Collective Security: The Classical Legacy

  • Laurence Peters


Peace scholars have generally categorized societies in terms of whether they hold either positive or negative versions of peace. Negative peace is, as the phrase implies, the absence or avoidance of war—secured by deterrence—while positive peace can be described as a society that adheres to notions of equality between peoples and social harmony based on shared notions of justice. Loosely speaking, the positive expressions of peace have been more prominently illustrated by the major religious movements found in the Asiatic societies (Hinduism, Buddhism) and the negative version expressed most clearly by the Western tradition that begins with the ancient Greeks. The negative view of peace relates more to the role of states in relation to their neighbors, and the positive one is grounded in personal values that relate to the formation of individuals’ duty to maintain harmonious communities. One way to view the United Nations (UN) is to see it as the product of these two traditions. The aspirational positive peace language of the UN Preamble that refers to “We the peoples of the United Nations to practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors” coexists uneasily with the first paragraph of Article 1 of the charter that references the need to “maintain international peace and security” by taking “effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.”1


United Nations Security Council Social Harmony Negative Version North Atlantic Treaty Organization 
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© Laurence Peters 2015

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  • Laurence Peters

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