Title: PHILOSOPHY OF
PEACE EDUCATION IN A POSTMODERN ERA ,
By: Gur-Ze'ev, Ilan, Educational Theory, 0013-2004,
PHILOSOPHY OF PEACE EDUCATION IN A POSTMODERN ERA
Peace education is currently enjoying the support and appreciation of a variety of theoretical orientations and political positions. Enlightened modernists and "soft" postmodernists, multiculturalists, feminists, critical thinkers, and liberals all celebrate the new fashion.
An interesting set of assumptions stands behind this general appreciation. It is important to note the conviction that peace should be sought, longed for, or struggled for. Another central assumption is that peace is the opposite of violence or conflict. Still another central assumption is that it is possible to educate for peace or for the promotion of peace, in one way or another, and that it is justified and desirable to invest the proper means to do so. In this essay I wish to question these assumptions. I will argue that peace education is part and parcel of the reality it pretends to change. The distinction between peace and violence (or conflict) is not unproblematic. I will argue that the justifications that are common in current discussions of peace education not only serve various violences (which peace education fails to reflect upon and challenge); peace education is itself a manifestation of those violences. I conclude by addressing the possibilities for an alternative to the current trends in peace education.
In this essay I do not reconstruct in detail the similar or conflicting tendencies in current peace education -- suffice it to pinpoint the variations in their propositions, aims, and orientations. Under such circumstances, in fact, it is quite misleading to speak about "peace education" as a monolithic entity. We would do better to speak of various theories and practices within current peace education. In this essay, "peace education" as a general term is an abstraction and its usefulness carries a price which I will try to justify.
Most current peace education activities manifest good will but little theoretical coherence or philosophical elaboration concerning the propositions, aims, methods, and evaluation of their effects and their meaning. In my view, many of the difficulties and shortcomings peace education practitioners face are not challenged because of this lack of conceptual work and reflection. In a certain sense this is not always a bad thing, since at times the naivete of the practitioners and their public is a productive or potentially productive element in normalizing educational processes. At times philosophical work is understood as unnecessary, artificial, or even dangerous for this educational cause. Such an attitude also holds concerning the divide between modernist and postmodernist discourses.
Many versions of peace education work within the framework of modernist technical reason, manifested through various positivist, pragmatic, and functionalist views of knowledge, which pay scant attention to the social and cultural context and the violence that produces their yardsticks and conceptions of knowledge, values, aims, and imagination, as well as their own identity. There is however an additional idealist moral dimension that must be addressed with special sensitivity -- the concept of universal human rights. The source of many of these versions of peace education is religious (mainly Christian); others are humanist of various kinds. However, they are all united in tying resistance against violence or the prevention of conflicts to human rights as an a historic, essential, universalistic phenomenon.
The concept of universal human rights is prima facie modernist. It is rooted in an essentialist concept of the human subject as an entity whose characteristics are universally valid. Its ends or potentials are conceived as rooted in its essence. This concept related to peace education even before it acquired its current title, formalization, and institutionalization at the end of the nineteenth century from John Dewey and after World War I from the progressive educational movement.
Like many other activists of peace education of his day (except the pacifists), Dewey did not base his peace education on moral grounds but on pragmatic political arguments. But here too, as everywhere else, Dewey's pragmatism is founded on Enlightenment concepts of the aim of knowledge and the potentials of the human subject, and is to be seen as part of the humanist tradition despite its rhetorical divorce from metaphysics.
The realization of human potentials by humanist education accompanied by social changes would prevent the conditions for war, Dewey thought. And since he understood peace as the absence of war, he had great hope in the restructuring of the curriculum and pedagogy in order to enhance the education of a reflective and nondogmatic public, which would not easily be manipulated into warfare. Within such a framework,
History is not the study of heroes, but an account
of social development; it provides us with knowledge
of the past which contributes to the solution of
social problems of the present and the future....
before starting with history as such it would be a
good idea to identify the important problems of the
Since he identified peace with the elevation of humanity and the development of rational and pragmatically enlightened human capacities, he understood the development of geography and history studies as instruments for peace. His project was not limited to the American situation or a specific time frame, but was part of a liberal-universalistic orientation sensitive to differences, contexts, and changes.
Yet it remained fundamentally contextual: Western,
humanistic, liberal, and enlightened. In general this also holds for the work
of the central figure in peace education during the last generation, Johan
Galtung. Galtung believed that "ultimately, peace research is an effort to
put Man together again, an effort to transcend all these borders and divisions.
. .in order to arrive at something more truthful to the miracle that is
Some scholars think that peace education continues the progressive education articulated by Dewey. Within this trend John Friesen and Edith Wieler hold that current feminist and multicultural peace education advocates Dewey's appreciation for democratic principles when it maintains that its approach will further social progress and global stability by enhancing understanding among nations. This trend in peace education is part of a larger effort to integrate emancipatory dimensions in Dewey's thought and the neo-Marxist tradition with some aspects of current postmodernist discourses, as manifested in the work of Henry Giroux.
These efforts are always highly problematic, as evinced by the various efforts to construct a postmodern critical pedagogy in face of the effort to obtain a difficult or (perhaps) impossible balance among the autonomy of the subject and her contingency, the possibility of a priori value judgments, the universal validity of truth claims, and the possibility of nonrepressive communication. Not only do various modern orientations take part in peace education; "soft" postmodernists do too, in both the practice and the philosophical justifications of essentialism, universalism, and transcendentalism. Some trends in the Israeli multiculturalist and peace movements are bona fide manifestations of this phenomenon. In the case of peace education, the coexistence of these two trends is inexorably modernist in its assumptions, even when using a fashionable soft postmodern rhetoric in feminist, multiculturalist, and critical arenas. At the same time, a large part of peace education field activity and theoretical elaboration is modern, and even premodern, as in the case of various religious educational centers. Another part of this activity is administered or heavily supported by governmental agencies, and still another part by the United Nations. Substantial work is also done by NGOs.
