A website for scholarship
in the theory and practice of nonviolence
in the USA.
A reader's guide to web literature on the theory and practice of nonviolence.
- Note: The home page of NVUSA provides an index of links to websites that survey the persons and movements of nonviolence in the USA, arranged by historical chronology. The collection of links below is a webliography of articles that would support critical investigation of nonviolence as a philosophy of life and strategy of social change. Some links in this webliography will duplicate links in the historical index. As a general rule, however, the previous index more likely points to other indexes or home pages. This webliography will point to text.
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Political Pacificism: A Working Paper [PDF]
Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) 2002
The word 'pacifism' derives from the Latin word ‘pax’, meaning peace between states.
It is a relatively recent recruit into the English language, entering common usage via
French in the early twentieth century as a name for opposition to war as a means to
the resolution of conflict between states4. This is still the primary sense of the word
according to the Oxford English Dictionary, whose first definition of pacifism is as
‘the doctrine or belief that it is possible and desirable to settle international disputes
by peaceful means’. So understood pacifism is a specifically political doctrine,
concerned only with the establishment of peaceful relationships between states, rather
than within states, or between individuals in their private lives. Of course 'pacifism'
now has a variety of senses, picking out principled opposition to, and refusal to
participate in, war or violence. The focus of this paper, however, is on pacifism in the
O.E.D. sense, what I will call political pacifism....
In the previous section I have tried to show that that in a significant, if not primary,
sense, pacifism is a doctrine concerning political morality, and in particular political
institutions. In the light of this, it is striking how many recent philosophical
discussions of pacifism - mainly, but certainly not only, those which are hostile to it -
characterise it predominantly if not exclusively as what might be called a doctrine of
personal refusal. In some cases, for example in Jan Narveson’s well known paper, the
doctrine of pacifism is not even represented as necessarily directed at war. Narveson
claims that the pacifist is distinguished by believing ‘not only that violence is evil but
also that it is morally wrong to use force to resist, punish or prevent violence’.
Cheyney C. Ryan, in his critical discussion of pacifism, claims that the
characterisation of pacifism as ‘'the view that all violence or coercion is wrong . . .
seems to be too broad’. What he (apparently) sees as definitive of pacifism is the
impermissibility of killing. Thomas Nagel describes pacifism as 'an absolutist position
. . . the view that one may not kill another person under any circumstances'. On
these sorts of characterisations of pacifism, though opposition to war is entailed by
the pacifist commitment, that commitment is not actually defined in terms of opposition to war; there could be pacifists even in a world in which war had been abolished, or one in which there were no states. Other commentators, such as Elizabeth Anscombe, do characterise pacifism in terms of an attitude to war, but again, see it as primarily a doctrine of personal refusal. So for Anscombe, pacifism
is ‘'the doctrine that it is eo ipso wrong to fight in wars’.
The critics of pacifism make use of these sorts of definitions in arguments that purport
to establish that there is no practical alternative to accepting the institution of war.
Before giving further details of such arguments it might seem that the definitions of
pacifism that these critics give expose such arguments to one or both of two simple
objections. The first is that such arguments commit the fallacy of equivocation. The
term 'pacifism' is used in one of its senses to identify a position and an argument is
constructed to show that that position is impractical. Then that conclusion is
(implicitly) extended to other positions identified by the same term. Narveson's usage,
for example, arguably identifies the principle motivating the refusal of members of
some religious groups to participate in war. Narveson then tries to show that
acceptance of that principle leads to unacceptable consequences. Even if he has
shown this, he has hardly established, as he apparently believes that he has, that
anything that can be legitimately called pacifism - in particular political pacifism - is
The second objection is that these arguments simply do not engage with political
pacifism, so cannot demonstrate its impracticality. The definitions of pacifism on
which they are based confusedly identify the beliefs that (partially) motivate political
pacifists to hold that doctrine (such as, for example, the belief that the Bible forbids
killing) with the beliefs that constitute that doctrine - that the institution of war can
and should be replaced by the institution of peace. Inevitably, given the contingent
and historically localised nature of the institution of war, these constitutive beliefs are
themselves going to be based on other moral, political and factual beliefs. In fact, as
indicated above, the constitutive beliefs are compatible with a range of motivating
beliefs. Even if some of these beliefs entail (in conjunction with other beliefs) the
constitutive beliefs and can be shown to be false, or policies based on them to be
impractical, it would not follow that the constitutive beliefs themselves have been
shown to be false, or policies based on them impractical....
