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Charles Chatfield

The meaning of "pacifism" was altered in Anglo-American usage during World War I. Before 1914 the word was associated with the general advocacy of peace, a cause that had enlisted leaders among the Western economic and intellectual elite and socialist leadership. In wartime, "pacifism" was used to denote the principled refusal to sanction or participate in war at all. This doctrine was associated with the nonresistance of the early Christian church or the traditional "peace" churches, such as the Mennonites, Quakers, and Brethren. During and after World War I, absolute opposition to war was joined with support for peace and reform programs to produce modern, liberal pacifism. The earlier broad usage is still current in Europe and, to some extent, in the United States; and so the significance of changes in the concept is somewhat lost.

The shift in conceptualization of pacifism early in the twentieth century is the key to its significance for American foreign policy, however. Once this is understood, it is possible to interpret pacifism as simultaneously the core of several modern peace movements and, ironically, a source of factionalism among peace workers; it is also possible to appreciate the contributions of pacifism to the foreign policymaking process.


Pacifism, although absolutely opposed to war, never has been confined to antiwar movements. It has been a way of life for individuals and religious sects, and it has characterized peace organizations founded in the wake of wars. Thus, pacifism contributed to the formation of the first peace groups after the Napoleonic wars, notably the American Peace Society (1828). It was the basis of the Garrisonian New England Non-Resistance Society, founded in 1838 by abolitionists and others dissatisfied with the moderate position of the American Peace Society, and of the Universal Peace Union, founded in 1866 by Alfred A. Love following the collapse of peace societies during the Civil War.

The modern conceptualization of pacifism draws upon the doctrinal sacredness of life and abrogation of violence in the Christian religion, strains of philosophical anarchism and socialism, nineteenth-century internationalism, and a religious principle of social responsibility. These were the basic elements that were brought together in the context of World War I.

The oldest element of modern pacifism is the tradition of religious nonresistance that was formed in the first three centuries of the Christian church, under Roman rule. Abandoned for the concept of just war, in fact by the time of Constantine I and in theory Saint Augustine, nonresistance pacifism appeared again with Christian sects in the medieval era. It emerged in the Protestant Reformation, notably under Peter Chelčick´y and the Unity of the Brethren (Bohemian Brethren) in the fifteenth century and among the Anabaptists. From the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, it was institutionalized in the writings and practice of so-called peace churches: the Mennonites, the Quakers, and the Brethren.

Nonresistance characterized the thought of leaders in the early-nineteenth-century peace societies of the United States. It was officially recognized as ground for exemption under the conscription systems of the Civil War and World War I. Many of the Mennonites and Brethren who immigrated to the United States late in the nineteenth century at least partly sought to escape conscription abroad. Traditional nonresistance implied not only the repudiation of violence and warfare but, frequently, dissociation from government, based as it seemed to be on physical force.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, traditional nonresistance was supplemented by anarchism deriving from the religious inspiration of Leo Tolstoy and from those philosophical anarchists who repudiated violence. In addition, some leading European socialists took the position that national wars were instruments of class action that should be boycotted by workers. In the United States during World War I these elements of pacifism brought objectors into conflict with American law, which provided for conscientious objection based only on religious opposition to fighting and not that which derived from secular or political principles or was directed against conscription itself. Furthermore, the majority position of the Socialist Party then condemned American involvement, thus bringing socialists to the antiwar cause.

Also during the second half of the nineteenth century, nonresistance as a force motivating peace advocacy was supplemented by organized internationalism. In some measure this derived from the humanistic traditions of Hugo Grotius and Immanuel Kant, and it evolved into programs for international law, international arbitration, and even international organization. In some measure, too, internationalism derived from classical economists who, like Jeremy Bentham, repudiated mercantilism and advocated free trade. In the United States, internationalism was buttressed by Americans' tendency to assume that their institutions would produce harmonious progress if written on a world scale, and it garnered enthusiastic support from men of means and prestige in the years before World War I. It is important in the development of modern pacifism because its institutional and world views, and even some of its programs, were incorporated into the encompassing policy platforms of pacifists.

A fourth element of modern pacifism was the sense of social responsibility that derived from antebellum evangelical religion and especially from religious analyses of industrialism and urbanism about the turn of the century. The reform spirit, the transnational outlook, and the political philosophy of liberal pacifism were rooted in two decades of Social Gospel and Progressive activity that preceded World War I.

Upon the outbreak of that conflict, most traditional internationalists supported the Allied cause and became reconciled to American intervention. When the United States entered the war, they viewed the crusade as the vehicle of international organization and tried to write their views into the Allied war aims, notably in the case of the League of Nations.

Meanwhile, between 1914 and 1917 several organizations were formed to oppose Woodrow Wilson's preparedness program and intervention, and to support conscientious objectors: the American Union Against Militarism (19151921), which was succeeded by the National Council for Prevention of War; the Women's Peace Party (1915), which was succeeded by the United States Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; the Fellowship of Reconciliation (1915), which was supplemented in 1923 by the War Resisters' League; and the American Friends Service Committee (1917). In wartime these groups were sifted of nearly all but pacifists, and they became the institutional base of modern pacifism in the United States.

The leaders of these and other wartime pacifist organizations were predominantly Progressives, often women, and with few exceptions were religious. They included Jane Addams and Emily Balch, directors of Hull House and Denison House settlements; Crystal Eastman, an ardent suffragist and expert on the legal aspects of industrial accidents; her brother Max Eastman, who edited two radical literary journals, Masses and Liberator; Norman Thomas, later the leader of the Socialist Party; Roger Baldwin, longtime director of the American Civil Liberties Union; Rufus Jones, a Quaker historian; Paul Jones, an Episcopal bishop; Jessie Wallace Hughan, founder of the War Resisters' League; John Nevin Sayre, interwar stalwart of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; and John Haynes Holmes, a Unitarian pastor. They identified with transnational ideologies, whether religious, humanitarian, or socialist; but politically they were pragmatists in the Progressive tradition. They believed in the ultimate worth of the individual, but they appreciated the influence of social institutions upon personal development.