Postmodern sensitivity to the contingent stance of values and truth claims; the refusal to accept universal validity claims; and the rejection of any general theory of foundationalism, essentialism, and transcendentalism, are in direct conflict with the Enlightenment's modern ideals and its philosophical tradition. Their implicit conservation without their rearticulation or transformation should be addressed. Galtung identified the unreflective use of the term "peace education" and the lack of theoretical elaboration of the foundations of the practitioner's work in this field. Galtung himself, however, worked within the modernist framework and certainly did not challenge peace education and standard peace research from a postmodernist orientation. So far, the only work that explicitly set itself the task of articulating a postmodern critique of current peace education has failed to realize its promise in all but its title.
Some feminist-oriented peace education programs explicitly connect themselves to Dewey's philosophy and its concept of problem-solving via the practice of conflict resolution. They do so while emphasizing the importance of "value clarification" as a reaction to current attempts to rationalize patriotism and justify ever-growing investments in armament. The idea here is that
Children must learn to be peacemakers in order to
survive in the nuclear age. They need an education that
affirms life and encourages new thinking about
conflict, progress, and peacemaking. Feminist educators
can play an important role in peace education by
helping children understand the connections between
militarism and patriarchy.
The central part of patriarchy and sex roles is
sometimes complemented by a retreat to human nature and
universal rights that feminist peace education is
The lack of a socially oriented philosophical elaboration of peace education made possible the positivistic views about "conflict resolution" within media studies and communication in the 1980s and the great hopes of using the Interact in the service of peace education during the 1990s.
Even peace education within the framework of current
critical pedagogy has sometimes had an essentialist conception of human rights
and a positivistic conception of "true" critical knowledge in the
service of peace education. This is occasionally so, even when moral
imagination is prized as against instrumental rationality and technical
reason. This trend is rooted already in the thinking of the
This line of thinking is also highly evident in some current multicultural discourses, which affirm difference, contingency, and antifundamentalist pedagogy.
Here again, the very possibility of a postmodem dialogue among differences and of border crossing overcoming ethnocentrism is ultimately founded on modern universalistic conceptions of the good (or at least on a universal pragmatic) and a fundamentalist conception of human nature and human rights. This is so even when explicitly educational thinkers like Giroux align themselves with the soft postmodern critique of the Enlightenment and its fundamentalism, universalism, and transcendentalism. The relation between peace and human rights and the potential tension between multiculturalism and humanism is identifiable also in major UNESCO declarations, where the United Nations' commitment to self-determination and the independence of states is covered by an explicit, uncompromising commitment to a humanist conception of universal human rights.
In UNESCO's Medium-Term Plan for 1977-1982 we read that it "condemns all violations of human rights as a threat and contrary to its very spirit." The struggle for peace and action to promote human rights are recognized as inseparable. Their linkage "constitutes a coherent conceptual framework." UNESCO states in this spirit that
There can be no genuine peace when the most elementary
human rights are violated, or while situations of
injustice continue to exist; conversely, human rights
for all cannot take root and achieve full growth while
latent or open conflicts are rife.... Peace is
incomplete with malnutrition, extreme poverty and the
refusal of the rights of people to self-determination....
The only lasting peace is a just peace based on
respect for human rights. Furthermore, a just peace
calls for the establishment of an equitable
international order, which will preserve future
generations from the scourge of war.
The universalistic conception of human rights in the modern sense can be traced to the Virginia Bill of Rights and to the 1776 American Declaration of Independence, as well as to the 1789 French declaration. It can also be traced to Kantian philosophy. Yet all of these were founded not only on John Locke's and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's conceptions of natural law, but on a Western traditional fundamentalism within which theories of natural law and human nature were developed.
Such conceptions are highly problematic in today's philosophical and political discussions regardless of one's self-positioning. Postmodernists, modernists, humanists, feminists, postcolonialists, and multiculturalists, of many stripes, are all committed to challenging the universalistic and essentialist conception of human rights. They favor contingency, localism, difference, and uniqueness as the starting point for a declared non-Western-ethnocentric peace education. Within the various soft postmodern trends the politics of rights is founded on contingent, fragile, temporary coalitions of minorities, which represent real, changing interests and passions, replacing ethnocentric Western universalized concepts such as human rights. Constituent thinkers of this trend (such as bell hooks, Peter McLaren, and Elizabeth Ellsworth) do not take part in today's celebrated peace education even when they are involved in actual communal, ethnic, race, and gender conflicts. Here I do not address this issue but limit myself to developing the argument that both Left and Right supporters of peace education are united in moralizing politics. This objectifies a certain discourse for the totalization of an order in which there will be no room for an autonomous subject and free spirit. Harmony, instead, will endure in perpetual "peace."
Moralizing politics is not too problematic for conservatives. As displayed by some of the soft postmodern rhetorics of peace education, it is also a serious challenge for some of the radical critics of Western metanarratives. It is an issue to be addressed by the critics of the existing relations between politics and moral philosophy in essentialist terms, as part of the naturalization of inequalities, marginalization of the Other, and self-reproduction of the white man's domination and its structural and direct violence.
Karl Schmidt was quick to challenge the humanist way to peace under the banners of universal human rights and moralizing politics. He ridiculed the humanist attempt to legitimize "just wars" in the name of future peace and present human cosmopolitan rights. Jurgen Habermas criticizes Schmidt for ultimately justifying all wars and Schmidt is rightly blameworthy on this point.
More than that, Schmidt along with other proto-Nazi writers such as Ernst Juenger are to be blamed for aesthetisizing and moralizing all forms of heroic or effective national violence. But does Habermas's critique really respond to Schmidt's challenge to the concepts of just war and world peace as a (justified) violent realization of human rights? The difference here is between those who think that successful wars are all justified -- or at least not provable as unjustified -- and those who claim that only just wars are justified. I do not attempt to establish a postmodern position according to which there is no way to distinguish Schmidt's critique from Habermas's defense of humanist universalism in their concepts of the justification of war and the commitment to peace. I do claim, however, that from current postmodern critique and from traditional critical theory it is possible to launch a serious challenge to the concepts of peace and violence presented within peace education as represented by declared modernists and postmodernists alike.