Between Pacifism and Pacificism [PDF]
International Institute for Public Ethics Oct., 2002
Where the peace movement diverged from political orthodoxy was in its attitude to the institutionalisation of violence as an integral part of interstate relations. The orthodox response to problems of inter-state conflict has been to develop and further regulate the institution of war. Certain kinds of institutionalised actors - armies, and ultimately states - are recognised as legitimate holders of military force, and the conditions under which such force may be wielded, as well as the forms and limits of its use, are specified in international law and treaties. War is now defined and understood in purely political terms, and (roughly speaking) is seen as legitimate only to the extent to which it is at the service of legitimate political goals; in particular (following the gradual delegitimisation of the concept of 'offensive wars') as a means to the preservation or restoration of the status quo in international relations21. To this extent war is a conservative institution, at least in its aims, though in its effects, of course, it is often radically transformative.
Furthermore, there has even been a good deal of agreement between the peace movement and the orthodox about the policies that should be put in place on the basis of these principles and facts in order to promote international harmony and resolve conflict. Indeed, the politically influential peace movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were instrumental in the promotion of international agreements limiting arms and forbidding aggressive war, and in the development of instruments for consultation, arbitration and adjudication, both on a state-to-state basis, and as part of the function of supra-national bodies such as the World Court and the League of Nations.
Just as it would be a mistake to identify a social institution such as the market with the occasions on which people trade with each other rather than with the whole system of production, distribution, advertisement etc. of commodities which makes such trades possible, so war as a political institution consists not simply of episodes of armed conflict between states and the rules and norms governing such conflicts, but also the whole complex of activities and organisation which lead up to and make possible such episodes. It is the institution of war in this comprehensive sense to which the peace movement has been opposed: it follows that the peace that they desire is not simply the absence of fighting but rather the dissolution of the institution of war.
This is not to say that the task to which that institution is supposed to be devoted - the protection of the political realm from violent external usurpation - will become redundant. Rather, an alternative institution - the institution of peace - needs to be constructed. And of course, the peace movement has done a lot of work in outlining and putting in place such an institution. As well as their efforts in promoting arrangements that will lessen the likelihood of inter-state conflicts and provide avenues for negotiated resolution when they do occur, peace lovers particularly in the latter part of the Twentieth Century, have developed techniques for active peaceful opposition to armed aggression, whereby a populace would respond to armed occupation and coercion with widespread passive resistance, non-cooperation, non-fraternisation, withdrawal of labour, industrial sabotage and the like....
Keith Watenpaugh, etal
Opening the Doors: Intellectual Life and Academic Conditions in Post-War Iraq
H-Net July 15, 2003
In terms of the most pressing needs, universities, students and their families have organized buses
and carpools for transportation. Moreover, the low level of student and faculty absenteeism
impressed us at a time of rampant insecurity. Nevertheless, due to actual or imagined threats to
personal safety women faculty members and students have found it increasingly difficult to
come to school. This structural disadvantage far more than the much vaunted Islamist profile at the universities
may impair the access to higher education that Iraqi women faculty and students have traditionally enjoyed.
During the several hours we spent on the campuses in Baghdad, there seemed to be little difference between
the immediate ante bellum period and now in terms of religious or social pressure on women. While women have
held positions of prominence in Iraqi higher education and female students make-up at least 50%
of the student population, female faculty members expressed concern that this role has changed
for the worse over the last decade and they openly worry that it may continue to decline.