They associated with antiwar radicals, with whom they were often persecuted. Indeed, pacifists formed the American Civil Liberties Bureau in 1917 for the defense of conscientious objectors and radicals during the war. Leading pacifists identified force as an instrument of social control and associated violence with authoritarianism. They therefore associated their own quest for peace with a commitment to social justice, so that they combined complete opposition to war with the spirit of reform and internationalism. Their organized expression of this belief during World War I marks the beginning of modern liberal pacifism and the development of an activist core of the peace movements in recent American history.

Traditional religious pacifism as documented by Peter Brock and colleagues has been a vital, often poignant part of the twentieth-century experience in Europe and North America. It was the liberal and activist strand of pacifism, however, that became most relevant to American foreign relations.


Peace and antiwar movements can be viewed, institutionally, as a single element of the foreign policy-making process. To draw a distinction between them is legitimate with regard to specific foreign policy issuesthat is, specific warsbut not with regard to the process of policy formation. Taken together, peace and antiwar movements in all periods of U.S. history have been coalitions of separate groups aligned variously with regard to different policy issues. These constituencies have combined to influence public policy either directly through the professional expertise of peace advocates (as in the case of numerous projects of the Carnegie Endowment) or through political lobbying, or indirectly through public opinion. In any case, pacifists have been relevant to the policymaking process in terms of the broader peace movements, and they cannot be evaluated apart from them.


There is one possible exception to this observation: the contribution made by pacifist pressure groups to the administration of conscription and the treatment of conscientious objectors. In this case pacifist pressure groups acted directly upon government agencies and substantially affected policy formation.

Efforts on behalf of conscientious objectors have taken essentially three forms. First, pacifists representing the peace churchesthe ecumenical Fellowship of Reconciliation and, prior to World War II, the secular War Resisters' Leaguelobbied to broaden the basis of exemption. At the outset of World War I objectors were exempted only if they belonged to churches with doctrinal positions against military service, and even then they were legally exempted only from fighting. Provisions were broadened administratively during the war to include all religious objectors. Subsequently, exemption was expanded by court decision to include philosophical authority embodying a universal principle, and leading churchmen and church bodies later endorsed the principle of selective objection to war on political grounds.

Second, pacifists have lobbied in support of administrative agencies that would remove objectors from military jurisdiction, in recognition of those who object to conscription per se. The Civilian Public Service of World War II was the result of such pressure, although it proved to be an unsatisfactory solution. Various forms of exemption for civilian jobs since that time represent attempts to accommodate pressure from pacifists, buttressed as it often is by church bodies and liberals who recognize conscientious objection as an authentic ethical choice even when they do not endorse it as a preferred one.

Third, pacifists lobbied for amnesty for conscientious objectors following each war of the twentieth century. The basic rationale for amnesty has been that objectors are really political prisoners, although the laws of the United States do not recognize political crimes and treat objectors as criminals. During the Vietnam War the number of men who publicly deserted from the military or fled the country to escape the draft created a situation in which pacifists found themselves joined in their demand for amnesty by nonpacifists interested in political and social reconciliation. Insofar as conscientious objection has become recognized as a legitimate ethical option and a form of protest, it has ceased to become the exclusive concern of pacifists.

Even with regard to conscientious objection, therefore, the influence of pacifists must now be evaluated in relation to that of the general peace movements. Indeed, as John Chambers and Charles Moskos have shown, the recognition of conscientious objection is integral to the modern character of military service.


Pacifists affected peace coalitions in which they participated by their cultivation of a political base in specific publics and by the political techniques they employed. In the Cold War period they introduced new techniques of nonviolent protest. They also gave distinctive emphases to movements in which they were associated.

Pacifists were drawn together both by their opposition to World War I and by their isolation from the American public during the conflict. Increasingly, they became committed to a campaign against all future wars (and to campaigns for social and labor justice). They cooperated with those who had supported the war effort as a vehicle of internationalism and who, in the 1920s, supported membership in the League of Nations and the World Court, or ratification of a treaty outlawing war. In an era when leading peace advocates maneuvered to secure their own pet approaches at the expense of others, the more pacifist among them tended to be the most inclusive. Pacifists also systematically cultivated constituencies that had been largely neglected by other peace workers: religious bodies, college youth, Christian youth organizations, and labor. Although their primary appeal was to repudiate warfare altogether, pacifists also educated the public on international relations and recruited support for specific legislation, notably arms limitation. They lobbied through their own associations and also created a major coalition organization, the National Council for Prevention of War (1921).

By the mid-1930s a core of pacifist leaders had developed a network of support groups, a political base from which they tried to build a public consensus for strict neutrality. To this end they managed to align nonpacifist internationalists affiliated with the League of Nations Association in their $500,000 Emergency Peace Campaign. Occasionally they were able to translate public opinion into congressional positions, and they considerably reinforced popular resistance to over-seas involvement. In the course of the neutrality controversy, however, the League of Nations Association gradually broke from its coalition with pacifists and organized a counter-campaign for collective security arrangements. In this respect, the activity of pacifists heightened the political organization of the interwar peace movement, which, however, it also helped to polarize.

During World War II pacifists were largely isolated from political influence except insofar as they cooperated with prowar internationalists to popularize the proposed United Nations. They remained isolated after the war, as the world became polarized between the United States and the Soviet Union, and collective security was reinterpreted in terms of Cold War containment, still ostensibly in the service of internationalism.

Then, in 1957 pacifists became instrumental in forming a new national coalition to challenge nuclear weapons testing. Disclosures about the threat of nuclear fallout engendered worldwide protest that was led in the United States by the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the Committee for Nonviolent Direct Action (CNDA). The former was a coalition with nonpacifist liberals like Norman Cousins, and it used traditional techniques of education, lobbying, and electoral action. CNDA represented an activist pacifist core, and it employed the tactics of nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience like climbing or sailing into nuclear test zones and blockading nuclear submarines.

The bulk of the test-ban campaign was carried by SANE and the pacifist groups that had sponsored itthe American Friends Service Committee, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The cause also spawned new organizations, notably Women Strike for Peace and the Student Peace Union, and the whole U.S. effort was in limited measure coordinated with the international campaign. It contributed to a moratorium on atmospheric testing during the Eisenhower administration and had a direct role in the adoption of the 1963 partial nuclear test-ban treaty under President John F. Kennedy.

