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Volume 5

Expanded Contents

1: Perspective And Summary
2: What is Peace?
3:Alternative Concepts of Peace
5:The Social Contract Model
6:The Global Convention of Minds
7: The Just Peace Principles
8:The Just Peace
9:Implementation of a Just Peace:Incrementalism
10: Principles of Conflict Resolution
12:The Grand Master Principle

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace

On What To Do

An Enlightened Foreign Policy

Principles of Conflict Resolution

Grand Master Principle

Other Related Work

Conflict And Violence page

Democratic Peace page


Chapter 11

The Positive Peace Principle*

By R.J. Rummel

History is a whole task of securing both peace and justice ... in which failure was usually due either to the effort to eliminate the factor of force entirely or to an undue reliance upon it.
---- Niebuhr (1932:19-20)


The conflict resolution principles presented in Chapter 10 concern an actual or potential breakdown in a status quo that would make incremental change toward a just peace difficult, if not impossible. Assuming now a stable status quo, in this and Chapter 12 I will focus on two principles guiding incremental change toward a just peace for international relations and for national societies. These two policy levels must be distinguished, since from one to the other level reforms should move in opposite directions.

Now for the first principle. As mentioned in Section 2.3.2D, two concepts evaluatively define peace. One is negative peace, which I now can define as an order (social contract) that is at the cost of one's interests, dignity or self-esteem; an order characterized by exploitation, repression, tyranny. The other concept is positive peace, an order which will gratify many of one's central values, especially self-esteem, and in doing so provide happiness, satisfaction, and justice. This is not only peace from violence, but also peace of mind. Positive peace equals a just peace; negative peace equals an unjust peace.2

How, then, do we move toward this positive peace? The answer at both the national and international levels is the Positive Peace Principle:

Minimize the power of government

This prescription must be understood to mean, "minimize government consistent with the Constitutional Principles" (Table 8. 1).3

I have previously given the arguments for minimizing government, particularly in Chapter 8, and my position by now should be well understood. The aim here is not to restate the Constitutional Principles, but to provide a general guide to just peace policy.

For national societies, among optional political actions, programs, reforms, and laws, the best alternative tends toward less rather than more government.4 Of course, in some situations more government is necessary, such as in a time of national emergency or war. However, the Positive Peace Principle is not intended to shackle public policy, but to give it broad direction once special or unusual demands are met and to require justification for deviations from this direction.5

For the international society, the general direction of policy should be toward more government, insofar as this means a UN-guaranteed right of all people to freedom of choice and liberation (the Just Principles); and UN machinery for their enforcement, and for maintaining and keeping peace and preventing aggression (the Constitutional Principles). Thus, the appropriate incremental change to make in the UN would be toward more government, since the region of minimization for a just peace is higher on the curve of governmental power.

What this minimization means is shown in Figure 11.1. The figure shows a social space delineated by axes of social justice and power (force, coercion, and authority). This space is divided into two regions by a curve of governments. A plot of all governments theoretically would lie somewhere on this curve according to their power and as their institutions manifest social justice. Hypothetical locations of several governments are noted along the curve. The minimum of the curve is a just peace.

In effect, then, the Positive Peace Principle is that we should select policies that move government down toward the minimal point, which is that defined by the Constitutional Principles of Table 8.1. The UN needs to increase its powers to reach this point; all national governments need to decrease their power.

Given the Positive Peace Principle, what specifically should be done to implement it? I believe it unwise to prescribe universally a particular policy (such as eliminating licensing of professions, constitutionally limiting taxes, or reducing government monetary controls) or the constitutional details of an ideal national or world government.6 Principles are meant to be invariant, universal. They provide general guides to action regardless of interests and situation. However, the actual form a government takes and its concrete laws, policies, and programs are of a time, culture, and context. While such policies as legalizing abortion, prostitution, or drugs, may fit one society in 1980, they may not in 1995; or at any time fit another with different values and norms. The Constitutional Principles, however, must, if I have done my job well, be appropriate to all these circumstances.


While universalizing particular cross-national policies or institutions is unwise, this is not so of the different vectors along which should move the process of incremental change toward a just peace. These vectors locate the general direction of actions--the broad, desirable disposition of just peace policies. Based on the Just Package, there are five such policies.

First is to enhance and guarantee the freedom of choice and mobility of citizens and groups. That is, policy and institutions should move toward recognizing and securing the right of people to voluntarily contract into or freely form a group or community, whether or not their internal norms or activities conform to the sense of justice of a majority. In particular, this means that national governments ought to accept gradually the right of national minorities to form their own autonomous ethnic, racial, or tribal regions or communities.