All universities have undergone sweeping changes in administration at the behest of the
CPA in the middle of the academic year: coalition officials dismissed the presidents of universities
and deans of faculties as well as most of the heads of departments. Where CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] interference
has been minimal, faculty elections have been smooth and consensual. As in other sectors
of society, the CPA’s heavy-handed purges of the universities’ rank and file lies at the heart of
academic discontent (see below). Many of those faculty who have been removed from their
teaching posts have been able to make informal arrangements with their colleges to continue
teaching as “volunteers” without a salary - such a solution, however, can not continue indefinitely,
and the start of the next academic year will be a decisive test....
Baghdad University (founded in 1957) is one of
the oldest secular institutions of higher learning
in Iraq. The Walter Gropius-designed main
campus – al-Jadriyya – is on a peninsula formed
by a bend in the Tigris River and suffered minimal
damage during the war, but was looted afterwards.
Its liberal arts-oriented branch campus
at Bab al-Muazzam is closer to the urban core.
Approximately 80,000 undergraduates and
graduates attend both campuses. In mid-May, the
American administrator for higher education in
Iraq, Dr. Andrew "Drew" Erdmann,
the election of a new university president
in a raucous opening session. The new
president, Dr. Sami al-Muzaffar, is a biochemist
by training, a Baathist refusnik and one of the
most respected scholars on campus. The Americans
had vetted the credentials of new administrators
before or shortly after the election.
Classes resumed thereafter on a limited schedule
and at the time we were in
Iraq students were about to
sit for their final exams....
1) International scholarly and professional organizations
should immediately create structural,
professional and personal links with their
colleagues at both institutions [Bayt al-Hikma and the Iraqi Academy of Sciences]
Rationale: While questions remain about the
long-term viability of the Bayt al-Hikma, both
institutions are structurally competent to make
and maintain such links.
2) The Middle East Studies Association and
similar groups should respond quickly to invitations
like that provided by Dr. Hayawi to hold
joint conferences and symposia.
Rationale: This kind of exchange will ensure
that Iraqi and non-Iraqi academic and intellectual
relationships are based on professional dignity,
probity, equality and collegiality. Moreover,
quickly reintegrating intellectuals who are committed
to a liberal vision of society at both institutions
will reinforce their standing and
strengthen the bases of modern and secular civil
3) The international academic community should
be willing to help introduce the affiliated faculty
of the Academy of Sciences and Bayt al-Hikma to
contemporary research in all fields, but most
especially in fields once considered off limits by
the Baathist apparatus. This includes, but is not
limited to the fields of Islamic Studies, Women
and Gender, Truth and Reconciliation, Media
and Society, and Human Rights Jurisprudence.
Rationale: Introducing these fields will aid in the
articulation of new and vital research agendas at
both institutions and again harness the human
capital at each as engines for the creation of civil
4) The restoration and modernization of the
printing facilities at the Academy of Sciences
should be undertaken as soon as possible.
Rationale: Before the war the Academy of Science
was one of Iraq’s primary sources of independent
scholarly books, translations and edited
volumes. A modest investment in their printing
facilities would suffice for the resumption of
publishing. It could be used to publish Iraqi academic
journals and together with other presses,
licensed to reprint copyrighted textbooks and
other urgently needed materials.
Based on our analysis of discussions with relevant
CPA officials, the American edict on De-
Baathification is predicated on a false analogy
between Baathism and Nazism. This analogy
has been promoted most heavily by Iraqi exiles
in the United States like Brandeis University
professor Kanan Makiya. In 1945, the allies intended
De-Nazification to inoculate the German
people against any revival of fascism. In 2003,
the American hope is that elimination of highranking
members of the Baath from positions in
the public sector will prevent the recrudescence
of authoritarianism in Iraq. The analogy between
the Nazis and the Baath – especially in
terms of rank and file members – fails on its
face: likening the Nazis to the Baath either undervalues
the sheer horror and inhumanity that
the former visited upon the world or exaggerates
the global reach and influence of the latter.
