Monica Duffy Toft on peace

The peace bubble
Belfer Center’s Power and Policy blog
February 2, 2012
Commentary by: Monica Duffy Toft, associate professor of public policy and member of the Belfer Center Board of Directors
Topic: Peace

Steven Pinker and Joshua Goldstein have produced impressive and important books on the decline of violence and war across time and space. Whereas Pinker discusses violence in more general terms and Goldstein limits his analysis to war, both scholars make the argument that violence has declined over the past 100 years, but in particular since WWII.

Pinker attributes this decline to the success of the modern state and the imposition of order across multiple levels in society. Not only has war across societies declined as a result, but so too has criminality and violence among individuals. Goldstein tracks similar trends in war; but for him peacekeeping and the United Nations are critical in helping to usher in this period of peace.

The books offer us an optimistic view of contemporary history: both essentially reduce to the claim that the world is getting more peaceful, and as a result, better. Sadly, I remain unconvinced by their characterization (peace),and its implications (a better world), but even if they are each right, I think what they have described is a bubble: a peace bubble.”

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