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The Case for Nonkilling Global Political Science in Service to Nonkilling Global Transformation

Glenn D. Paige

International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000


Philosophy begins when someone asks a general question, and so does science.

-Bertrand Russell

The questions that a country puts are a measure of that country's political development. Often the failure of that country is due to the fact that it does not put the right question to itself.

-Jawaharlal Nehru

Before proceeding further, each reader is asked to reflect upon the question, "Is a nonkilling society possible?" If not, why not? If yes, why?


Is a nonkilling society possible?

For this purpose a nonkilling society is taken to be a human community from smallest to largest encompassing all humankind that has the following characteristics. There is no killing of humans, at least, and no threats to kill. There are no weapons for killing ("hardware") and no legitimizations, justifications, or permissions to kill ("software"). And there are no conditions of society that depend for maintenance or change upon the threat or use of lethal force. That is, a nonkilling society is taken to be one in which humans neither kill nor threaten to kill each other.

The response of most political scientists is likely to be that a nonkilling society is "completely unthinkable" for at least three reasons: lethal human nature; scarce resources that lead to conflict and killing; and the biological or moral imperative to kill to defend self and others against predatory aggression. It will be argued that there has never been a nonkilling society in history, and thus there can never be one.

These primal understandings — with elaborations — variously inform traditions of political thought and action throughout the world. In 20th century professional socialization of political scientists the indissoluble link between politics and violence–and thus the implied impossibility of a nonkilling society–is asserted in Max Weber's pervasively influential 1918 lecture at the University of Munich, "Politics as a Vocation." Then, as you know, Weber defined the modern state as "a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of physical force within a given territory" (1958, p. 78). Consequently Weber warned, "He who seeks the salvation of the soul, his own and that of others, should not seek it along the avenue of politics, for the quite different tasks of politics can only be solved by violence" (p. 126, emphasis added). For Weber and for those of us socialized in the Weberian tradition, "the decisive means for politics is violence" (p. 121). Consequently the idea of a nonkilling political science in service to a nonkilling society is easily dismissed.

Reinforcing and compounding professional prokilling socialization, of course, are influences from family traditions; revolutionary and national patriotisms; religions; the media; the arts; and the gruesome evidence of homicides, genocides, massacres, revolts, and wars accompanied by lamentations and celebrations of actual or threatened counterkilling.


Pathologies of lethality

Nevertheless, as the Common Era 2000 opens, punctuated by culturally varied calculations of social time, there are reasons to begin to question the plausibility of the previous assumption that we humans are incapable of liberating ourselves from lethality. It is imperative that political scientists, policy makers, and all who are affected by their decisions join in questioning this assumption. Simply stated, the ancient commitment to lethality for individual and societal well-being increasingly produces conditions that Craig Comstock has called the "pathology of defense," (Comstock 1971). Examples are when guns in the home kill more family members than intruders, bodyguards assassinate heads of state, violent revolutionaries become oppressors of the liberated, armies for defense oppress the defended, and the ultimate victorious weapon and its associated technology become the most dangerous threat to the continued existence of life on earth. That is, beliefs that killing is inevitable and that commitment to kill is imperative for well-being paradoxically are becoming principal threats to the physical, economic, and ecological survival of humankind.

For clarity of understanding, listen to the voices–not of advocates of nonviolence whom Weber decried as irrelevant for politics–but of three American generals, widely respected professionals in the art and science of killing:

General Douglas MacArthur(1955)
You will say at once that although the abolition of war has been the dream of man for centuries, every proposition to that end has been promptly discarded as impossible and fantastic. Every cynic, every pessimist, every adventurer, every swashbuckler in the world has always disclaimed its feasibility. But that was before the science of the past decade made mass destruction a reality. The argument then was along spiritual and moral grounds and lost….But now the tremendous and present evolution of nuclear and other potentials of destruction has suddenly taken the problem away from its primary consideration as a moral and spiritual question and brought it abreast of scientific realism [emphasis added]. It is no longer an ethical problem to be pondered solely by learned philosophers and ecclesiastics but a hard core one for the masses whose survival is at stake….The leaders are the laggards….Never do they state the bald truth, that the next great advance in civilization cannot take place until war is abolished….When will some great figure in power have sufficient imagination to translate this universal wish–which is rapidly becoming a university necessity–into actuality. We are in a new era. The old methods and solutions no longer suffice. We must have new thoughts, new ideas, new concepts….We must break out of the straight-jacket of the past [emphasis added]. Cousins 1987: 67-9).
General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953)
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children….This is not a way of life in any true sense. Under the cloud of war it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. (Speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953).
General George Lee Butler (1996)
Nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient, and morally indefensible. (Remarks at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C., December 4, 1996).