The test-ban coalition formed the initial base for the antiwar coalition that challenged the U.S. war in Vietnam, even before that conflict became formalized in the bombing campaign early in 1965. Again SANE negotiated the linkage between pacifists and nonpacifist liberals, although increasingly an independent left wing competed for recognition. In the first three years of the Vietnam War, antiwar constituencies multiplied: business and professional groups, cultural and entertainment notables, Peace Corps and social service groups, Old Left socialists and New Left students (notably Students for a Democratic Society), and religious leaders (notably Clergy and Laity Concerned). The latter was predominantly though not exclusively pacifist, while a core of radical pacifist Catholics led by the priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan developed a sharp civil disobedience witness in the Catholic Worker tradition.

In 1968 the antiwar coalition fully informed Democratic Party politics and conditioned even the Republican platform on the war. The following year the coalition severely constrained President Nixon's war policies. By then the large liberal wing of the antiwar movement was becoming thoroughly politicized, especially in Democratic Party politics, while its smaller radical wing spun apparently out of control (where it could not be disciplined by pacifists). Given its media-driven stereotype as radical and countercultural, the movement seemed to have died, whereas actually the coalition had become mainstreamed.

Throughout this period, activist pacifists in the Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, Clergy and Laity Concerned, and Catholic and other groups were intensely involved in coalition politics of the political left and center. By the same token, pacifist communities were sharply tested by the tension between the radical and liberal approaches their members espoused.

Two other large-scale peace coalitions made serious impacts on twentieth-century U.S. foreign relations: the nuclear freeze campaign against nuclear weapons of the 1980s and the concurrent campaign for solidarity with Latin American liberation movements. In the case of the 1991 Gulf War, by contrast, no serious coalition arose. At the outset it was widely conceded that the evenly divided country was ripe for protest, and pacifist groups were prepared even to wield nonviolent disobedience. However, the limited duration and tight control of military operations obviated the development of a broad public coalition in opposition to the Gulf War.

The nuclear freeze campaign in the first half of the 1980s was systematically organized against the background of massive European protest, dramatic revelations of the destructive scope of nuclear weapons, and fear of nuclear war that was intensified by the Ronald Reagan administration. Pacifists were among the organizing and motivating core of a broad, diverse public coalition that was fed by media coverage. Although it failed to secure an outright freeze on nuclear weapons building or deployment, the nuclear freeze campaign was substantially responsible for reinstating the policy and institutions of arms control that the administration had begun to scrap.

Out-publicized by the more visible and larger nuclear freeze campaign, another coalition successfully challenged the Reagan administration on Latin America. It consisted of innumerable grassroots groups with direct contacts in Central America, which were linked by a few national organizations. These groups disseminated information from sources abroad, mounted public pressure, and lobbied in Congress. Their main focus was on human rights abuses in El Salvador and Honduras and U.S. intervention in the civil war in Nicaragua through the contras. In the former two countries, transnational associations channeled economic help to revolutionary forces and peasant war victims, exposed human rights abuses, and challenged U.S. ties to military regimes. On Nicaragua, peace groups lobbied and disseminated information. In all three cases they worked with the international community. Pacifists also brought organized nonviolent action to bear in the solidarity campaign.


From World War I on, a core of pacifists supported domestic reform programs as a concomitant of cultivating labor and reform constituencies for peace. Increasingly, they developed techniques of nonviolent direct action (often modeled on the example of Mohandas Gandhi) that they employed on behalf of labor and especially in the civil rights struggle. Thus, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE, 1942) was nourished by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. By the time of the Reverend Martin Luther King's campaign to desegregate buses in Montgomery, Alabama (19551956), a few pacifists had considerable experience with these forms of protest. The Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, and War Resisters' League played an active role in the early civil rights movement about the same time that the core of radical pacifists in the Committee for Nonviolent Direct Action employed civil disobedience in the testban campaign. Accordingly, nonviolent direct action was a ready tool in the pacifist repertoire during the Vietnam War.

The technique took many forms: it involved returning or burning draft cards, trespassing, blocking arms shipments and troop trains, or otherwise challenging authority. On occasion it meant defiling or destroying draft records or providing sanctuary for draft resisters. It was street theater, designed to dramatize the tragedy and moral turpitude that pacifists attached to the war. Occasionally, direct action was applied violently by nonpacifists, and then it was counterproductive.

It was again applied in the 1980s campaign against nuclear weapons, notably in the actions of the Berrigans' Plowshares group, which aimed to defile or destroy missile components, or of Women's Pentagon Action. By that time the technique had become widely, even legally, accepted as a viable form of public protest. It found expression in the last decade of the twentieth century as a form of protest against economic globalism, where it appears to have inclined governments to be more discreet if not more responsive to protest.


It has become conventional to regard transnational nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as players in the foreign relations field. The peace movement, viewed as a transnational social movement, spans two centuries, and its pacifist core comprises a century of transnational experience.

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR, 1919), the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF, 1919), and the War Resisters' International (WRI, 1921) all were transnational associations with strong U.S. components. Except for the WRI, they were formed during World War I. (Indeed, the WILPF derived from a 1915 meeting in The Hague, where mainly pacifist women from the then belligerent countries delegated emissaries to heads of government in search of a mediated peace.) In wartime these groups linked isolated pacifists and conscripted war resisters. Thereafter they cooperated in relief and reconstruction projects, except that the WRI focused on providing a socialist matrix for war resistance.

In the interwar years the WILPF established an office in Geneva from which it sought to mobilize a transnational, citizen constituency for disarmament and other League of Nations initiatives. Pacifists in fascist countries were part of an international network. As the prospect of war grew again, U.S. pacifists strengthened their international ties, sponsoring colleagues from abroad to the United States on behalf of neutrality legislation.

The largely pacifist-initiated U.S. test-ban coalition of the 1950s was part of a world movement, as was its successor campaign against nuclear weapons in the 1980s. In both cases transnational coordination was secondary to national concerns, although the 1980s campaign was explicitly interfaced with the UN agenda. Similarly, pacifists extended their international links during the Vietnam War. The Fellowship of Reconciliation mounted an ambitious attempt to coordinate Vietnamese Buddhist and American antiwar efforts, publicized the existence and persecution of antiwar South Vietnamese, sent reconciliation and information teams to North Vietnam, and tried to relate public protest in Europe to that in the United States.