In principle, De-Baathification recognizes the
irrefutable fact that the party saturated the lived
experience of Iraqis, denied them basic human
rights and insinuated itself in all aspects of the
production of knowledge, art and culture. However,
the structures of authoritarianism are not
unique to Baathism and thus merely eliminating
Baathists will not keep Iraq free. Any liberal,
pluralist reform of Iraq will require more than
just the elimination of Baathist ideology. We
contend that the best way to prevent the reestablishment
of the authoritarian structures the Baath
created and benefited from is the formation and
strengthening of viable institutions of civil society,
of which academia is a central element....
Among the more important
initiatives we noted were:
The “Al-Mada” project which was
launched by Fakhri Karim, an
Iraqi communist in the late 1980's
and 1990's. Fleeing Baghdad,
Karim founded a publishing house
and cultural center first in Beirut
and then in Damascus. The
publishing house has become one
of the most important in the Arab Middle East.
In the aftermath of the war, Karim returned to
Iraq and is now using a house on Abu Nuwas
street as a base for the al-Mada center's activities.
Beside publishing books and a monthly review,
he intends to begin a local daily newspaper,
organize conferences and various cultural
activities. Karim plans to open branches in other
areas of Baghdad, as well as in the provinces.
It Takes a Community: Building Unions From the Outside In
New Labor Forum Spring 2003
At the outset, we decided to invest in developing a "Strategic Geographic Power Structure Analysis" (PSA) of the area. Who were the powerful forces and why? Which would be allies and which would be obstacles? How could we enhance the power of our friends and neutralize that of our opponents? The idea was to measure power two ways, first in absolute terms, but also in relation to goals. It is conceived to be as much a political education tool as anything. Just like we “chart” workplaces as a crucial step to organizing, we need to “chart” real leadership and power in the community to understand how to hem in the boss....
The class and race mix in that very first meeting led to amazing dynamics among the workers that continued throughout the campaign. White collar public sector workers joined nursing home workers, as well as a small unit of dietary workers District 1199 who were mostly African American with a sprinkling of Jamaicans and Haitians....
The results were stunning. Across the board, workers talked about housing as overshadowing all other aspects of their quality of life. Rent was difficult to pay because of low wages, and purchasing a home was inconceivable. There were also serious issues about the declining quality and re-segregation of public schools, and that even though the city had a bussing program, "always the Black kids from downtown bussed for over an hour to North Stamford to attend rich white well-funded schools." A housing crisis and simmering racial tensions were dominant themes in the meeting....
A Nation of Victims
The Nation June 12, 2003
George W. Bush is generally regarded as a mangler of the English language. What is overlooked is his mastery of emotional language--especially negatively charged emotional language--as a political tool. Take a closer look at his speeches and public utterances, and his political success turns out to be no surprise. It is the predictable result of the intentional use of language to dominate others.
President Bush, like many dominant personality types, uses dependency-creating language. He employs language of contempt and intimidation to shame others into submission and desperate admiration. While we tend to think of the dominator as using physical force, in fact most dominators use verbal abuse to control others. Abusive language has been a major theme of psychological researchers on marital problems, such as John Gottman, and of philosophers and theologians, such as Josef Pieper. But little has been said about the key role it has come to play in political discourse, and in such "hot media" as talk radio and television.
Kilroy's Still Here
seanpenn.com May 30, 2003
There has never been a time when it has been more
important for citizens to stand up, to speak, to
agree, to disagree, to resolve, to be non-violent. To
be nonviolent. When we allow prideful killers to
define our value as presumption, then only murder can
live in our dreams. We can't be shamed into hiding,
frightened into line. We can't be less than yesterday.
