Cultural and Societal Perspectives of Nonviolence

  • Daniel M. MaytonII
Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)


This chapter focuses on nonviolence at the cultural or societal levels. Specifically, this chapter is organized around the concept of “cultures of peace.” Numerous cultures have been identified and studied that have historically embraced nonviolence. I will initially discuss these peaceful cultures along with the features that have helped these societies to primarily utilize nonviolent behavior over violent alternatives. Next, the UN resolutions on cultures of peace and the eight key values (respect all life, reject violence, share with others, listen to understand, preserve the planet, rediscover solidarity, work for women’s equality, participate in democracy) are presented and analyzed. Representative psychological and sociological research to support the development of components of cultures of peace is reviewed as well. The role of gender issues in the understanding of nonviolence at the societal level will be intertwined throughout the discussion of cultural issues of peace. A concise bibliography of readings for each component within the framework of a culture of peace is included.


Civil Society Gross Domestic Product United Nations Gender Equality Armed Conflict 
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Recommended Readings

  1. Bonta, B. D. (1993). Peaceful peoples: An annotated bibliography. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow.Google Scholar
  2. Bonta has identified and annotated a considerable amount of books, articles, and chapters that discuss and analyze the many peaceful cultures from around the world. This volume will be very helpful to peace scholars, peace researchers, and peace activists in locating information on 47 societies that foster peacefulness.Google Scholar
  3. Boulding, E. (2000b). Cultures of peace: The hidden side of history. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Boulding presents the development of the cultures of peace movement and from the perspective of someone who was intimately involved at many levels. Her easily read book reviews the history of cultures of war and peace movements before presenting the peace cultures in action today. She outlines the feminist perspectives along with the importance of partnerships between men and women and between children and adults. Boulding also analyzes how existing conflict structures might be transformed into cultures of peace.Google Scholar
  5. Brenes, A., & Wessells, M. (Eds.). (2001). Entire issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 7(2).Google Scholar
  6. This entire Millennium II issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology looks at the psychological contributions to cultures of peace. Separate articles address political obstacles, democratization, solidarity, nonviolence, sustainability, and policies.Google Scholar
  7. Christie, D. J. (1997). Reducing direct and structural violence: The human needs theory. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 3(4), 315–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. In this classic paper, Christie presents the case for having human needs theory replace the theory of power politics in peace psychology. He outlines how human needs theory can be used to reduce direct and structural violence. Human needs theory has clear implications for more social justice in the world.Google Scholar
  9. de Rivera, J. H. (Guest Ed.). (2004). Assessing cultures of peace [Special issue]. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 10(2).Google Scholar
  10. In this special issue methods to assess whether a particular culture is a culture of peace are conceptualized and tested in several contexts. The UN definition and components of cultures of peace are used by de Rivera in a template for assessing cultures of peace. Fernández-Dols et al. provide an alternative definition with different measurement recommendations. Other authors specifically apply the concept of cultures of peace with Spain and Brazil.Google Scholar
  11. de Rivera, J. H., & Perez, D. (Eds.). (2007). Emotional climate, human security, and culture of peace. An entire issue of Journal of Social Issues devoted to cultures of peace, 66(2).Google Scholar
  12. In this special issue of the Journal of Social Issues, de Rivera and Páez have assembled a range of articles that address cultures of peace and the role of psychosocial processes and emotional climate. A secondary theme that cuts across the articles is human security and the effect of terrorist attacks with a focus on South America and Europe.Google Scholar
  13. Norsworthy, K. L., & Gerstein, L. H. (Eds.). (2003). Counseling and building communities of peace. An entire issue of the International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 25(4).Google Scholar
  14. In this special issue counselors and therapists address a variety of structural and systemic counseling approaches that can impact the establishment and reinforcement of cultures of peace. Both theory and practice are scrutinized across nine articles. Specific topics considered are counseling’s role in community based projects, racism, reconciliation, human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, bullying, and child soldiers.Google Scholar
  15. Sponsel, L. E., & Gregor, T. (Eds.). (1994). The anthropology of peace and nonviolence. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  16. This edited volume by Sponsel and Gregor includes several articles that analyze peaceable cultures from an anthropological perspective. The relevant dynamics of culture that make the people in peaceful societies behave nonviolently are discussed. Many illustrative examples are presented from the Inuits in Canada, the Semai of Malasia, and the Meninaku and Yanomami in South America. A case is made for a pedagogy of the anthropology of peace and nonviolence.Google Scholar