Second, national governments should tend to decentralize power. Power to make laws and intervene in community affairs, to resolve disputes and deal with socioeconomic problems, should be moved downward and outward toward the smaller communities and groups and nearer to the citizens.7 Certainly, some social needs are best met by a national government, such as national defense, but the locus of policy making should gravitate toward those who are closer to a situation, have a greater stake in the outcome, can better bring relevant knowledge to bear, and whose ideas of social justice are most engaged.

Third, as governmental institutions move toward decentralization, they should also increase the horizontal distribution of powers among competing branches, divisions, functions, or groups. That is, countervailing and balancing powers should be encouraged. What specifically can be done depends on the form of government and its political culture. It may mean dividing more power among legislative, executive, and judicial branches; or between president and prime minister; or between different political parties or social groups (such as religious, labor, business, or military groups) in government. The idea is to heighten the opposition to any one government branch, group, or party dominating government and thereby aggrandizing power.

Fourth, increase political participation of communities and peoples. Communities, if their autonomy is to be respected, should have some form of representation in government. And, which is now a generally accepted norm, so should people. The form of this increasing representation will vary cross-nationally. It could be by appointed or elected delegates or representatives; or by referendums, initiatives, and the like. In any case, the idea is to enhance and free public participation in national government. The reason is to decrease and limit governmental power consistent with the right of people to seek and form their own communities.

Fifth, decrease government's social and economic control and intervention. To state this positively, provide a freer national market of goods, ideas, and communities. A free market in ideas and goods is necessary to the right of people to form their own communities. If government can intervene to force acceptance on a community or certain religious practices, housing patterns, income distribution, or private contracts, then the people's freedom to voluntarily determine their own just community is coercively restricted by a third party--the government, or, more specifically, whoever controls the government at the moment. This also means that a national government should not intervene within communities to ensure an internal free market, freedom of religion or speech, or democratic procedures. It means that only at the national level should such a free market be facilitated. What occurs in communities is the business only of its members, except for the right of a member to leave if he so wishes (the Liberation Principle).

I now should emphasize one strong qualification about these vectors of action. They assume that within each nation are basic sociocultural and sociopolitical divisions over national policy. Minimizing government then involves decentralizing power and distributing it among these different views of social justice, thus tending to enhance and improve overall justice and decrease national social violence. However, the qualification is that a nation-state may already have a unified culture and a common perspective on society and politics. With a consensus about justice, the divisions that exist may be over localized and relatively minor issues. Then the nation already is a preferred community of the whole; its institutions are what its citizens would have voluntarily contracted to form in a national convention of minds. For its citizens, therefore, the government is already minimized (whatever its form and power) and its citizens have achieved, internally, a just peace. But as nations depart from this ideal of a national, consensual community, as their internal divisions over justice are deeper and broader across society, the five vectors of action provide increasingly salient direction to policy, reform, and incremental institutional change.


As with national societies, for our global society of international relations I can suggest only general vectors of action. As noted in Section 11.1, these will differ in direction from those for nations. Our problem globally is to move incrementally toward more, not less, government, and with careful attention to the international balance of powers. I will return to this balance after briefly describing five broad vectors of action.

First, the United Nations, as a global political system, should facilitate and move toward guaranteeing a right to emigrate. This, given the Just Principles, is one of the most important human rights. In 1978 about 1.8 billion people (43 percent of world population) live under regimes that grant them little freedom.8 [In 1998 this figure is 2.3 billion, or about 39 percent of the world population] Many of these regimes have surrounded their nations with barbed wire, mines, guards, and machine guns to prevent their people from leaving.9 The more international acceptance of the freedom of such people to leave these nations, the more likely the most barbarous and unjust excesses will be moderated.10 Freedom and human rights may not be guaranteed, but at least their absence may be made more bearable.

Second, the UN should gradually encourage and aid efforts at national self-determination and independence. Of course, the UN has been in the forefront of the fight against colonialism, but there are other kinds of domination and control, such as of Chinese control over Tibet. [By 1998 the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union has freed many nations from foreign control, as of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, and along the southern tier of Russia.] Nor can economic imperialism be disregarded if it is based on foreign coercion. Insofar as national trade and foreign investment reflect, and multinational corporations operate within, an international free market, then differential trade patterns and economic dependencies represent voluntary, economically efficient, and mutually beneficial balances.12 If, however, coercion or force are used by governments or corporations to dominate a foreign market, this also violates the norm of self-determination and should be subject to UN intervention. Besides tending to oppose colonialism, neocolonialism of whatever kind, and coercive economic imperialism, the UN should be disposed toward helping racial and ethnic national minorities striving for self-determination to eventually gain sovereign and independent status among nations. All these policies are in line with the Just Principles; all contribute to people freely choosing their own community.13