The 5.821 trillion dollars spent on the United States nuclear weapons program alone between 1940 and 1996 (Schwartz 1998), combined with countless millions of lives lost in war and economic deprivation in the violent 20th century, can serve as admittedly inadequate indicators of the self-destructive costs of continued human acceptance of the politics of killing throughout the world.

If these generals can question the unacceptable consequences of continued commitment to killing, why not also 21st century political scientists, policy makers, plus those from whom their capacity to make decisions derives and who suffer most massively from their consequences–the people of the world?


Roots of nonkilling societies

What are some grounds for seriously considering the possibility of realizing nonkilling societies throughout the world? First, nonkilling human nature. Most humans who have ever lived, including women, half of humanity, have never directly killed anyone. Second, nonkilling spiritual potentials. The spiritual heritage of humankind, expressed in various religions and humanist philosophies, contains injunctions not to kill that have been courageously obeyed by some adherents of every faith and conviction. Humans are capable of responding to — as well as creating — spiritual imperatives not to kill. What a few can do is ultimately possible for all, through global processes of emulation and innovation. Third, science — meaning all approaches to validated knowledge from bio-neuroscience through the social sciences, humanities, and professions. The sciences increasingly offer hope of discovering ways out of humanity's homicidal, genocidal, ecocidal, omnicidal trajectory. The historic 1986 call for liberation of humanity from violent biological pessimism by twenty scientists in the Seville Statement on Violence (Adams 1997) constitutes an example.

Fourth, nonkilling societal components. Viewed globally, some prototypical components of a nonkilling society already exist that forecast its attainability. For example, 67 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes (Appendix A); 47 countries recognize conscientious objection to killing in military service (Appendix B); and 28 countries have no armies at all, although 12 of them have defense treaties with other states (Appendix C). There are institutions dedicated to principled nonviolence in such fields as religion (Jains of the East; Quakers of the West); politics (Britain's Fellowship Party), defense (Germany's Association for Social Defense), economics (Pax World Fund; United Farm Workers of America; Sri Lanka's Sarvodaya Movement); education (India's Gandhigram Rural University); research (America's Albert Einstein Institution); the arts (India's Centre for Nonviolence through the Arts); human rights (Amnesty International); environment (Greenpeace); and many others. If such organizations, institutions, and policies are creatively combined and adapted to the conditions and aspirations of any given society, experience-based approximations of nonkilling societies are even now demonstrable.

Fifth, nonviolent popular movements. Although not new to history, nonviolent popular struggles that have accompanied global processes of democratization increasingly demonstrate alternatives for achieving political change in lieu of armed revolution, civil wars, coups, and assassinations. Appearing to varying degrees in all parts of the world, they include the Gandhian movement for Indian independence, the Kingian movement for racial equality in the United States, the people's power movement for Philippine democracy, the South African anti-apartheid movement, and the dissident movements for freedom and justice that contributed to dissolution of the Soviet Union and liberation of Eastern European and Baltic countries from Soviet control (Powers and Vogele 1997). Although not without defeats, as recently in Burma (1988-89) and China (1989), such nonviolent movements — variously constituted by principled nonkilling and pragmatic nonviolent elements — contrast greatly with revolutionary and civil war bloodshed associated with the American, French, Russian, and Chinese revolutionary traditions.