Even in the face of the fascist dimensions of Schmidt's critique it is important to develop some other aspects of his critique by questioning the concepts of "peace," "violence," and "education" that are normally taken for granted by peace education practitioners and theorists. Amazingly, it is Galtung, the positivist theorist of peace research, who suggests the most advanced questioning of the concepts of peace and violence within this tradition. His pupils and critics alike refrained from investing too much energy in the fundamental questions of peace education.
The lack of conceptualization within the current framework of peace education has been noted by a number of writers. Gavriel Salomon's words are highly relevant:
What is peace education? What is the core of peace
education, its defining attributes? What, if anything,
distinguishes its most prototypical instantiations from
other, similar fields? ... Numerous programs are called
"peace education," ranging from violence reduction in
schools to learning about war and peace, and from
democratic education to the cultivation of self-esteem.
Subsuming all of these under the superordinate category
of peace education tends to blur important distinctions,
such as between the kind of peace education that is
carried out in areas of conflict, such as Northern
, and programs designed for more peaceful Ireland
regions. Similarly, too wide a category tends to lump
together programs designed to cultivate a universal
peaceful outlook with programs aimed at promoting a
peaceful disposition toward a particular group, race, or
nation to replace collective sentiments of hatred,
discrimination, and hostility.
While accepting part of Salomon's critique it is worth observing that this very critique makes indiscriminate use of various and conflicting ideological and philosophical conceptions of peace education. More important still is that, like the thinkers whom he criticizes for a lack of conceptualization, Salomon too treats peace as an unproblematic concept and does not invest much effort in conceptualizing his own project. True, there is here a beginning in the direction of providing a general conceptualization of the field and tackling its major problematics; but following Galtung, Salomon distinguishes negative and positive peace, adding that "One needs, perhaps, to distinguish here between peace in the sense of harmony and the absence of tension and conflict on the individual, micro level, and peace in the sense of the absence of war, armed conflict, or violence, on the collective, macro level." Other scholars, such as Betty Reardon, identify peace with reconciliation, and the prospects for achieving peace with conflict resolution and education for reflection grounded in shared values.
This trend is also manifested in UNESCO's 1998 declaration on the occasion of World Teachers' Day. Teachers are presented as peace builders who shape the future within a positivistic conflict-resolution orientation:
Building the foundations for peace is as much a
challenge for teachers as it is for those who sign peace
treaties. Conflict resolution and the implementation of
peace settlements feature regularly in the news, but
today on World Teachers' Day, we should ask ourselves
how much such peace efforts would achieve without the
unheralded contribution of the world's 50 million peace
teachers? Day after day and year after year, teachers
build the very fabric of peace. They transmit the
knowledge, values, and attitudes, the skills and
behavior which ensure that peace is not just the absence
of conflict but becomes a way of life for all, putting
into daily practice the concept that social justice is
essential to universal and lasting peace.
This positivistic orientation might have a positive concept of peace, not just a negative one which conceives peace as an absence of national conflicts, as do Salomon and many other peace education researchers and practitioners. However, it is important to note that while accepting Galtung's positive concept of peace and even when relating to the social context and its structural violence, the UNESCO declaration conceives peace as an absence of conflict that is to be achieved by solving "social injustice" through the teaching of conflict resolution skills. This declaration conceives peace and social justice as positive and desirable, in contrast to violence and injustice, which are undesirable. According to the UNESCO's declaration, this is the aim of teachers as educators, what teachers universally actually do in their daily work.
I claim that the work of the "50 million teachers" referred to by UNESCO is in fact one of the main mechanisms of perpetuating violence and injustice. This is not because they are doing such a poor job, but on the contrary, because around the world teachers, together with the other manipulations of normalizing education, are doing it so well. The current human reality must be challenged by critically addressing the fundamentals and the context of the concept of peace that these teachers are committed to, and certainly not by a search for new routes for improving their present "achievements."
Within this trend there is a strong positivistic conviction that conflict resolution skills are a matter of professional knowledge and good didactics. There is a belief that these skills, fundamentally, might be taught along with the quest for justice in the most concrete and specific manner. Some of the positivist writers within this trend even see peace education as a successful conflict-solving process in which the decline of violence is to be detected by a measurable promotion of schools' efficiency and productivity.
As the UNESCO declaration indicates, not all peace education researchers and thinkers neglect the social context and the challenge of actual power relations within which peace education and its rivals are produced. Hans Ulrich Wintsch, for example, is a peace education thinker who rejects the conception of positive peace. Wintsch stresses the inevitability of social conflict and suggests that peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but entails "learning to live with conflict in a constructive manner." Within this framework, personal fulfillment is essential for world peace, or in Lyman Ross's words, "the individual must be helped to develop his full potential for constructive, peaceful living."
Peace education within the multicultural discourse emphasizes diversity as a precondition for peace, in contrast to the concept of reproducing shared values and a homogeneous kind of reflection toward universal solidarity and responsibility as analyzed by liberal peace educators and theorists of civil education. Kristi Rennebohm-Franz's statements are paradigmatic in this context:
With multiple versions of ways of coming to know our
world as well as multiple versions of presenting and
sharing understandings, we begin to weave an educational
tapestry that reveals the complexities, diversities,
commonalties, and interconnectedness of many human
experiences. Understanding multiple versions is the
beginning of learning how to weave a global
multicultural peace tapestry rich in many colors,
textures, and styles.
Freire, Marguerite Rivage-Seul, and many other critical educational theorists such as McLaren and Giroux tried to give voice and place to the perspective of the marginalized, to empower those whose voice has been silenced. Rivage-Seul tries to develop an alternative peace education based not on hegemonic perspectives and interests but on the contrary, on those of the silenced, based on Freire's concept of moral imagination which, it is hoped, will transcend "the bounds of technical thought." However, peace education within the framework of this traditional Freirerian framework is universalistic and essentialist, and at bottom conceives hierarchical relations between teacher and students as a precondition for educational progress. The writers who are committed to developing the possibility of the oppressed raising their voice conceive the potential for the universalization of knowledge and the articulation of the facts as a precondition for an emancipatory peace education:
Since all human beings are inevitably interrelated on a
limited planet, the pursuit of a material advantage on
the part of some inevitably affects the ability of
others to meet their basic needs. Therefore, persistence
in the cult of the superfluous necessarily violates the
others' basic freedom, understood as the liberty of each
to choose whatever does not endanger the material basis
of the freedom of any other).