Third, not only nations but eventually people should be represented in the UN. The UN can be dominated by a coalition of very small states representing a small percentage of the world's population; the huge nation of India with a population about 2600 times that of the Bahamas has no more of a vote in UN affairs than this small island. This is as it should be if nations, as the Constitutional Principles assert, are to be sovereign and equal. However, if the UN is to represent well the global distribution and diversity of interest, there also should be participation and representation of the world's people, either through proportional representation for nations or through direct election.

Fourth, The UN peacekeeping and peacemaking machinery should be gradually strengthened. There are many policy and institutional routes to this, including developing permanent UN peacekeeping forces to interpose between antagonists, judicial institutions with more power, international conflict resolution centers, and the like.14 The point is to seize whatever policy opportunities present themselves to move along these routes. [This has been going on since I wrote this book, Vol. 5: The Just Peace, especially against genocide and mass murder. No longer is state sovereignty a legal/conceptual bulwark against international humanitarian intervention in a state. For example, through the United Nations the international community has intervened to stop the killing in Bosnia and Rwanda. True, this intervention is often too late. True, there are too many cases of mass-murder that are ignored. But a legal bridge has been crossed and no government guilty of mass murder now can confidently protect itself by the claim that this is its own business. This is now especially true with, first, the precedent creating UN establishment in The Hague in 1993 of a temporary tribunal to indict and try those who have committed war crimes in the former Yugoslavia; and second, the approval (by 120 to 7) in 1998 of a treaty to set up a permanent international criminal court in The Hague to prosecute genocide, war crimes, aggression, and other crimes against humanity. The Court will have the power to issue arrest warrants for the citizens of a country even against the government's will--a remarkable step forward in making democide by governments a punishable offense and strengthening the world government in line with the Constitutional Principles.]

Fifth, the actual global power of the UN must be incrementally increased (consistent with a division of power and checks and balances system) and the power of nation-states eroded. This, of course, is the most problematic vector of action. It may perhaps create more, even unbelievably more, injustice to work for the unilateral disarmament of those states (such as the United States) whose relatively free institutions are open to peace and disarmament appeals while their chief enemies arm and prepare for war. Social justice and the avoidance of war require that prudent balance of power calculations and Big Power stability attend any active disarmament policy. Moreover, any gradual arming of the UN must be carefully correlated with the erection of institutional balances of power to prevent any one nation or coalition of nations from gaining control. All this involves the art of international politics and government. But the artistic vision should be clear.15

Such are five global vectors of action toward a just, international peace. They provide overall direction for practical policies and diplomacy. But I wish to underline here the danger in their application mentioned above. Special care must attend any international institutional reforms, for there are powers whose leaders believe they know, absolutely, without doubt, what is true and just and will force others to submit to their beliefs. If, through the enhanced power and role of an international government and the concomitant weakening of the global balance of power between the superpowers, these absolutist states can dominate others or seize control over the United Nations, they may well do so. In trying to create a just peace, we may encourage a new global empire or, for the first time, a world totalitarian state!

All this is to say that the movement toward a just peace must be cognizant of the primary cleavages and polarization in society and its major conflict fronts. Gradually implementing a just peace by minimizing government must be done in this context. In the cause of justice and peace, it does no good to reform government in a way that would enable a revolutionary movement to forcibly impose its idea of justice on everyone, or to weaken a state which is the major bulwark and armory against such an international revolutionary threat.

When the status quo is under attack, when a protracted conflict exists, the Positive Peace Principle may well have to be subordinated to the principles of conflict resolution given in Chapter 10.


* Scanned from Chapter 11 in R.J. Rummel, The Just Peace, 1981. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. Note omitted.

2. My definitions of negative and positive peace should not be confused with Galtung's usage. For Galtung, negative peace is the absence of violence; positive peace is social justice, which he equates with equality. See Section 3.3.2 and Section 3.9.3. Here positive peace is a just peace, which for societies lacking consensus about social justice is the Just Package. Thus, Galtung's emphasis on equality is subsumed in my definition: he, along with others who feel similarly, would be free to develop a secure and protected equalitarian community. But the reverse is not true. Were Galtung's idea of positive peace to be imposed, then those who disagree and prefer freedom, virtue, or tradition to his equality would have no choice. To be implemented in a plural society, Galtung's solution would require extensive coercion to be implemented, as is inevitable with socialism.