Sixth, nonkilling lives. Just as democracies are made by democrats, or x-ocracies by x-ocrats, nonkilling societies will be made by nonkilling individuals. The lives of men and women dedicated to principled nonviolence throughout history and in contemporary societies, inspires confidence that killing can stop (Josephson 1985). Mutually supportive couples are extremely significant, such as Mohandas and Kasturba Gandhi, Martin Luther Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, and Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Furthermore, as the late great Gandhian educator Dr. G. Ramachandran reminded us, "The unknown heroes and heroines of nonviolence are more important than those that are known." If some humans can stop killing, others can too.


Implications for political science

If political scientists envisioned the possibility of realizing nonkilling societies, what implications would it have for our discipline and its role in society? Five transformative revolutions can be expected: First, a normative revolution from varying degrees of acceptance of killing to principled rejection. Second, a factual revolution brought about by incessant curiosity to discover evidence of nonkilling human capabilities past and present. Third, a four-part theoretical revolution to understand the causes of killing, the causes of nonkilling, the causes of transition between killing and nonkilling, and the characteristics of completely killing-free societies. Fourth, an applied revolution in which nonkilling normative, empirical, and theoretical insights are combined to assist decision-making and problem-solving by all who seek the continued survival and well-being of human and planetary life. Among momentous tasks of the present era are achieving disarmament; ending the holocaust of the poor; respecting universal human rights; ending ecocide; and creating processes of peaceful, planetary, problem-solving cooperation. In short, unabashed commitment to contribute to a world in which nonkilling, life, liberty, happiness, and even love (Sorokin 1954) are meaningful terms in politics and political science.

Fifth, an educational revolution to prepare professional political scientists and competent citizens to contribute to removal of killing, its causes and consequences, from global life. Professional education explicitly will seek to respond to needs for researchers, teachers, creative leaders, and critical communicators to realize nonkilling societal transformation. Political science education for nonkilling service will affirm both needs for specialization and for life-celebrating mutual supportiveness among specializations.

The four-part logic of nonkilling political analysis will guide the curriculum and subsequent specializations. First, students will be confronted by the most monstrous record of human capacity to kill that can be assembled by audiovisual and documentary means. They will next be introduced just as vividly to the record of human commitment to nonkilling political and social action. Then the transitional record of killers become nonkillers–both individuals and collectivities–will be examined, as when generals become pacifists, when revolutionary movements renounce violence, and when states abolish capital punishment, demobilize, and convert military economies to serve civilian needs. Finally, the record of human inventiveness in envisioning and implementing nonviolent conditions of social life will be explored, combined with a challenge to envision and to contribute creatively to liberate human potentials in societies characterized by no killing and no threats to kill.

Mutually reinforcing innovative enclaves focused upon research, teaching, servant leadership, and critical communication will characterize each stage of professional development and continuing service.

The impact of a nonkilling shift upon the broad fields that underly contemporary political science (political theory, national politics, comparative politics, and international relations)–despite current trends of disintegration and reconfiguration–can be briefly suggested. The challenge to theory is to explore the nonkilling potentials in the often neglected thought of Gandhi (1970), Sharp (1973), Burton (1979), and Galtung (1996) and to revisit classical and contemporary political theorists to extract nonkilling insights for creative extrapolation. The challenge to national politics is to discover nonviolent resources in history and contemporary societies; for example, four centuries of nonviolent experiences that can assist transformation of the world's leading military superpower and most violent of the industrialized democracies into a nonkilling United States of America (Lynd and Lynd 1995). For comparative politics, the challenge is to compare societies on all indicators, processes, and consequences of lethality for insight into factors conducive to nonkilling transformation and sustainability. Changes in lethal (and nonlethal) characteristics of societies should become at least as important in world media reporting and global public attention as changes in stock markets, sports, and the weather. In international relations, inquiry is challenged into bottom-up, top-down, and horizontal processes of nonkilling interactions that can restrain the violent, empower the nonviolent, and progressively lead to recognition and universal realization of a nonkilling human right: "Everyone has the right not to be killed and the responsibility not to kill others."

Taken as a whole, the academic discipline of political science must become committed to realization of nonkilling societies by nonkilling means, unabashedly engaged in helping to solve local and global problems correlated with continuation of lethality, and devoted to combining spirit, science, skill, song (arts), leadership, citizen competence, and other resources required for responsive service to life-respecting human needs and potentialities.