In Latin America the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and its U.S. national chapter worked from the 1960s to the 1980s to spread the concept and techniques of nonviolent resistance as a viable alternative to both violent revolution and apathy. U.S. civil rights and Fellowship of Reconciliation leaders reached both Protestants and Catholics in Latin America, while IFOR emissaries Jean Goss and Hildegard Goss-Mayr were particularly effective in Catholic circles. A period of social evangelism and preliminary organization led to the formation of SERPAJ (Servicio Paz y Justicia en América Latina, or Service for Peace and Justice) in 1974. Itself a regional organization, SERPAJ provided Latin American national and church leaders with nonviolent resistance techniques and with contacts in the international community, greatly empowering, for example, Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina.

Nonviolent direct action was brought to bear upon the region's human rights crises and civil wars. Beginning in 1983, for example, Witness for Peace stationed trained North Americans in teams along the Nicaraguan border. They helped with economic development, but their high visibility was designed also to deter contra attacks. After U.S. support for the contras was withdrawn in 1988, the Witness for Peace program of intercession was expanded to other areas. Pacifist nonviolent action thus became one of several instruments through which a coalition with transnational linkages effectively challenged U.S. Latin American policy in the 1980s. Meanwhile, within the United States there was a surge of refugees from political life-threats in Central America. The U.S. government's reluctance to grant them asylum led to a sanctuary movement to provide safety, most often in churches. By the time the refugee flow subsided late in the decade, hundreds of sites were networked to smuggle people across borders and provide safe havens and legal and humanitarian services. Sometimes this modern Underground Railroad moved refugees on into Canada. The operation was a case of large-scale civil disobedience so widely condoned that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service was slow to challenge it.


Pacifists have not evolved a vision of foreign policy as coherent as collective security or its counterpart, containment. Nonetheless, they have shared distinctive qualities with which they helped to frame foreign policy issues. These qualities include their transnational orientation, moral thrust, and skepticism about the efficacy of military force.

Transnational Orientation The orientation of nineteenth-century pacifists was largely religious and resulted from the dualism of Christian perfectionism, which assigned different roles to religious bodies and secular societies. To this was added the antistate individualism of philosophical anarchists and the class analysis of socialists. But none of these elements yielded specific implications for foreign policy.

In the twentieth century the perspective of pacifists was secularized, but it remained essentially ethical and humanistic rather than political. It was oriented to the quality of life and the equitable distribution of power rather than to the political relations of states. In this sense, leading pacifists found World War I, for all its magnitude, to be irrelevant to the solution of fundamental world problems. What they found truly basic was human need, creativity, and community. Progressive pacifists, and especially the articulate women among them, thus brought a strong sense of community to peace work (by contrast to the social, legal, and political structures emphasized by other peace advocates). They eventually supported the League of Nations, but they harbored the reservation that such international organizations were inadequate vehicles for change and human welfare.

But some pacifists were systems oriented. The outstanding pacifist analyst of international affairs in the 1930s was Kirby Page, who argued that traditional European rivalries had vitiated the League of Nations and would lead to another world war unless a new foundation could be built for international relations. Ironically, although pacifists viewed historical revisionism as the basis for a realistic assessment of traditional diplomacy and a justification for radically internationalizing world power, many Americans used it as their justification for a new isolationism.

Following World War II some pacifists followed pacifist leader Abraham J. Muste in seeking a new basis for a transnational foreign policy. By the 1950s, Muste viewed the Third World as the fulcrum for a global policy beyond the bipolar terms of the Cold War. This notion was taken up in the following decade by some New Left radicals; but as a basis for foreign policy analysis, it was eclipsed by the rhetoric against nuclear arms and then war in Vietnam. Nonetheless, the American Fellowship of Reconciliation and other pacifists actively promoted the "Third Force" concept of Vietnamese Buddhists as a standard against which to frame U.S. policy goals.

Moral Emphasis The moral emphasis of nineteenth-century pacifism was individualistic. Pacifists tended to assume that good people would make a good world. Twentieth-century pacifists, however, initially reflected the Progressive emphasis on social environmentalism. They included war among the social institutions in which good men and women become enmeshed with devastating consequences. Accordingly, they made pacifism an expression of social ethics; and their journal, The World Tomorrow (published 19181934), became the most forthright exponent of the social gospel. "If war is sin," wrote Kirby Page, then it must be abjured and overcome by every available stratagem. Their essentially moral outlook enabled several pacifist leaders to transcend the narrow allegiances to specific programs that set so many internationalists at odds with one another.

In the 1920s, for example, Page and his colleagues made futile attempts to devise a plan of unity between the advocates of a World Court and of a general treaty to outlaw war. Similarly, in the 1930s pacifists were able to write an umbrella platform that attracted nonpacifist internationalists to their Emergency Peace Campaign, with its neutralist bias. In 1957 a pacifist nucleus stimulated the formation of both the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and the Committee for Nonviolent Direct Action in order to enlist both liberal and pacifist constituencies in action against nuclear arms. And in the 1960s, a generalized sense of moral outrage accounted for whatever cohesion there was in the organized antiwar movement. It was the basis on which pacifists could associate with groups having nonpacifist political biases.

The very sense of moral commitment that led to comprehensiveness in some circumstances engendered division in others. Ideologies often have served as standards of factional loyalty within out-of-power groups, and the principled total repudiation of violence and warfare sometimes functioned in this way among pacifists in the coalitions they joined. A few examples illustrate this problem. Prior to the Civil War, the American Peace Society was impelled by a sense of moral obligation, but it was wracked by factional disputes over the question of whether to prohibit all wars or only aggressive ones. Again, in World War I absolute pacifism was both the cohesive element of pacifist organization and the reason that prowar liberals refused to work with pacifists even for liberal goals. Although the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, formed just after the war, included pacifists Jane Addams and Emily Balch, the coalition was too broad for Fanny Garrison Villard and other absolutists, who created the separate Women's Peace Society. Early in the 1930s both the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Socialist Party were sharply divided over how completely they should renounce violence in a potential class struggle. Socialists never recovered from the political effects of that controversy, and they also were faced with the theoretical issue of whether to support an antifascist war.