This conception of human essence is impossible to separate from the conception of the possible emancipation manifested in "peace." Under the influence of Marcuse and the positive utopian tradition, Rivage-Seul cites Hinklammert to hint in the direction of an emancipatory, critical, peace education:
Transcendental imagination envisions full human life in
which there-no longer exists a disjunction between
sensual hunger and its equally sensual satisfaction....
It is a question of imagining fullness in which there is
no need for institutions.... There is neither perfect
competition nor planning. It is the spontaneity which
comes from the recognition of all as subjects, and which
is not thinkable except by means of an imagination of a
fluid nature friendly to human beings.
All these diverse conceptions of peace are united in conceiving peace as desirable, on the one hand, and as a manifestation of the reduction or complete elimination of violence and the realization of human potential free and just intersubjectivity, on the other. I think that this conviction should be challenged.
In Book IV of The City of God against the Pagans, St. Augustine establishes the sources of peace and violence and articulates their essence and characters. Since the various trends in current peace education share the same general concept of peace, which is traceable not only to the Enlightenment's thought but even to earlier Christian and Greek sources, it is worth resorting to St. Augustine even if he is not the sole influence or the earliest. As I will show, while being one of the sources for the concept of peace dominant in present peace education, the Augustinian concept is much richer and of more value in the presentation of the concepts of peace and violence in the postmodern elaboration:
I distinguish two branches of mankind: one made up of
those who live according to man, the other those who
live according to God. I speak of these branches also
allegorically as two cities, that is, two societies of
human beings, of which one is predestined to reign
eternally with God and the other to undergo eternal
punishment with the devil. For at the very start, when
the two cities began their history through birth and
death, the first to be born was the citizen of this
world, and only after him came the alien in this world
who is a member of the city of
, one predestined by God
grace and chosen by grace, one by grace an alien below
and by grace a citizen above.
Here St. Augustine follows the Socratic tradition and connects redemption to the possibility of transcendence as attaining the light of the true knowledge. This is one of the preconditions for the totalizing dimension of Western education and its being swallowed, reproduced, and re-presented within the hegemonic violences. The present peace education has lost its theological sources and its theological conceptualizations. It has also lost its total commitment to the transformation of the human condition toward its full emancipation.
While speaking in the language of moral politics, present-day peace education fails to submit noncontingent justifications for its claims, practices, and hopes for a state of peace that is not a mere violent/stable political construct. However, it is exactly in the present-day postmodern condition and in the current globalization process that there is no room for a serious challenge to the hegemonic claims for knowledge by the totally other than the present reality or by an alternative, vivid Spirit. Within the present reality there is no room for a new Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Marx, or Hitler. The supposed alternative Spirit of Humanism was rapidly domesticated in the Middle East and even in the Humanistic Iran by the logic of capitalism and instrumental rationality. Within the present modern and premodern conditions the otherness of the Other is terrorized while it is proclaimed as evil, sin, or a dangerous epistemological or dogmatic gift. In the most efficient assaults currently taking place in today's postmodern arenas such as cyberspace, otherness is presented and functions as an irrelevant element; it is ironized or even internalized within the global pleasure machine as a mere meaningless "link," "site," "item," or "experience" -- namely, as an ornament or a plaything to be used for a passing moment in a context where there is no transcendence or escape from meaninglessness.
This anti-humanism and refusal to life that celebrates anti-transcendentalism, and is committed to contingency, hybridity, fragmentarization, and eternal empty fluidity is immanently committed to totalizing information and to purging the threatening gift or "saving" humanity from its danger by all necessary means. Here normalizing education, purging the Other of his or her epistemological otherness, structural violence, and the "direct" individual and collective violences are inseparable. One of our aims should be to unveil the relation between the success of these violences and their invisibility -- invisibility because they are sublimated as a manifestation of mental health and collective stability, order, and peace. We should show how these postmodern violences constitute an order of things that prevents reflection, resistance, and transcendence. Within the theological tradition this resistance to the given reality is conceived as openness to or quest for redemption. Peace is conceived within this framework as "the return of the multiple to unity, in conformity with the Platonic or Neoplatonic idea of the one."
It is important to note, however, that for St. Augustine it is impossible to conceive "the city of God" disconnected from "the earthly city" -- they are always to be conceived in their mutual relations. More than that, while real peace is only to be conceived within the city of God, its rival city strives for peace too. The division is not only, as in current peace education, between a state of peace and a state of violence (or conflict), but in parallel also between two essentially different states of peace. (One could also say, between two different sets of violences, one secular, the other sacred, yet called "peace.")
The earthly city is in constant "pursuit of victories that either cut lives short or at any rate are short-lived." Yet as the manifestation of successful violence, these victories contain also goods, although only "the lowest kind of goods." Among these lowest kinds of goods attained by warfare St. Augustine counts earthly peace.
The point that is important for St. Augustine, which is forgotten by today's peace education, is that (earthly) peace is only attainable by warfare: "Thus to gain the lowest kind of good it covets an earthly peace, one that it seeks to attain by warfare; for if it is victorious and no one remains to resist it, there will be peace." According to St. Augustine there are higher goods than an earthly peace; these "belong to the city above, in which victory will be untroubled in everlasting and ultimate peace." This other kind of peace is totally different from the peace that is tenable in the earthly city, and it is even conditioned by transcending the peace that the earthly city and its victories can offer.
On the one hand, St. Augustine represents a Western philosophical tradition which after being secularized by Kant, Hegel, and Marx could lead to a kind of universalism within which idealists, pragmatists, and even (very) soft postmodernists could share peace education.
Within peace education as developed by pragmatists, feminists, multiculturalists, and certainly by positivistic-oriented functionalists who strive for social stability and free, prosperous, national and international markets, all trends relate to human rights and resist direct and explicit violence in the name of universal rights such as freedom from persecution or exploitation. Here the division between peace and violence is clearcut, and the very commitment and quest for peace is left unaddressed and unproblematized.