Nonkilling institutions

Given the assumption that nonkilling societies are not beyond realization, and assuming that political science as an academic discipline can contribute to processes of nonkilling social transformation, what are some transitional institutions that can assist problem-solving implementation?

Whereas a nonkilling spirit needs to be infused in each existing political science specialization, department, and association, it will be appropriate to create new nonkilling departments of political science within new colleges and universities that are arising in response to the educational requirements of a growing global population. Because of the complexity of nonkilling causal analysis and the need for comprehensive systems insights to guide transformative decisions by individuals and collectivities, such departments can be expected to be increasingly hybrid. They will draw upon all sciences, humanities, and professions, continuing trends over the past half century. Such departments need to be structured explicitly to provide service in the fields of research, training, public/private leadership, and communication. A special need is to support creation of nonviolent shanti senas (peace brigades) as alternatives to military training in schools, colleges, and universities (Radhakrishnan 1992; Weber 1996).

To take seriously the possibility of realizing nonkilling societies implies requirements for knowledge and skills beyond the capabilities of any discipline or academic department. Therefore the resources of entire nonkilling universities and colleges are required for research, education-training, and service.

In democratic politics, nonkilling political parties are needed that are dedicated to responsive processes of social problem-solving that seek the well-being of all. A generic term might be an ahimsa sarvodaya party ("ahimsa," nonviolence; "sarvodaya," well-being of all). Such parties to emerge creatively in concept, name, organization, and activities out of specific sociocultural conditions. Ahimsa sarvodaya parties differ from past violence- and class-based parties in their nonkilling goals and nonkilling means of attainment through need-responsive processes of problem-solving for universal well-being. Single party domination is not implied, but only dedicated commitment to shift politics toward realization of nonkilling needs. There can be many ahimsa sarvodaya parties engaged in processes of realizing and advancing nonkilling societies.

Public service departments of nonviolence are needed at every level of governance with cabinet responsibilities. Their tasks are to monitor conditions conducive to lethality, to support professional training for prevention and post-lethal transformative rehabilitation, and to advise on public policies that will facilitate nonviolent community well-being. Since nonviolence is so pervasively important, such departments are needed no less than those dedicated to public health, refuse removal, and the provision of a clean water supply.

Transitional societies will require nonkilling common security institutions. Nonkilling security forces, akin to traditional military and police, are essential for protective and humanitarian service operations by land, sea, and air. Such forces to be trained for preventive, crisis-coping, and restorative actions–and for after-action evaluations of effectiveness. Appropriate training institutions will be needed. Since nonviolent common security requires the engagement of entire populations at local, national, and transnational levels, nonviolent study circles are essential in civil society for study of the theory and practice of civilian social defense (Sharp 1990).

Nonviolent security also implies nonviolent common security councils and nonviolent intelligence agencies (reveal, not conceal) at national and transnational levels as well as nonviolent cultural attachés in diplomatic establishments. All dedicated to provide nonviolent policy alternatives to decision-makers, and to promote nonviolent mutual understanding and cooperation among all societies for common security. To enhance skills for nonkilling public service in governmental and private organizations, institutions for nonviolence training are needed. Beginning as subcomponents or independently, they may evolve as nonviolent alternatives to war colleges, national defense universities, military academies, police academies, diplomatic training schools, and schools of public administration, as well as to violence-accepting professional schools in civil society.

Civil society institutions are needed to contribute to the emergence, maintenance, and creativity of nonkilling societies. Among them are nonkilling spiritual councils to affirm and advance multifaith respect for life in all matters from birth to death; nonkilling research and policy analysis institutes to assist societal decision making from international security policies to all matters of political, economic, social, and cultural life; nonkilling media of communication to provide information, news, analysis, and commentary to assist individual and public policy decision-making; nonkilling memorials jointly to lament the victims of past lethality and to celebrate pioneers of nonkilling alternatives; nonkilling economic enterprises to respond to genuine needs of people in transition to nonkilling societies in local and global contexts; nonkilling consulting groups that are independent of violent states and their lethal antagonists to assist nonviolent problem-solving within and across societies; transnational nonkilling problem-solving consortia such as Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders; nonkilling training institutions that provide skills in nonviolent leadership for conflict resolution and social change, drawing upon scientific advances and the experiences of Gandhian, Kingian, Buddhist, Christian and other spiritual and secular traditions; nonkilling leadership study and revitalization centers to provide opportunities for rest, reflection, and sharing of experiences among leaders engaged in nonviolent actions in every sector of society; and centers for nonkilling creativity in the arts to provide complete freedom to explore and express nonkilling human potentials from the perspectives of and in creative interaction with all the arts.

