continued from Part 1.
Boulding's concept of stable peace represents his image of how the cycle of threat, counter-threat, and war can be broken. He often explained the concept with an analogy--the history of dueling. According to Boulding, dueling in the days of swords, was a relatively benign way to settle disputes. Winners and losers were clearly established and, usually, no one was killed. One party was simply disarmed and had to admit defeat. The advent of accurate hand guns, however, changed all that. Then when the disputants walked ten paces, turned, and fired, they were both killed. As soon as people caught on to this new state of affairs, interest in dueling dropped dramatically to the point where, if you challenged somebody to a duel, they'd simply laugh and say that, "We don't do that anymore!"
Boulding saw a similar transformation away from the military resolution of international and civil conflicts, which he called stable peace. He defined stable peace as a relationship between nations (or other social groups) in which the possibility of violent confrontation and war is so remote that it doesn't enter into anyone's calculations. He had a simple objective test for determining whether or not stable peace exists between the United States and another country--Canada, for example. Simply try to imagine a hypothetical request to the Pentagon for the war plans to invade Canada. If the Pentagon can be expected to respond with a laugh and a statement that there is not such thing, then you know that stable peace exists.
According to Boulding the region of stable peace first appeared in Scandinavia and then spread, in mid-1800's, to North America (between Canada and the United States). He then observed the expansion of a region of stable peace which, before the collapse of the Soviet Empire, extended across Western Europe through North America to Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Among these countries, the possibility of armed confrontation was extraordinarily remote. While he acknowledges that some of the stability of this region was attributable to the common need to confront the Soviet Union, he believed it was much more than that. Today, with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the challenge is to permanently expand the region of stable peace to include our former enemies in the east while resisting the forces which might divide the west in the absence of a common enemy. What is striking is that stable peace exists between nations with conflicting languages and cultures as well as those engaged in intense competition and a general struggle for international dominance.
Boulding envisioned a continuum running from stable peace, on the one hand, to stable war on the other, with unstable peace and unstable war in between. Unstable peace is the armed peace of deterrence in which competing sides are prepared for military action, often on a moment's notice. While it may work as a short-term transition toward stable peace, Murphy's law makes it a long-term formula for disaster. At the other extreme, stable war characterizes a situation in which war is viewed as a permanent and unavoidable condition with corresponding shifts in the taboo line toward continuing atrocities, and the virtual absence of non-military structures for resolving disputes. Usually this occurs in situations in which a relatively equal distribution of power makes a near term military resolution of the conflict unlikely. Unstable war, such as we witnessed in the Middle East for the last 40 years, offers more hope. Here, periods of war are interspersed with periods of peace with at least rudimentary peace-making, peace-building, and peace-keeping institutions. He never saw stable peace as an end to conflict and confrontation, but rather, a more enlightened setting in which conflicts can be played out.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of stable peace is that it does not require any sort of world government or abandonment of national sovereignty. All that is required is that people recognize the basic fact that military confrontations are, almost without exception, a poor way of resolving conflicts in which the costs far outweigh any benefits which might be obtained. He didn't see stable peace as a quick fix, but rather part of a long-term, evolutionary process in which the probabilities of war slowly decrease as society increasingly recognizes its waste and futility. Stable peace is also closely associated with prosperity. He was fond of observing that empires and conquests don't pay while stable peace does. As an example he points out that the Scandinavian countries became successful and prosperous in spite of the fact that they never really had an empire. He also cites studies showing that the British actually lost money on their empire.
Boulding was also particularly concerned about the fact that the history of peace has never really been written. Throughout history, peace has, almost universally, has been viewed as a non-event and, therefore, not worthy of study or teaching. For example he proposed, quite seriously, a national holiday to celebrate the Rush-Baghot agreement which demilitarized the Great Lakes and initiated a period of stable peace between the United States and Canada. In the mid 1800's the rallying cry was 54 40' or fight. We didn't get 50 40' and we didn't fight. Instead we got stable peace. Why? For him, this was as important a question as understanding how World War II was fought. Of similar importance is an improved understanding of the history countless other trouble spots did not erupt into war.
Development of the integrative system is also viewed by many as a non-event, even though, for Boulding, it explains a great deal of human behavior. Part of the reason may be that the integrative system is sufficiently commonplace to be uninteresting. Our attention is captured by news stories focused upon the threat system with its spectacular (and relatively rare) instances of violence and bitter confrontation. If its not threats we seem focus on potential exchanges with their seemingly endless flow of schemes for making money. It is the integrative system which determines the group identities, which in turn, determine the parties to conflict.
Boulding has suggested two interesting indicators--benevolence and malevolence. Malevolence is simply defined as the amount of money you'd spend to do a dollar's worth of harm to another. Benevolence, conversely, is defined as the amount you'd spend to do a dollar's worth of good. It is the integrative system which determines intergroup levels of malevolence and benevolence. The key unanswered question, obviously, is how can we turn malevolence into benevolence?
Boulding not only very much appreciated the diversity of the natural world, but also the diversity of the social world. While he delighted in different values and traditions, he was under no illusion that they all contribute equally to the success of society and its overall quality of life. He was, for example, interested in why two countries with similar backgrounds--Australia and Argentina--developed in such radically different ways.
A lifelong fan of Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations, Boulding recognized the crucial role played by the "invisible hand." He also recognized that this wasn't the whole story. There is also an "invisible fist" consisting of the perverse dynamics of market interactions which have to be controlled if capitalism is to benefit average citizens. For example, one key element of the invisible fist was what Boulding called Matthew's Law--from the Biblical Book of Matthew, "From whomsoever hath, to him shall be given." This, "he who has, gets" mechanism tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few "robber barons." One explanation of the current crisis in the former Soviet Union is that, in their pursuit of the benefits of capitalism, they have neglected the importance of controlling the invisible fist.
Finally, Boulding understood the importance of preaching to more than the choir. His goal was always to persuade (not force) skeptics to adopt wiser and more sophisticated images of the world. As a true generalist, Kenneth was never able to develop his ideas and their implications in full detail (though he did amazingly well). The challenge now is for interdisciplinary teams to nurture the intellectual seeds that he planted by more fully developing his ideas. He "often compared the peace movement to the labors of Sisyphus--we push the stone uphill and continually it rolls down again and we have to start all over again. But the hill in not infinite and it has a watershed, and one day the stone will roll over the watershed and we will be chasing it instead of pushing it." Boulding, Kenneth E., Stable Peace (Austin: University of Texas, 1978 p. 66).