Recommended Web Sites

  1. Culture of Peace News Network,
  2. The Culture of Peace News Network (CPPN) is a global network of interactive Internet sites for readers to exchange information about events, experiences, books, music, and Web news that promotes a culture of peace. This is a project sponsored by the United Nations for the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. There are many useful links on this site including links to articles relevant to each of the Manifesto 2000’s eight keys to peace.Google Scholar
  3. Earth Charter Initiative,
  4. This Web site is devoted to the Earth Charter and its implementation worldwide. In addition to the complete text of the charter in over 30 languages plus FAQ and background material on its development, this Web site has a means for individuals to personally endorse the charter. Recent news about the Earth Charter Initiative in general and the specific initiatives for youth are also linked on the Web site. It is also possible to download primary, secondary, and higher education lesson plans and resource materials on aspects of the Earth Charter and the book Toward a Sustainable World: The Earth Charter in Action. In addition to the typical organizational requests for money, this Earth Charter Initiative provides those interested in volunteering their time concrete examples of what the organization needs. Another related and worthwhile Web site that links to Agenda 21 is
  5. Education for a Culture of Peace, UNESCO,
  6. This Web site is part of the United Nations and UNESCO’s work to improve the education of people of the world. The mandate for the organization behind this site is in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that stated, “Everyone has the right to education…Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial and religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”Google Scholar
  7. Global Marshall Plan: Balancing the World,
  8. The first Web site for the Global Marshall Plan Initiative brings together individuals from many disciplines to develop a fairer globalization process and a better balance in the world. Within this integrative organizational platform an alliance of positive energy from politics, business, science, and civil society seek to bring their special skills and access diverse social networks to the Initiative. This page links to a treasure trove of information that is relevant to students, professionals, researchers, and activists interested in helping those in poverty and in improving the global economy by creating balance between the economy, environment, society, and culture. Another Web site ( ) by the Network of Spiritual Progressives provides an alternative Global Marshall Plan. Both sites deserve a look.
  9. Let’s Talk America,
  10. Let’s Talk America is a nationwide movement designed to bring Americans from diverse political points of view together in multiple venues from homes to churches to restaurants and cafes for lively and spirited dialog to consider important questions facing our democracy. This “town hall” meeting process is being encouraged to rekindle what used to be viewed as the lifeblood of our democracy. Within Let’s Talk America sessions, everyone is encouraged to talk about America’s promise and the meaning of freedom, democracy, unity, and equality to “we the people.” Let’s Talk America is a safe place for people to come together to listen, speak, ask, and learn – without being forced to agree, change, or bite our tongues.Google Scholar
  11. Manifesto 2000, The United Nations Cultures of Peace. Retrieved April 24, 2008, from
  12. This page will link you to the page where you can still sign the Manifest 2000 pledge electronically. You will need to click on the Manifesto 2000 button in the column on the left and then click on the Manifesto and Sign It buttons on the top of subsequent pages to read and then electronically sign the Manifesto.Google Scholar
  13. Open Society Institute, Retrieved June 2, 2008, from
  14. The Open Society Institute (OSI) was founded by investor and philanthropist George Soros as a private grant making foundation to effect policy that promotes democracy in general plus human rights and economic, legal, and social reform at the local through international levels. OSI has funded initiatives in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America to deal with may aspects of cultures of peace and specifically covering topics from public health to education to business development. The Web site includes information about the past and current initiatives, about applying for grants, scholarships, and fellowships, and about events relevant to open societies around the world. The resources links on the Web site include video and multimedia presentations about a range of human rights issues.Google Scholar
  15. Southern Poverty Law Center, Retrieved May 4, 2008, from
  16. From its beginnings in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm the Southern Poverty Law Center has grown into an internationally known organization that has developed tolerance education programs, provided legal support for people threatened and attached by white supremists and hate groups. The legal victories it has won have stopped and forced the bankruptcy of many hate groups including the Aryan Nation.Google Scholar
  17. United Nations CyberSchoolBus. (1995). Peace Education. Retrieved September 13, 2007, from
  18. United Nations CyberSchoolBus is a most interesting Web site that tailors to the “learner as teacher” or the “teacher as learner.” From the beginning this Web site differentiates the differences in peace education for what role the individual plays in society. Learner as teacher entails of five units that represent critical themes in educating others about “a culture of peace” and allow for creativity, whereas the teacher-as-learner consists of a more broad selection to choose from on the theory of peace education. Therefore, this Web site is great for a breakdown of the roles common in school systems today and some parts of the world.Google Scholar
  19. The first link takes you to the text of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the General Assembly of the Unites Nations on December 10, 1948. The second link takes you to the UNESCO Web page that commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration. This page links to analyses of the steps needed and the hurdles that must be jumped to make this declaration a real universal around the world in the twenty-first century.Google Scholar
  20. White Ribbon Campaign: Men Working to End Men’s Violence Against Women,
  21. The White Ribbon Campaign claims to be the world’s largest effort to get men to end violence directed towards women and exists in over 50 different countries. The emphasis is on educating men and boys to be aware of the problems women experience and to take an active role in ending violence against women. Curricular materials for middle school and high school may be ordered through their Web site.Google Scholar
  22. While this page primarily focuses on women and cultures of peace in the Caribbean Region of the world, the concepts and information presented are very relevant to gender and peace issues regardless of location. In addition the Publication button and Exemplary Actions button link to reports and information about women and cultures of peace from around the world.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel M. MaytonII
    • 1
  1. 1.Lewis-Clark State CollegeLewistonUSA

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