By 1938 pacifist groups were united against intervention, but they tended to withdraw from political action in order to prepare communities of believers for the coming crisis. During World War II the pacifist community was divided over the implications of its moral commitment to conscientious objection, and its support groups disagreed about the limits of cooperation with Civilian Public Service, the administrative agency for objectors.

The antiwar movement of the 1960s was no more immune to factionalism than its predecessors, and the division was often over conflicting principles. Divisive issues included whether to exclude communists from coalitions, whether to criticize North Vietnamese and communist policy in the context of analyses of American involvement, tactics for demonstrations, and organizational principles within the movement. Protest during the Vietnam conflict was united under an intense sense of moral outrage, but it also was divided by the question of allegiance to specific principles, of which the total repudiation of violence and authoritarianism was one.

In any case, pacifists have reinforced an essentially ethical interpretation of national interest: that world interest should be a criterion of national policy and that the concomitants of peace are change as well as order, justice as well as stability. This moral thrust is not unique to pacifists, but it has been sharpened by their participation in American peace movements.

Skepticism of War No less than belief, skepticism has characterized pacifist propaganda and attitudes. Indeed, modern pacifism was formed in opposition to a popular war, the so-called Great War, and to the power assumed by government in it. That skepticism became a valuable credential when disillusionment followed the war. Pacifists themselves assiduously propagated skepticism about the justness of specific wars, the credibility of war aims, and the constructive potential of victory. For most of the twentieth century they challenged the general claim that preparedness deters warfare and the specific claims of military security needs. From Woodrow Wilson's 1916 preparedness campaign to legislation for arms spending in the 1920s and nuclear arms in the 1950s, from the inauguration of conscription in 1917 to its reinstatement in 1940 and the peacetime draft of 1948, the small body of pacifists constituted a core of political opposition. They challenged not only programs but also the rationale for them. Some pacifists also marshaled economic and anti-imperialist interpretations of war to expose the economic linkages of warfare and to challenge official explanations of foreign policy. And they propagated skepticism about the efficacy of American intervention abroad, whether public or covert, whether in World War I or the Cold War, in Southeast Asia or Latin America.

Skepticism about the use of military power and the rationale for violence has been extended to systematic inquiries about the nature of power by building first on the experience of Mohandas Gandhi and then on American reform experience. Late-twentieth-century scholarship put nonviolent application of social force on a systematic and empirical basis and explored its implications for national security. In this sense the study of nonviolence is no longer confined to ethical pacifism.

Skepticism about foreign policy and governmental accountability is the legacy of the nonresistants and the experience of the peace sects. It was reinforced when pacifists were persecuted or were treated as irrelevant. It is the concomitant of the pacifist values of individual worth, harmony, and brotherhood, contrasted as they are with articles of foreign policy such as national interest, conflict, and sovereignty. Skepticism follows from the pacifist emphasis on a transnational orientation and moral commitment, as against foreign policy based on national interest and pragmatic choices. It is at the heart of the demand that foreign policy be tested publicly by the very values it purports to secure. Skepticism is not unique to pacifism, but it has been significantly sharpened in the American peace movement as a result of pacifist activity.


Foreign policymaking can be interpreted as the process of relating national interest to international situations. A crucial stage of the process is the definition of national interest, and it is at this point that ideals are related to concrete self-interests. A given principle of American institutions is that policy choices should be subject to public scrutiny and popular pressure. Accordingly, coalitions of peace advocates are essential in a democratic republic because they serve the twin functions of providing independent education about international affairs and of organizing public opinion and translating it into political pressure.

Pacifism has been significant for foreign policymaking insofar as pacifists have influenced peace coalitions. Pacifists have broadened the popular base of pressure, stimulated political organization, and developed techniques with which minorities may challenge majority consensus. They also have imbued the peace movements with such distinctive qualities as their transnational orientation, moral thrust, and skepticism about the efficacy of military force to bring about orderly change or an equitable distribution of world power.

Furthermore, organized pacifists have occasionally played historical roles in consensus formation, notably in the resistance to preparedness and intervention in World War I, in the neutrality controversy of 19351937, in constraining nuclear weapons, in the protest against the Vietnam War, and in solidarity with Latin Americans resisting repression. They have attempted to abolish conscription and have liberalized the treatment of conscientious objectors. At the opening of the twenty-first century, pacifists mobilized Nobel Peace Prize winners to challenge U.S. sanctions on Iraq and were working directly with the United Nations to promote a culture of peace.

Influenced by social-movement approaches, modern analysts have treated peace movements as transnational social change movements, often with liberal pacifists at their core. Pacifists in this sense can be understood as integral to foreign policymaking as they collectively interact with the general public, national government, other national and international nongovernmental organizations, and international agencies.

Most people who repudiate violence and war on the basis of pacifist beliefs are not politically active. But even their faith is significant for American foreign policy in two respects. First, in its conduct of foreign relations, including warfare, the nation has been obligated to protect principled dissent from persecution or repression. The fact that this rule has been abrogated does not minimize its constraint on the foreign policy process. Second, the definition of national interest and power is subject to openly advocated alternative conceptions. Whatever the merits of pacifist judgments on specific policies, the free existence of pacifism and its political expression constitute a significant index of the consistency of foreign policymaking with democratic institutions.


Ackerman, Peter, and Jack DuVall. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. New York, 2000. A sweeping account of twentieth-century nonviolent campaigns that form the global context of U.S. activist pacifism.

Allen, Devere. The Fight for Peace. New York, 1930. Written by a journalist and editor who advocated war resistance and political activism, this substantial volume remains an important primary source of pacifist thought and history.

Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Peace as a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights. Effectively fills a gender gap in the history of twentieth-century peace activism.

Brock, Peter. Pacifism in the United States from the Colonial Era to the First World War. Princeton, N.J., 1968. The best history of the subject, thorough in its coverage of pacifism in sects, peace churches, and antebellum reform and includes a valuable bibliography.

Brock, Peter, and Nigel Young. Pacifism in the Twentieth Century. Syracuse, N.Y., 1999. A brief, balanced treatment of pacifism in an international context.