A generic institution appropriate for adaptation from local to global levels is a center for global nonviolence. Small, creative, catalytic, and economical, its motto is "Everyone can be a center for global nonviolence." Seven workers with communication capabilities scan local and global communities for nonkilling knowledge emerging from research, education-training, and social change efforts. They share knowledge across sectors with all who are engaged in transformative action, and with institutions that have large-scale implementational capabilities. In the process, needs for new theoretical, training, and applied knowledge are identified and projects for discovery are facilitated. The core working group is composed of facilitators for research, education-training, problem-solving applications, communication, resources, local-global correspondence, and overall coordination. Findings are shared in associated global nonviolence leadership academies, where experienced and younger leaders come together to enhance skills for nonviolent service in all sectors of society. Linked through information technologies, centers for global nonviolence and associated leadership academies can constitute a network for facilitation of mutual learning and innovation for nonkilling local-global transformation.


For nonkilling global transformation

Although, of course, not the only source of knowledge and skills required for liberation of humanity from lethality, nonkilling global political science — in concert with all who respond to the spiritual and scientific realist imperative of "No more killing!" — can be a creative source of transformative service. It will take vision and courage to go forward. The cooperative contributions of political scientists, their students, and all who support their work throughout the world are needed.


Appendix A

Countries and territories without death penalty (67)
Andorra Guinea-Bussau Norway
Angola Haiti Palau
Australia Honduras Panama
Austria Hungary Paraguay
Azerbajan Iceland Poland
Belgium Ireland Portugal
Bulgaria Italy Romania
Cambodia Kiribati San Marino
Canada Liechtenstein Sao Tomé and Principe
Cape Verde Lithuania Slovakia
Colombia Luxembourg Slovenia
Costa Rica Macedonia Solomon Islands
Croatia Marshall Islands South Africa
Czech Republic Mauritius Spain
Denmark Micronesia Sweden
Dominican Republic Moldova Switzerland
Ecuador Monaco Tuvalu
Estonia Mozambique Uruguay
Finland Namibia Vanuatu
France Nepal Vatican City State
Georgia Netherlands Venezuela
Germany New Zealand
Greece Nicaragua

Source: Amnesty International 1999.


  Appendix B

Countries without armies (28)
No Army (16) No Army (Defense Treaty) (12)
Costa Rica Andorra (Spain)
Dominica Cook Islands (New Zealand)
Haiti Iceland (USA)
Kiribati Luxembourg (NATO)
Liechtenstein Marshall Islands (USA)
Maldives Micronesia (USA)
Mauritius Mustang (Nepal)
Monaco Niue (New Zealand)
Nauru Palau (USA)
Saint Kitts and Nevis Panama (USA)
Saint Lucia Tuvalu (UK)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Vanuatu (Papua New Guinea)
San Marino  
Solomon Islands  
Source: Barbey 1989: 4, updated.


  Appendix C

Countries and territories recognizing conscientious objection to military service (47)

Australia Lithuania
Austria Malta
Azerbaijan Moldova
Belgium Netherlands
Bermuda Norway
Brazil Paraguay
Bulgaria Poland
Canada Portugal
Croatia Romania
Cyprus (Greek-Cyprus) Russia
Czech Republic Slovakia
Denmark Slovenia
Estonia South Africa
Finland Spain
France Suriname
Germany Sweden
Greece Switzerland
Guyana Ukraine
Hungary United Kingdom
Israel United States
Italy Uruguay
Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan
Latvia Yugoslavia

Source: Horeman and Stolwijk 1998.



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