St. Augustine, on the other hand, more than these present peace education theorists and practitioners, seriously addresses the issue of peace and problematizes the quest for peace in relation to the essence of the human and humanity's ultimate goal. In Augustinian terms, the ideal and the reality that peace education strives for is the earthly city in its most severe form. For St. Augustine this is something unavoidable in this world, yet it is a challenge that must be overcome in order to be redeemed.
We see St. Augustine's doctrine and the educational attitude he represents within Western thinking not solely but as a part of a violent control of Western consciousness and as a manifestation of epistemological violence against its disciples. At the same time, however, it is worth acknowledging its dialectics and its transcendental element. It contains an antagonism to the whole order of which peace as a desire, as an ideal, and as a reality is but a part. As such it is a constant challenge to this order, while being part of it, and it contains an important emancipatory potential. This dimension of challenging the hegemonic realm of self-evidence and the imperative for overcoming philosophy and existence is surely missing in the concept of "peace" as it functions in the various trends in current peace education.
Following St. Augustine I claim that what in the political arena is called "peace" is actually one of the extreme manifestations of successful terror. Emmanuel Levinas sees the seed of this condition already in "Greek wisdom" and pinpoints its violent nature in which human peace is awaited on the basis of the truth:
Peace on the basis of the truth--on the basis of the
truth of knowledge where, instead of opposing itself,
the diverse agrees with itself and unites; where the
stranger is assimilated.... Peace on the basis of the
truth, which -- marvel of marvels -- commands humans
without forcing them or combating them, which governs
them or gathers them together without enslaving them,
which through discourse, can convince rather than
This totalizing concept of peace in its relation to true knowledge allows an effective dehumanization of humans and their formation into collectives. At its peak it makes possible and secures consciousness, which is committed to "true" solidarity. It creates and generously awards the willingness of the individual to sacrifice herself for the collective, its security, ideals, values, and horizons. As such it is part and parcel of the violence that produces borders, wars, and Others as objects of education, destruction, redemption, emancipation, or deconstruction. Yet it is a concept of peace conditioned by an abandonment of reflection and transcendence. It is a manifestation of one's being swallowed or constructed by the ruling realm of self-evidence. With the assistance of good parents, devoted teachers, supportive friends, beautiful texts, and endless other resources, it produces brave warriors to protect its borders and destroy its internal and external enemies. As such, it actually manifests human forgetfulness of its goal: the state of domestication and tranquilization that reflects the victory of normalizing education. It is peace as "repose among beings well-placed or reposing on the underlying solidity of their substance, self-sufficient in their identity or capable of being satisfied and seeking satisfaction."
This concept of philosophy, which was dominated by the Platonic quest for light and love of truth, is embarrassed and feels guilty in current Western thought. It finds it hard to "Recognize itself in its millennia of fratricidal, political, and bloody struggles, of imperialism, of human hatred and exploitation, up to our century of world wars, genocides, the Holocaust, and terrorism; of unemployment, the continuing poverty of the Third World." Levinas does not explicitly say it but he implies that in reality a resemblance exists between this quest for the Platonic light and the violence that governs and constitutes Western reality. Postcolonial thinkers implement this insight from Levinas and Jacques Derrida in rereading the direct and symbolic violence and counter-violence between Western colonialism and its marginalized cultures in the Third World and within the Western realm itself. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer showed in a fascinating manner how this tradition was galvanized and how instrumental rationality is responsible for the control of nature and the control of human nature, as a trend which leads to the Holocaust, to Stalinism, as well as to their liberal alternatives in the form of Western capitalistic-oriented democracies.
The concept of peace that is at the basis of peace education (in all its different versions), therefore, needs to be seen as part and parcel of the same reality that it is committed to overcome. As the critical theory of Adorno and Horkheimer shows, it is much more than what Levinas calls "an embarrassment" for the West, as if it were a misfortune that could be overcome within the tradition of instrumental rationality that made it possible it in the first place. But the critical theory of Adorno and Horkheimer and the philosophy of Levinas do share an understanding that it is possible to struggle against the governing violence and the challenge to the epistemological, cultural, political, and economic misfortunes afflicting today's individual. This challenge, according to these two philosophical trends, is to be developed from within the Judeo-Christian tradition by the pursuit of the option encapsulated as the "wisdom of Jerusalem," namely, the truth incubated in the Jewish intellectual-moral tradition. Within their utopian pessimism they present an alternative concept of peace to the one that is hegemonic in current peace education and the philosophical frameworks from which it borrows its concepts, strivings, dreams, and fears. Later I shall return to this alternative conception of peace and peace education; first I present current oppositions to this kind of utopianism.
For all their differences, neo-Marxist thinkers such as Adorno and Horkheimer share with Levinas a common understanding, belief, or narrative. Within it the autonomous subject is not an empty concept, freedom is an imperative, knowledge is possible, and responsibility is highly relevant in challenging the reality in which the absence of peace, or false "peace," has the upper hand. The Frankfurt School critical theory also emphasizes the responsibility of the subject to resist the hegemonic realm of self-evidence. These two philosophies are highly skeptical and ironist, yet they reject the kind of relativism that made possible most current forms of postmodern discourses even in their soft versions. However, central figures of postmodernism are also challenging the philosophical assumptions of current peace education. Postmodernists such as Michel Foucault, Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard, as well as postcolonialists such as Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak, constitute a considerable challenge to the various naive humanist concepts of peace education from the Left.
As we have seen, the conceptualization that divides peace and violence parallels the division between truth and falsity. This parallel suggests the unification of a theory of peace and a theory of knowledge. Both theories are based upon a conception of the essence of the human being and an appropriate ethics. This connection provides the West with a metaphysical preference for peace and serves as a source of the justifications of peace education.
The philosophy of Foucault is a serious challenge to this project. According to Foucault, "one's point of reference should not be to the great model of language and signs, but to that of war and battle. The history, which bears and determines us, has the form of war rather than that of language: relations of power, not relations of meaning." Within the Foucauldian project, peace education does not differ from any other regime of truth which produces subjects, knowledge, and values within a history that has no "meaning." Like all others, this regime too should be subject to analysis not merely in accordance with good intentions, with "truth," or with a natural or sacred "faith in the human" or God, but "in accordance with the intelligibility of struggles, of strategies and tactics" without "evading the always open and hazardous reality of conflict," without "avoiding its violent, bloody and lethal character by reducing it to the calm Platonic form of language and dialogue."