Chatfield, Charles. For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 19141941. Knoxville, Tenn., 1971. Rev. ed., New York, 1973. Traces the development of modern, liberal pacifism through the interwar period in relation to peace coalitions and foreign policy issues, and also in relation to reform movements.

. The American Peace Movement: Ideals and Activism. New York, 1992. The standard survey of the subject that includes a resource mobilization approach.

Curti, Merle Eugene. Peace or War: The American Struggle, 16361936. New York, 1936. Unsurpassed for its balanced, chronological narrative of the period and treats pacifism in relation to the broad peace coalition.

DeBenedetti, Charles, with Charles Chatfield. An American Ordeal: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era. Syracuse, N.Y., 1990. A thorough and comprehensive narrative.

Early, Frances H. A World Without War: How U.S. Feminists and Pacifists Resisted World War I. Syracuse, N.Y., 1997. A full treatment that fills a gender gap in the literature on the period.

Howlett, Charles F. The American Peace Movement: References and Resources. Boston, 1991. Indispensable resource that combines an annotated bibliography with a history of the field.

Josephson, Harold. Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders. Westport, Conn., 1985. A massive reference work that includes biographies of major pacifists.

Kleidman, Robert. Organizing for Peace: Neutrality, the Test Ban, and the Freeze. Syracuse, N.Y., 1993. A well-researched comparative study.

Klejment, Anne, and Nancy L. Roberts, eds. American Catholic Pacifism: The Influence of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. Westport, Conn., 1996. Treats this modern dimension of Catholicism biographically.

Moskos, Charles C., and John Whiteclay Chambers, II, eds. The New Conscientious Objection: From Sacred to Secular Resistance. New York, 1993. The standard treatment.

Patterson, David S. Toward a Warless World: The Travail of the American Peace Movement, 18871914. Bloomington, Ind., 1976. A scholarly narrative of the rise of the modern peace and internationalist movement with particular attention to organizational roles, social origins, and attitudes.

Powers, Roger S., and William B. Vogele, eds. Protest, Power, and Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from ACT-UP to Women's Suffrage. New York, 1997. A basic reference work.

Wittner, Lawrence S. Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 19411983. Revised ed. Philadelphia, 1984. A work in which pacifists provide the thread of continuity, although Wittner describes shifting and contending patterns within the broad peace coalition; contains an extensive bibliography.

. The Struggle Against the Bomb. Stanford, Calif., 1993. A trilogy (of which two volumes have been published) narrating the history of transnational movement against nuclear weapons; the only comprehensive account of a transnational peace movement.

See also Collective Security; Dissent in War; Ideology; Internationalism; Intervention and Nonintervention; Isolationism; The National Interest; Neutrality; Peace Movements; Public Opinion.

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Foundations and emphases

Implications and problems



Pacifism has had both a broad and a narrow connotation. In the former sense, it has often been used—particularly in continental Europe just before and after World War i—to designate those outlooks centering their attention on the need for international reconciliation and peacemaking machinery. Thus many tendencies in thought werepacifist, the word being employed to describe a whole spectrum of ideas and activities that might conceivably be peacemaking in character. From this point of view, Jean Jaures, the French socialist leader, and men like Woodrow Wilson were pacifists; and organizations like the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace were pacifistic.

While this broad usage of the term is still to be found, pacifism has generally come to be connected with all those ideas, attitudes, and movements which repudiate the use of violence, particularly war, under any circumstances. The pacifist in this sense will argue that war, whether defensive or aggressive, is always ethically illegitimate and, in the long run, inefficacious for the attainment of desirable goals. Often, this conception also embraces the notion that forms of nonviolent power can be discovered and ought to be used to counter external aggression and internal exploitation and injustice. Various forms of nonviolent resistance or nonviolent coercion are thus associated with pacifism. From the viewpoint of political theory, it would be aligned with those doctrines which stress consent rather than force as the basis for political authority.


Although pacifism, in the narrow sense, is a modern concept, the general outlook that it designates has a long history. In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., Jeremiah developed certain attitudes toward Babylonian aggression that can legitimately be described as pacifist. A little later, in China, Lao-tze advocated positions that were very close to a kind of anarchist pacifism. In Greek thought, certain of the Cynics and Stoics came close to a pacifist outlook; and some of the Essenes in the Hebrew tradition apparently repudiated the utilization of war and all violence, whether personal or group.

The spirit of the Gospels, so some modern scholars, notably MacGregor (1936), have argued, cannot be reconciled with violence, whether personal or political. Evil is to be overcome only by good. True, the New Testament does not explicitly exclude warmaking for the believer; but it does lay down principles that clearly point in this direction.

Although the attitude of the early Christians is still a matter of controversy, many of the best modern authorities, for example, the Scottish scholar C. J. Cadoux (1940), contend that for at least the first century few, if any, Christians would enter the Roman army. In part, at least, their refusal was based on a religious repudiation of the violent acts that soldiers had to perform, whether in battle or as executioners. As late as a.d. 295, Maximilianus underwent martyrdom primarily because, as a Christian, he said he could not be a soldier. By the early part of the fourth century, however, the strong pacifist strain in Christian thought began to die out. Thus the Council of Aries, A.D. 314, decreed that those Christians who gave up their arms in time of peace should be excommunicated. During the Middle Ages, according to orthodox doctrine, laymen could participate in “just” wars. Both regular and secular clergy, however, were supposed to refrain from the shedding of blood. This dualistic ethic was challenged by certain heretics who sought to revive the attitudes of early Christian apologists.

The beginning of modern pacifism may be discerned in a number of the early Anabaptists and in religious groups (like the Mennonites) having similar theological beliefs. During the sixteenthcentury religious struggle in France, the Roman Catholic Etienne de la Boetie argued strongly for tactics of nonviolent resistance against tyranny. Since all rule depends on willingness of men to obey, he maintained, withdrawal of obedience could lead to the collapse of any tyranny. In the seventeenth century, the British Quakers sought to implement pacifism in politics by establishing a disarmed commonwealth in Pennsylvania; and for about two generations that colony, unlike the others, was free of Indian warfare.

Eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century pacifism was affected by the decline in the religious basis of social and political doctrine. Rationalistic and utilitarian near-pacifism came to the forefront in the writings of the early anarchist William Godwin. Godwin stressed the irrational and immoral character of the appeal to force, even for the ends of justice. Revolutionary violence, he held, was a contradiction in terms. Similar views were reflected in the political poetry of Shelley, who in the Masque of Anarchy urged British workers to revolt against exploitation through a “folded arms” strike. After Shelley, the anarchist pacifist strain was reflected in men like Thoreau, Benjamin Tucker, Tolstoy (1908), and Barthelemy de Ligt (1934). Tolstoy, however, grounded his pacifism primarily on an anarchist interpretation of the Christian Gospels. Writing with great literary power, he had a considerable impact on early twentieth-century thought. [SeeAnarchism.]

Perhaps the greatest pacifist figure of the twentieth century has been Mohandas K. Gandhi, who combined in his views and practices both religious and utilitarian notes. Religiously, he was inspired by certain Hindu scriptures (for example, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita), the New Testament, and the writings of Tolstoy. His experiences as a lawyer and man of affairs seemed to suggest that sheer retaliation in group conflict does not in the long run accomplish desirable objectives. On the other hand, even adamant opponents will often respond favorably to acts animated by love and in which the actors willingly undergo suffering for a cause. Notions of this kind became the basis for what Gandhi called the doctrine of Satyagraha(“truth power” or “firmness in truth”). Gandhi insisted that Satyagraha was applicable in political as well as in personal relations; and he sought to demonstrate this proposition in his leadership, 1919-1947, of the nonviolent resistance to British rule in India. His theory and example were also important in such movements as the struggle of the American Negro for racial integration, the South African natives’ battle for equality, and the achievement of political independence by Ghana in 1957. [SeeIndian Political Thought.]

The impact of World War I on the development of twentieth-century pacifism was considerable. Utter disillusionment with war as an institution led to such phenomena as the “Oxford oath” in which, during the 1920s and 1930s, thousands of young Britons pledged themselves never to fight again “for king and country.” The Peace Pledge Union sought to provide a register of all those who subscribed to the promise. Elsewhere, and particularly in the United States, there were similar tendencies. Pacifist attitudes were encouraged by public exposes of the role of munitions manufacturers in encouraging conflict and also by a widespread belief that economies based on private profit tended to make for war and violence.

Political experience just before and during World War II led many pacifists to re-evaluate their views and some to change them. However, for not a few the period between 1939 and 1945 was primarily a challenge that demanded from them greater intellectual clarity and more nearly adequate proposals for pacifist alternatives. Throughout the war, Gandhi’s personal view was that India should oppose any Japanese invasion only by nonviolent resistance; he also thought that Hitler and the National Socialists could, and ought to be, counteracted in the same way. For pacifists of Gandhi’s type, World War II in its methods and results had the effect of strengthening their convictions. For leaders like Martin Niemoeller, who had been unsympathetic before, war experiences helped create a postwar pacifist outlook.

After World War n, potentialities for widespread destruction through nuclear arms led some to become nuclear pacifists. Certain scientists and engineers in Germany, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the United States, and elsewhere, disturbed by the possible social consequences of some types of research, pledged themselves to refuse to labor in those areas.

Pacifists have also been active in the effort to gain legal recognition for conscientious objectors to war and in the struggle against military conscription. Between World War I and World War H, recognition was broadened in Great Britain and the United States. After World War n, the constitution of the German Federal Republic recognized the right of objection; and in 1962, after a long struggle, some legal status was accorded to French objectors.

While pacifism remained the ideology of a minority in the 1950s and 1960s, the ubiquity of violence and the radical increase in the destructive power of modern weapons tended to dramatize its propositions by sheer contrast. In a world of monumental violence, its doctrine of nonviolent power took on new meaning and added significance.

Foundations and emphases

Aside from the fact that all pacifists eschew violence for any purpose, pacifism has no uniform or authoritative theory or ideology. To illustrate the range of pacifist views, a rough classification of schools of thought may be useful:

(1) The scriptual text school bases its beliefs on certain texts of the New Testament, and since it believes that the Bible is divinely inspired, these texts become authoritative. Groups like the Mennonites have tended to espouse this position.

(2) Another viewpoint bases its attitude on what it regards as the spirit of Biblical or other scriptual ethics. Jewish pacifists cite the spirit of Hebrew prophecy, while those in the Christian tradition root their beliefs in their interpretation of the New Testament. For sects like the Religious Society of Friends, all religious tradition is subject to constant reappraisal through the Inner Light possessed by each individual. Those of the Hindu pacifist tradition claim support in the spirit of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads.

(3) The just war school is largely, although not exclusively, confined to Roman Catholics. Using as its criterion the traditional Catholic definition of the “just war,” it concludes that no modern war can possibly satisfy the standards laid down by that definition—declaration by a public authority, conduct by methods that discriminate between combatants and noncombatants, promise of producing a better situation after the war than before it, etc. Hence a pacifist position is not only justified but required. Many “just war” pacifists cite certain encyclicals and other messages of Pope Pius xii and Pope John xxm to buttress their position.

(4) The utilitarian school, in its several versions, maintains that war and violence, on the whole and in the long run, work against the implementation of desirable social and political values, whatever the short-run effects may appear to be and whatever the proclaimed objectives of the struggle. Many anarchist pacifists are utilitarians, as are most socialist pacifists. Often the views of those who state their positions in traditional religious language have a large measure of the utilitarian in them: Gandhi is a good example. In the twentieth century the percentage of utilitarian pacifists has probably increased considerably.

But no classification can do justice to the many elements that may constitute the groundwork for any individual pacifist outlook.

An important distinction running through all pacifist thought is that between the personal and the political emphasis. Many think of the pacifist ethic as primarily relevant to personal relations or applicable to individual attitudes to the state (refusal of direct war service, for example) but not particularly relevant for group or state relations. Thus, some feel that they have a peculiar “vocation” for pacifism but do not think that the imperative is a universal one. Others think of political relations as inevitably bound up with violence and therefore largely “unredeemable.”

By contrast, political pacifists, whatever the foundations for their beliefs (religious or utilitarian), tend to think not merely in personal terms but also in terms of nonviolence for group relations. Hence, political pacifism is concerned about such issues as principles of group conciliation, nonviolent coercion, the nature of a pacifist society, and pacifist methods for resisting military invasion. Generally speaking, the political pacifist emphasis has become central in modern discussion, and the remainder of this article will refer primarily to it.