3. See Section 7.3.

4. I assume here that all national governments are too large for an internal just peace. Later I will mention the possibility of homogeneous nations with a unified, first-order view of justice.

5. I have in mind the point made by Benn (1967b)--that, for Locke, as for Hobbes, the natural right to liberty; meant at least a liberty to do whatever there was no rule or moral

It is arguable that such a right is in fact a formal principle of procedure in rational and moral argument rather than a right to do anything specific. It places the onus on justifying interference, not on showing why one should be let alone. And this, indeed, is part at least of what is meant by saying that someone is a moral person. For if one denied a man this right, it would be open to others to use him, like their beasts and their tools, for their own purposes and as they chose, without being called upon to show by what right they did so. This would be to acknowledge with Aristotle that some men are slaves by nature. To recognize a man as a moral person is thus to recognize that he has interests and not merely functions and thus to concede at least this minimal right.
----pp. 197-198, italics added.

6. For the design of a revised United Nations, see Clark and Sohn (1966). Such work and that on possible specific international or national policies, such as a voucher system for public education (Friedman, 1962: Chapter VI), are helpful for developing and gauging alternatives. These broaden our choices. This is not the same as arguing that some specific policy, such as eliminating a government-mandated minimum wage if one exists, ought to be followed by all governments. It is this universalization of specific policies that I believe foolish.

7. In his article, "Entropy and the General Theory of Peace," which I view as fundamentally inconsistent with his socialism, Galtung concludes a section on "peace thinking" with these words:

Thus, the general formula is: Increase the world entropy, i.e., increase the disorder, the messiness, the randomness, the unpredictability--avoid the clear-cut, the simplistic blueprint, the high predictable, the excessive order. Or in other words, if somebody tries to form the world according to one clear blueprint, then initiate a contra-blueprint that will see to it that the level of total order is not excessive. Expressed in one formula, this seems to capture much of what today passes as peace thinking, particularly of the associative variety.

8. An additional 921 million people are partly free. About 1.6 billion people, or 37 percent of the world's population, are presently free in terms of political rights and civil liberties. See Freedom at Issue (January-February, 1980). [For 1997, about 1.3 billion people are free (live in liberal democracies), or 21.7 percent of the world's population. See Freedom Review 28 (No.1, 1997)]

9. Here is another converging argument for the Just Package. In national societies closest to a just peace, guards and fences are needed to keep people out, not in. But for societies departing from a just peace (i.e., those enforcing a specific idea of social justice on a plural society), guards and fences are only required to keep people in, not out.

10. I recognize that in some tyrannical authoritarian nations, such as Uganda under Idi Amin or Haiti under François Duvalier, people could easily leave either legally or illegally, yet conditions remained politically repressive and terroristic. But these are economically primitive nations. As such nations develop economically, they become increasingly dependent on professional, educated, and skilled workers who are more disposed to leave such repressive systems. To keep those people requires either a Berlin-type wall around a country or reforms in living conditions.

11. Note omitted.

12. Among an extensive literature, see for example Cohen (1973) and Manser (1973).

13. The UN is a political body whose policies are ipso facto politicized, especially along East-West and North-South axes. All the world's major first-order divisions about social justice are represented in the UN and contest over issues. And certainly, to even suggest in the General Assembly a resolution, for example, to help the Kurds in Iran or Iraq achieve national independence, or the Tibetans to end military and political control by China, to many would show extreme naivete about what is politically possible. It would indicate gross insensitivity about diplomatic balances within the UN. But the UN as a political arena in which diplomats artfully negotiate the currently possible is one thing; the underlying direction of policy is another. We may choose to sail to Hawaii from Los Angeles, but the navigation may consist of numerous zigs and zags from a straight course and many changes in sail as we account for currents and wind (both plentiful in the UN), storms, and the condition of our boat and crew.

14. See, for example, Bloomfield (1964), Clark and Sohn (1966), Fabian (1971), Fry (1957), Wainhouse (1973), and Williams (1971).

15. Although I disagree (1976a) with Kissinger's theoretical conception of détente, I believe he accurately portrays part of the problem I see here.

In a community of sovereign states, the quest for peace involves a paradox: The attempt to impose absolute justice by one side will be seen as absolute injustice by all others; the quest for total security for some turns into total insecurity for the remainder. Stability depends on the relative satisfaction and therefore also the relative dissatisfaction of the various states. The pursuit of peace must therefore begin with the pragmatic concept of coexistence--especially in a period of ideological conflict.

For citations see the Vol. 5: The Just Peace REFERENCES

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