The concept of peace, which makes possible peace education as resistance to the various manifestations of national, ethnic, racial, and gender repression, is seriously challenged by the Foucauldian project. Here "the understanding of the ways within which power manifests itself resist the very concept of repression." It denotes the productivity of power and represents the subject, be it a "victim" or a "victimizer," as one of the manifestations of contingent, meaningless, and aimless power relations. In contrast to the traditional Western concepts of violence, now truth itself "isn't outside power."
Foucault, like some other postmodernists, deconstructs the quest for concepts that can support transcendent, orchestrated, essential change by human autonomy or reason. Traditionally the very possibility of transcendence made reflection possible. It also allowed a concept of difference which makes a difference of the kind that "peace" is supposed to be in relation to "war." People who refuse to accept the omnipotence of epistemic violence, namely that there is no difference that makes a difference, he considers naive. Such people find it difficult to acknowledge that "their history, their economics, their social practices, the language that they speak, the mythology of their ancestors ... are governed by rules that are not all given to their consciousness."
Peace education is but one version of normalizing education. A systematic critical reconstruction of peace education should also challenge its positive utopianism. Within this positive utopianism in relation to the stance of "peace," a special role is played by conceptions that allow hierarchical relations, asymmetries, positive value judgments, and guarded existential horizons. These are developed and delivered by the ideal educator, teacher, trainer, mediator, or facilitator. This utopia determines not only his or her relation to the student but to human communication in more general terms, within a broader concept of education. This positive utopia determines the entire set of concepts, yardsticks, and strivings available to the student. Yet here objects, norms, persons, and events are inseparable from the struggles between conflicting representation apparatuses and the metanarratives within which they dwell.
The philosophy and politics of representation, as well as the life-and-death struggles between narratives and their colonialist imperatives, and other "dangerous" issues of that kind, are absolutely foreign to peace education, which is committed to a positive utopia of undistorted dialogue and uncoerced consensus among adversaries. As such, peace education cannot reflect on the preconditions for the kind of educational discourse within which it is positioned, on the violences that it serves. It is even less competent and ready to challenge "its" violence against its own otherness.
Within this project various violences of the nameless kind are untraceable and unchallenged. It is important, however, not to conceive this situation as mere blindness and passivity; the special situatedness of peace education can make other violences explicit and addressed -- it allows their categorization, articulation, and evaluation. The unreflective consumption and the productive internalization of violences of the nameless kind allows the transparency of "evil" and the quest for peace within a stable realm of self-evidence. Yet it is important to note the productivity of the theoretical limits of peace education. It produces not only the refusal to problematize the concepts of knowledge, representation, communication, consensus, intersubjectivity, and the avoidance of treating the social, cultural, and historical dimensions of the context within which peace education flourishes; at the same time it also re-produces the dichotomies between victims and victimizers, good and evil, light and darkness, and ultimately gives birth to a positive utopia that makes possible the quest for peace and peace education of the kind of "the earthly city."
Within current peace education, therefore, it is impossible to problematize the hegemonic concepts of either peace or violence. Nor is this approach to peace education competent to question the concepts of justice or injustice and of human subjects and their subjectivity, or to resist the powers and the apparatuses which produce, re-produce, and destroy collectives, individuals, their identities, knowledge, skills, perspectives, consciousness, and contexts. It is no wonder that within peace education there is no problematization of issues such as the representation of "reality," and the Other and his or her otherness, in terms of potential violence, mistakes, threats, and refusals to acknowledge the true and the just. The politics of recognition, the politics of representation, and the life-and-death war raging between and within narratives and truth regimes are unmentioned, unchallenged, and unaddressed. As a result, there is no reflection, no critical distance, no realization of their relation to capitalistic globalization, the world division of work, and the room this makes for naivete and violence of well-intentioned intellectuals and Western peace activists.
It is wrong to decontextualize peace education and detach it from globalization and the new world order. I think there is a heavy human cost to the acceptance of this order as a yardstick and guide for peace education. This is why it is important to address the reasons for peace education's disregard for the hegemonic culture industry and its neglect of a critical perspective for evaluating the reaction to the violences that produce, reproduce, represent, and consume the present order of things. Peace education refrains from tackling the fundamentals of the order within which narratives, armies, merchants, priests, parents, 50 million teachers, establishments, nations, and ideologies struggle for hegemony -- a hegemony over truth and justice. This hegemony allows the invisibility of the violence that manipulates, reconstructs, or destroys rival narratives and the establishments that they serve and represent.
Peace education in all its versions avoids questioning life itself and refrains from questioning the positive, constitutive role violence plays within it. It avoids addressing the status quo as a protection for and reproduction of an order whose very existence implies the destruction of other possibilities for life.
The real aim of peace education is revealed as the fortification of the existing order and the preservation of the invisibility of hegemonic violence, even when it claims to give voice to the silenced and challenges the injustice inflicted on the marginalized or the oppressed. The ultimate yardstick of this concept of peace is the productivity of the existing symbolic and material order -- even its conceptions of "justice" -- without questioning its own legitimization as a narrative knowledge.
Such epistemic violence is a precondition for the explicit, unmediated use of violence, which is then granted a name and addressed as a "conflict" or as "violence." Epistemic violence is realized in the formation of conceptual apparatuses, knowledge, consciousness, ideological orientations, and consensus or self-evidence; it is the aim of normalizing education, in the service of the self-evident and hegemonic order of things. Epistemic violence plays a part in producing the subject and her self-evidence, as well as the horizons of her predetermined consensus.
Without effective educational apparatuses (teachers and schools are only one element in a much richer arsenal) there will be no room for the subjectification of the subject (who actually functions as an object) and the successful delegitimation of other language games and their subjectifications. In the absence of normalizing education or in the face of its deconstruction it will be difficult to establish a stable consensus which will provide a suitable legitimation of the hegemonic narrative and its social matrix of power. In such a utopian situation it will be impossible to actualize an effective direct collective violence which is rationalized as a just, unavoidable, use of force.
