Why Peace Studies Are Important

Peace is a broad concept of harmony and societal respect in the absence of conflict and violence. In a sociological sense, peace is used to signify a period of psychological freedom from conflict and anxiety about violence between people or groups. It is often associated with a period of economic development, marked by widespread social harmony and increased trust in various institutions, especially those considered by the public at large to be stable and immune from outside threats. Peace, therefore, can refer to a state in which conflicts, sometimes serious, are less frequent, cease, and the threat of further violence is ruled out.


According to some social scientists, however, the meaning of peace is much more complex, involving emotions such as love and respect, rather than just psychological states. A sociological approach to peace, they argue, necessarily leads to a comparative study of different cultures, showing that those with higher levels of social trust and respect are also those who experience greater levels of peace and happiness. This view draws on various theories in the social field theory and the domain of psychology. For example, one school of thought in the domain of psychology regards human beings as psychologically constructed as a social construction process, in which members of a group are affected by the beliefs and values of other members and have little control over these beliefs and values. In this perspective, human beings are not isolated from each other, but are rather socially embedded into a system of relationships that are shaped by their interactions with other individuals and groups, and by the culture in which they grow up.

The other school of thought, the positive peace thesis, suggests that humans have a built-in mechanism for preventing conflict and improving cooperation, even in situations where they might naturally be trying to destroy each other. According to this view, humans have an innate ability to create order and to respect other individuals and institutions. These traits, this argument goes on, give humans the ability to create a positive peace meaning, where there is no longer conflict over conflicting interests. According to some peace studies experts, this ability to create peace means that individuals can avoid the negative aspects of war and so survive conflicts with minimal loss of life.