to represent the part of them that has other interests and things to do. Watkins postulated that it is the relationship between these characters that governs whether a person’s energy is available for peace work. Accordingly, she asked her subjects to imagine the two characters meeting each other and attempts to structure these meetings so that the two accept rather than reject one another. Preliminary evidence suggests that when persons are able to imagine a friendly meeting, they are more likely to engage in actions that promote peace.

Macy (1983) used imagination in still other ways in the course of the workshops she has created to deal with the despair that she believes prevents many persons from taking action to stop the use of nuclear weapons. After exercises designed to help people feel and express pain and despair, she involved participants in empowering exercises. For example, persons may be asked to imagine themselves before they were born, looking at the earth and deciding to help. They evidently choose a particular time to be born, a nation and family to be born into, and a specific gender and personality so that they could act for peace. Next, they were asked to remember why they made the choices they did. What are they here to do? Although Macy’s and Boulding’s workshops have clear immediate effects, we lack data on whether they affect long-term commitments.

Developing Cultures of Peace

Each of the four paths toward peace may be seen as ways to develop cultures of peace that could replace the cultures of violence that exist in many contemporary societies. Although such a goal is idealistic, it is not unrealistic. Peaceful cultures have existed in the past, and there are small peaceful cultures that exist today. An examination of such cultures reveals a number of interesting characteristics. Bonta’s (1993) annotated bibliography describes over 60 traditional peoples and contemporary subcultures. Although they differ in many ways, they all emphasize cooperative rather than competitive relationships, dislike power and downplay individual recognition and wealth, have many ways to prevent and resolve conflict, value group harmony over abstract concepts of justice, and think of themselves as essentially peaceful.

Ross (1993), who has contrasted the extent of conflict in a sample of 90 preindustrial societies, showed that the level of conflict is related to socialization practices. Cultures without much conflict tend to place a high value on children, are high in warmth and affection, and are low in male gender identity conflict. These psycho-cultural roots of peace are orthogonal with the way a society is structured, and Ross showed that the extent to which aggression is directed out at external targets, rather than expressed within the society, depends on the extent to which there are strong cross-cutting interest ties within the society.

Turning to modern societies, the Peace Forum’s (2000) sophisticated index of the peacefulness of contemporary nations is based on a combination of measures of external and internal conflict and measures of domestic justice. The index reveals the relative peacefulness of the developed but small nations such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Portugal, as contrasted with many of the less developed nations and the powerful permanent members of the Security Council (the United States ranks 51st among the 74 nations for which data are available). The people of these smaller nations may feel more secure because their life is more predictable. People can trust one another and their social institutions (Fogarty, 2000), and they may find it easier to accept the need for the mutual obligations and responsibilities stressed by Hearn (1997).

Although powerful societies are often relatively violent, Boulding (2000) has described how there are always many peaceful elements mixed in with the violent components. In religion, for example, there is the idea of a holy war but also the image of the peaceful garden. And it may be noted that after the putatively Islamic terrorist attack on the United States, the president of Iran phoned the pope to discuss the importance of Christian-Muslim dialogue (Catholic Free Press, 2001). Boulding argued that these peaceful elements make it possible to conceive realistically of developing peaceful cultures in modern society.

How might we conceptualize what such cultures could be like? One way is to consider the transformations that would be involved in moving from the culture of violence to which many of us have become accustomed to a culture of peace. Adams and True (1997) suggested that these transformations might be characterized as follows:

  1. The redefinition of power so that it was understood to involve joint problem solving and active nonviolence rather than the use of hierarchies that require violent domination.
  2. The mobilization of people and the attainment of solidarity by building relationships of understanding and trust between groups rather than having one group dominate another or by achieving solidarity by focusing on the defeat of a common enemy.
  3. The participation of all people in the decisions that affect their lives.
  4. The open sharing of information in the press and in civic society.
  5. The development and empowerment of the caring and nurturing qualities traditionally associated with the role of women.
  6. The development of a cooperative and sustainable (rather than exploitative) economies.

We may imagine a global culture of peace involving the previous transformations along with an environment in which armaments were controlled and human rights were ensured. Such a culture has been advocated by 20 Nobel peace laureates and promoted by UNESCO. To assist this development, the General Assembly of the United Nations has launched a decade of initiatives to achieve a culture of peace and requested a progress report from the secretary general (see Adams, 2000). Current research is attempting to develop indicators for the eight aspects of such a culture so that it will be possible to assess progress toward its development.

Of course, a global culture of peace both influences and is dependent upon the specific cultures of peace developed by different societies. Each nation has its own particular challenges, and it seems clear that peace, like human rights, must be developed by a discourse between groups from within each society as theses groups dialogue with groups from without (An-Na’im, 1992).The movement toward a culture of peace is the first social movement that includes nation states as well as people. However, progress toward its goal cannot depend on the initiative of those powerful states whose interest is in maintaining the status quo. Rather, the development of each of the components of cultures of peace will depend on the less powerful nations and on the hundreds of grassroots initiatives by nongovernmental organizations that are constructing the paths of peace described previously. Each of these paths, along with an understanding of aggression, violence, and evil, is critical to developing the aspects of peaceful culture.

International arms control and the maintenance of human rights require some system of international security. Given the current state of human development, this security must rest on the strength of some international authority that can take aggressive action when it is required, but whose violence is checked by a division of power and civilian control. Whenever that system of authority is reduced to the use of violent means, this must be publicly acknowledged as an evil. Such an authority will develop only when the strengthening of emotional ties leads powerful nations to surrender their monopoly of violence. NATO and other regional forces are steps in this direction, and we may see a strengthening of UN police forces in an effort to control terrorism.

The challenges to achieving a consensus about international norms on terrorism involve issues that must be aggressively negotiated. The path of negotiation, as well as an understanding of the structural changes that perpetrate conflict, is also involved in attempts to increase democratic participation, the sharing of information, and intergroup trust. The latter rests on a mastery of transformative as well as principled negotiation. Such negotiation will be much easier if synergistic societal structures lead those who want power to meet the needs of those without it.

The transformation of hierarchies of power and the attainment of an equitable and sustainable economy require the development of justice by nonviolent action. The evil of structural violence can only be overcome by methods that employ the creative use of aggression pioneered by Gandhi. This will require a learning of a different set of scripts and myths, heroes, and heroines who overcome negative emotions and moral disengagement, as well as the development of norms for intervening when violence occurs.

Gender equality and the development of the nurturance and caring that is required for domestic and civil peace will require personal transformations. This path will also be needed to develop the sense of security that constrains the desire for power of those in authority, to restrict the egoism that can hinder negotiation, and to develop the compassionate nonviolence needed to attain justice. These personal transformation need not depend solely on individual efforts. If a culture of peace develops, there will be ceremonies that remember all of the victims of war, a honoring of tragedy will replace claims of goodness, and signs will ask God to bless the world. These will help develop the sorts of persons required by the culture.


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