The various versions of peace education with their special relations to the concept of universal human rights share a simplistic modernist view of consensus, which should be addressed. Some of the peace education theorists and activists share very naive conceptions regarding the role of rationality, good intentions, or openness in the meeting with the Other as sure ways to guarantee a change in attitude to the Other and consensus. Even in its most advanced forms, for example, the Habermasian project, within this modernist orientation, the concept of truth is based on the consensus of a collective universal subject. But the very notions of consensus, truth, or norms, which are ideally articulated freely and jointly in an undistorted dialogue, are challenged by postmodernists such as Lyotard in a manner that is extremely relevant to the rhetoric of peace education. For Lyotard,
Consensus is only a particular state of discussion, not
its end. Its end, on the contrary, is paralogy. This
double observation ... destroys a belief that still
underlies Habermas's research, namely, that humanity as
a collective (universal) subject seeks its common
emancipation through the regularization of the "moves"
permitted in all language games and that the legitimacy
of any statement resides in its contributing to that
Normalizing education is founded on such an unchallenged consensus and is committed to securing its self-evidence. As part of its function it is very important for normalizing education to conceal its foundations and avoid transparency (or secure only a certain kind of critique and transparency, which is the same thing) of the apparatuses it uses. This is in order to reproduce the subjectification or the human subject as some-thing and not as some-one. This process includes the production of his or her potential violence or productivity and the aims, ideals, interests, and strivings for love and peace -- as well as more abstract categories such as "justice." All these enable the subject to function as an agent of the reproduction of the system. In "peace," the invisibility of violence, which guarantees the present order, is best secured, the hegemonic violence is unchallenged, and counter-violence is successfully delegitimated. In "peace," the subject is efficiently sent off on the quest to realize her human potential to become other than what she is constructed to be. In such a "peace" and stable normality, forgetfulness rules and humans are not ready to be called upon by their destiny. Normalizing education sets for them the relevant quests, or real dreams, goals, and enemies, and all the rest is a history of struggling efficiencies -- until something totally Other intervenes and challenges the hegemonic self-evidence and the order of things. The constant subjectification of the subject goes on unchallenged.
The process of subjectification does not relate solely to individuals. This kind of objectivization and closure is no less present in the normalization of collectives. Normalizing education cannot reproduce the horizons of the collective and the closure of its identity without the enclosure of the Other and her otherness. Yet, as Stuart Hall puts it, "The unities which identities proclaim are, in fact, constructed within the play of power and exclusion, and are the result, not of a natural and inevitable or primordial totality but of the naturalized, overdetermined process of "closure." This is an implicit critique of the agenda of peace education and its propositions. It problematizes the concept of violence, which makes possible the will for preventing "unjust" violence between and within opponent collectives. It problematizes the hidden procedure of legitimation and delegitimation and the very possibility of an unproblematic evaluation and consensus.
It is also important to question the unproblematic introduction of conflict resolution skills and knowledge. From the postmodern perspective, these strategies are revealed as one of many conflicting voices fighting over the position of silencing their Others, in a context of constant semiotic bombardment. Peace education is unveiled as a position situated in the narrativization of the individual and collective "self." As such, it is part and parcel of the conflicting violences competing over hegemony. In this space, hegemony ensures its own veiling as violence by producing its justification, or in the case of a final defeat of its rivals by ensuring totality, closure, sameness, harmonious order, and "peace." In relation to Levinas's concept of war we can say that in "peace" the "same does not find again its priority over the other" since the otherness of the Other has totally vanished. This is where the project of conflict resolution skills within peace education is situated.
Propagating and bestowing conflict resolution "skills" is ultimately nothing less than a mode of violence that is committed to reproducing the present order of things and its ideals. There is no room here for the totally Other except for the given facts, quests, and ideological horizons. This failure holds as long as it is instrumental and effective, yet it is precisely where it is practically most needed that its impotence is most dramatically manifested. This failure is manifested in the case of the Israeli/ Palestinian struggle. In not even one of the many peace education projects in this spot on the globe is there an attempt to challenge the dialectics of the Israeli Independence Day and its concept of the Holocaust-Exile-Redemption, or the Palestinian concept of the Nakbah. The violences of the two representation systems of conflicting memories and their instrumentalizations within rival ethnocentric collectives are taken for granted by all of today's peace education projects. Conflict resolution skills education is threatened even by approaching an issue such as relating to the national day of triumph or defeat. It fears treating it as part of the questioning of who "we" are and what is a worthy life or death for "us." It turns away from questions such as what kind of togetherness is possible, bearable, or longed-for and what are the ways to approach such a future -- along with "practical" questions, which are for each of the parties fundamentally questions worthy of life-and-death-struggle. It refuses to question the language that should be the language of dialogue and conflict: What are the starting points, horizons, and aims of the dialogue and the struggle within which peace education is promoted or rejected?
Research has illuminated the first steps of departing from the safe ground of "coexistence" projects within the present order into less restricted and controlled elaborations. It manifests the structural asymmetry and its violences, which are intent on maintaining Israeli hegemony within which peace education, "dialogue aimed at peaceful coexistence," and conflict resolution projects flourish. The moment of departure from the hegemony of one side dictating the agenda of "peace" for its Other is also the moment of exposure of what education in conflict-resolution skills is dedicated to veiling and protecting. Even the most advanced research on this issue in Israel and Palestine still treats it with positivistic optimism and speaks of "dilemmas" in realizing ideal coexistence paradigms in the asymmetrical intercourse within which peace education is realized.
The current growing Palestinian demand in Israel is to problematize the status quo and challenge this order and the kind of peace it longs for. The Israeli hegemonic ideologies and central political powers have so far refused to question, let alone abolish, the structural violence that establishes the conditions not only for the systematic oppression of the Palestinians citizens but also of securing the very existence of the State of Israel. This trend is not totally disconnected with the hegemonic Palestinian attitude of denying the legitimacy of any Jewish sovereign existence in Israel, or Palestine, as they insist on calling it. For the Palestinians' part, peace education and dialogue should lead, ultimately, to nothing less than regaining Palestine and the abolition of the Zionist project. Only within this context is each of the struggling collectives willing to promote projects furthering conflict resolution skills oriented to achieving a "just peace." This only shows how education in conflict resolution skills within peace education takes part in the reproduction of symbolic, mental, economic, cultural, and political struggles in this arena. It is an arena that hosts many competing camps contesting for hegemony over representing "reality" as it really is, reality as it actually should be interpreted, or as it should be best deconstructed/reconstructed.