And we can't sit still today. Not if we love our
children. This is a question of a peoples'internal
reflection preceding their government's external
The American ideology
Al-Ahram Weekly May 15-21, 2003
Contrast this with the US, where the Enlightenment had only a marginal impact, engaging only an "aristocratic" (and pro-slavery) minority -- that group which is embodied for posterity by Jefferson, Madison and a few others. In general, the sects of New England were untouched by the Enlightenment's critical spirit, and their culture remained closer to the Witches of Salem than to the godless rationalism of the Lumières.
The fruits of this refusal emerged as the Yankee bourgeoisie came of age. Out of New England, there emerged a simple and erroneous creed, which held that "Science" (that is, the hard sciences, such as physics) should determine the destiny of society -- an opinion that has been widely shared in the US for more than a century, not only among the ruling classes, but also by the people at large.
This substitution of science for religion accounts for some of the salient traits of American ideology. It explains why philosophy is so unimportant, because it has been reduced to the most impoverished empiricism. It also accounts for the frantic effort to reduce the human and social sciences to "pure" (that is, "hard") sciences: "pure" economics thus takes the place of political economy, and the science of "genes" replaces anthropology and sociology. This last unfortunate aberration provides another point of close contact between contemporary American ideology and Nazi ideology, which has doubtless been facilitated by the profound racism that runs through all American history. Another aberration stemming from this peculiar vision of science is a weakness for cosmological speculation (of which the "Big Bang" theory is the most well- known example).
Among other things, the Enlightenment taught us that physics is the science of certain limited aspects of the universe which have been singled out as objects of research, not the science of the universe in its totality (which is a metaphysical, rather than a scientific concept). At this level, the American system of thought is closer to pre- modern attempts to reconcile faith and reason than to the modern scientific tradition. This regressive vision was perfectly suited to the purposes of the New England Protestant sectarians, and to the kind of pervasively religious society they produced.
As we know, it is this kind of regression which now threatens Europe.
Ch. 9: The Future of the Peace Movement
The American Peace Movements 1985/2002
The American peace movements have been reactive in the past, developing in response to specific wars or threats of war, and then disappearing when the war is over or the threat is perceived to have decreased. In fact, this observation at the macro level is mirrored by an observation that I have made previously at a micro level: participants in peace movements have been motivated to an important degree by anger against the injustice of war. This dynamic seems likely to continue. Governments, worried about the reactive potential of peace movements may attempt to engage in very brief wars, just as the U.S. government cut short the 1991 Gulf War after several weeks to avoid an escalating peace movement. In the future, peace movements need to be broadened by linkages to other issues and by international solidarity and unity; otherwise they risk being only temporary influences on the course of history, growing in response to particular wars and then disappearing again afterwards. The world needs a sustained opposition to the entire culture of war, not just to particular wars.
To be fully successful, the future peace movement needs to be positive as well as negative. It needs to be for a culture of peace at the same time as it is against the culture of war. This requires that activists in the future peace movement develop a shared vision of the future towards which the movement can aspire. I have found evidence, presented in the recent revision of my book Psychology for Peace Activists (note 17), that such a shared, positive vision is now becoming possible, and, as a result, human consciousness can take on a new and powerful dimension in this particular moment of history.
Ch.2: Lessons from Great Peace Activists: Six Steps of Consciousness Development
Psychology For Peace Activists 1987
In the autobiographies of the great peace activists, we find a pattern of consciousness development that can be described as six cumulative steps. They are: 1) acquisition of values and purpose; 2) anger; 3) action; 4) affiliation; 5) personal integration; and 6) world-historic consciousness. The steps tend to be taken in the order mentioned, although we should not forget that they are cumulative so that each step continues to operate in combination with later steps at a higher level of functioning (footnote 4). We will find it useful to consider each step in terms of its opposite, i.e., the difficulties that can hinder development at that step: 1) alienation; 2) fear and pessimism; 3) armchair theorizing; 4) individualism and anarchism; 5) burnout; and 6) sectarianism.