Department of International Relations Seminar
Date & time
This talk is an investigation into the idea and the possibility of world peace. It argues that world peace is possible and explores how world politics might be nudged towards greater peacefulness.
The quest for world peace has excited and eluded political leaders, philosophers, religious elders, activists, and artists for millennia. For as long as there has been war, there have been those that have sought its elimination. Yet today there is relatively little reflection on what world peace might be and how it might be achieved. Indeed, the whole endeavour of speculating about the conditions necessary for world peace has been consigned to the history of ideas.
This talk aims to put world peace back on the agenda and to spark renewed conversation about its possibility and the steps needed to achieve it. It will argue that war has come close to exhausting its evolutionary potential and that the goods it may have once achieved for societies are now better achieved through peace, thanks to technological, economic, and social change. It identifies three critical elements of world peace. First, the emergence and globalisation of the modern states crucial to maintaining peace within societies and important to reducing organised violence internationally. Second, changes to how individuals understand the basic value of human life and to how groups understand their place in the world. Third, changes in the political and economic order that have made war less decisive and more expensive, whilst increasing the rewards of peace. I will suggest ways in which these building blocks can be translated into an agenda for peace.
Alex Bellamy is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the University of Queensland. He is also a consultant at the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and R2P, Senior Adviser at the International Peace Institute (New York) and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. In 2017-18 he was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford. Recent books include East Asia’s Other Miracle: Explaining the Decline of Mass Atrocities (Oxford University Press, 2017) and, with Edward Luck, R2P: Promise to Practice (Polity, 2018). He is currently completing a book on world peace and has begun work on a book on the Syrian civil war.