Peace education within critical, feminist, multiculturalist, and ecologically oriented groups is mired in the same quicksand, even when using functionalist or pragmatic orientations instead of an idealist or transcendentalist rhetoric. This is so as long as these groups do not address the challenges presented here.
All this, however, does not mean that we should accept all of Lyotard's, Foucault's, or Levinas's alternatives. Nor does it imply that there are no emancipatory dimensions in different versions of peace education or that there is no difference that makes a difference between the victim and the victimizer, or nothing to choose between war, general health care, well-being, poverty, and illiteracy. But it does mean that there is a need to decipher the material, historical, and political context of normalizing education and challenging it with a counter-education that will not be anything other than one more ersion of normalizing education.
If counter-education ought seriously to address violence and be committed to peace, it should not follow the positive utopia of peace education and its naive universalistic essentialism. It should address and overcome its philosophical assumptions and challenge the politics of peace education while avoiding the kind of universalism and violences it is committed to overcome. It should avoid, at the same time, reintroducing violence as "justified" counter-violence. This attempt is embedded in its negative utopia.
While introducing itself as a utopia, counter-education cannot find comfort in an abstract negativism that negates the illusions of consensus among individuals and collectives that are produced to perpetuate meaninglessness and the productivity of a contingent symbolic economy. It should not abandon the imperative of transcendence as the human mode of existence. Its utopia, however, must be a negative utopia. Within it there are no positive universals such as "justice" or "human rights" but transcendent negative imperatives for openness such as responding to injustice and worthy suffering. Within it there is no commitment to universal "truth" but an infinite responsibility to transcend the fabricated "truths" and the violences they represent and serve. Within counter-education there is a rejection even of the universal validity of the pleasure principle; it represents, instead, the presence of pain and the possibility of transcending it into worthy suffering. Counter-education offers a need for a radically different concept of peace and an alternative conception of education. It means facing apparatuses and practices by which normalizing education violently fabricates the subject. It resists the subjectification of the "I": creating the "I" and its self-evidence, its conceptual apparatus, consciousness, values, and yardsticks not as a manifestation of his or her human potential, autonomy, and sovereignty -- but as a manifestation of the omnipotence of the system. This educational violence is responsible for the unproblematic representation of the "not I" as the self-evident '"I" and her conceptual, moral, and political horizons. The human subject, however, while being a product of these subjectification processes is much more than a mere product of contingent manipulations.
Counter-education should face the changing postmodern conditions, and within it the questions of responsibility (ethics), life (ontology), and knowledge (epistemology). Violence in the era of, and within, cyberspace presents us with additional challenges on the psychic, conceptual, and political levels. Counter-education should address violence also by concrete political action. Within this arena the responsibility of the subject, and the very possibility of a subject and responsibility, are impossible to conceive in the traditional way. However, violences are not to be understood as opposed to "real" responsibility. Violences signify irresponsibility (of the Other) and are to be understood as making possible the violences of counter-ethics and counter-responsibilities.
The possibility of a nonrepressive consensus, meaning, and justice needs a brave reconceptualization. Counter-education not only has no positive utopia; it also looks for a new language that has not yet been born. This does not mean that it should be silent and passive before the current reality.
The responsibility of counter-education is not naive. It acknowledges the importance of deconstructing the naivete and violence of the quest for challenging injustice and violence. Yet it refuses relativism and escapism. It is a serious commitment, a responsibility in a godless world where the logic of capitalism has the upper hand.
The impetus of counter-education springs from the ethical "I." Yet the responsibility of the ethical "I" has no words; it is prerational even if it is always historically embedded. Counter-education acknowledges that an unavoidable rupture deprives the ethical "I" of the moral "I." There is a rift between the prerational ethical responsibility toward the Others and the rational/moral dialogue with the others, which does not negate their otherness. Such a dialogue is not a given reality, it is a utopia. The utopia of such a dialogue is a negative utopia, a concrete negative utopia.
Only as concrete negative utopia is the dialogue able to produce a conversation that is not a contingent manifestation of power relations and symbolic economies, that merely reflects the omnipotence, and the whole-presence, of simulacra. Such a negative utopia acknowledges not only reason, politics, and compromises, but also the presence of power in the formatted, conceptualized, manipulated, otherness of the Other. This is as far as its negative dimension is concerned. As a concrete utopia it is present as an actual potential to be realized, and it is realizable even in microscopic arenas and for instant hindrances of the continuum. Its historical situatedness enforces its presence within concrete power relations which it addresses within its openness to infinity, to the totally other than the given reality. These power relations governing its context constantly threaten to invade the dialogue, to cause a perpetual distortion that permits no ideal speech situation. As such, the dialogue is committed to transcending the realm of self-evidence and its agencies within the dialogue and its participants. Its awareness of its conceptual and historical situatedness as well as its commitment to reflection and to its own transcendence constitutes a central difference between it and peace education. As such, it cannot avoid being a concrete praxis.
The realization of negative utopia is the imperative of counter-education. Even when realized to a certain degree on a specific occasion it can never offer peace of mind or symmetrical relations. Yet it can offer sensibility to be called upon by something totally Other, by the Other as a demand for responsibility, seriousness, and love. One should ask, facing counter-education, but what about positive manifestations of meaning, truth, consensus, justice, and peace? Counter-education does not promise such gifts. These, in their positive form, remain in the hands of peace education and its rivals.
By Ilan Gur-Ze'ev, Department of Education University of Haifa
Ilan Gur-ze'ev is Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Israel. His primary areas of scholarship are critical theory, critical pedagogy, postmodernism, postcolonialism, higher education, cyberspace, existentialism, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, history of Western education, history of ideas.
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