Implications and problems

Pacifist thought has been much affected by development of the sociology of conflict, penology and criminology, and psychological approaches to the study of human behavior. C. M. Case’s researches into the phenomena of nonviolent coercion (1923) helped direct attention to alternatives to violent power; and in the 1930s Richard Gregg (1930) commented on such questions as nonviolent treatment of criminals and the mentally ill, as well as on the phenomena of nonviolent action in general. Both Case and Gregg envisioned the possibilities of a largely nonviolent police system. Pitirim Sorokin (1954) has surveyed exemplifications of what he calls “altruistic love” and has appeared to confirm the judgment of pacifists that violent conduct, whether personal or political, is not only immoral but also “impractical.”

Studies such as those of Case, Gregg, and Sorokin served as a challenge to examine sociological and political particulars in the pacifist case. They also called attention to certain implications and problems for application of the doctrine.

One such problem is to define more clearly the circumstances under which physical force might be legitimate; for while some pacifists repudiate the utilization of physical force altogether, many recognize a distinction between force (applied discriminately and with no irremediable injury) andviolence (forms of force, or contexts within which force is used, that result in indiscriminate and irremediably injurious action).

Another question involves the attempt to understand psychological and social factors involved in conflict resolution. Galtung (1959), in a sociological interpretation, contends that for the pacifist the doctrine involves two fundamental norms: (a) act so that a solution acceptable to all parties can be attained; and (b) act so that the short-run and long-run application of violence will be reduced. As an instance of (b), the pacifist eschews direct or indirect use of violence. To implement norms of this kind obviously requires understanding based not only on enlarged academic knowledge but also on broadened experience.

Pacifists, guided by thinkers like John Dewey and Aldous Huxley, tend to stress the interpenetration of means and ends in politics. Specifically, political pacifism emphasizes the possibilities of using nonviolent power against both domestic and foreign tyranny and exploitation. Nonretaliatory, nonviolent resistance, it is maintained, can either change the attitude of a tyrant or an invader or deprive him of his instruments and resources (and therefore of his power).

Although the systematic analysis of nonviolent resistance as a technique is relatively recent, utilization of such methods as the strike, boycott, and civil disobedience is very old. In ancient Rome the boycotts of the plebs resulted in revolutionary changes in Roman life. Indian history reveals numerous instances of noncooperation with rulers or even complete withdrawal of protesting groups from the territory of the prince (thus depriving him of an economic base for his government). Modern examples include the experience of colonial Pennsylvania with nonviolence; the Hungarian struggle for autonomy under the leadership of Francis Deák, which led to the dual monarchy in 1867; Norwegian nonviolent resistance against the Germans in World War ii; eastern European demonstrations against communist control (in some cases Russian soldiers refused to fire on their unarmed opponents, even when ordered to do so); and the American Negro struggle for equality and integration through sit-ins and other forms of nonviolent direct action.

The use of nonviolent resistance is subject to a number of hazards, as Case and others have pointed out. One is that in the atmosphere of tension and conflict, violence might break out. Another is that the hardships entailed by nonviolent, non-retaliatory action could lead to discouragement and abandonment of the campaign. Modern pacifist thinkers, aware of these difficulties, have encouraged more thorough analysis of nonviolent resistance movements with a view to discovering under what circumstances they are most likely to be effective. All stress the need for careful planning, organization, and discipline.

The pacifist outlook strongly supports development of world organization and law but, in general, distrusts those views which would conceive of peace as being imposed by force. States cannot be coerced by violent power, it is argued, without risk of war; and police action for implementation of law must confine itself to discriminate and nonviolent coercion of individuals. Even in a world state, moreover, nonviolent resistance would still need to be employed on occasion; for imbalances of power, exploitation, and tyranny would still be more than mere possibilities. Some thinkers call for greater imagination in sketching out the institutions of a pacifist world order; and most would argue that it cannot simply duplicate the national state, which has been molded to so large a degree by domestic and international violence.

In seeking to cast light on the political implications of their doctrine, pacifists have frequently called for more research. While recognizing that general academic, political, and social research might prove helpful, they have remained unsatisfied by it. In World War n, therefore, they organized the Pacifist Research Bureau in Philadelphia, which published studies on such themes as the political theories of pacifism and the problem of coercion of states. More recently, at the University of Michigan, the Center for the Study of Conflict Resolution has engaged in similar types of research. The Institute for Peace Research at the University of Oslo has undertaken some parallel studies. Pacifist research activity in India, and in the United States at Harvard University under the direction of Pitirim A. Sorokin, might also be mentioned.


Pacifism has been subjected to criticism on several different grounds. Some contend that in the world as it is, it is an impossible and perhaps even an immoral principle. So long as evil men exist and power politics flourishes, it is maintained, righteousness may have to be vindicated through use of violence, including war. About the time of World War II, John Lewis (1940) developed a criticism from the Marxist point of view. And after World War II, it was frequently contended that pacifist influence had led to British military unpreparedness in the 1930s and hence to the impossibility of deterring Hitler from war. Critics like Reinhold Niebuhr (1940) stress the reality of power in human affairs and accuse pacifists of blindness to it. According to such critics, justice always requires power.

Countercriticisms include the following arguments: While the full implementation of pacifist goals is indeed difficult, the statement of the ideal is itself a factor in helping to attain the goal. Nonviolent treatment of the mentally ill is now no longer deemed to be impossible, although severe restraint used to be regarded as indispensable. Modern war must always defeat the ends of justice because of its utterly indiscriminate character. Pacifists by no means ignore power but rather seek to develop nonviolent forms of it. Britain, moreover, did not follow a pacifist policy before World War II but rather one based on indifference, partial financial assistance to Hitler, preservation of thestatus quo at almost any cost, and insensitivity to the economic basis for acceptance of National Socialism by Germany. Finally, apologists claim that tyrannies arise not because men have accepted pacifism—with its stress on economic justice, absence of a psychology of subordination, repudiation of violence, and planning for nonviolent resistance—but rather because they have rejected it.

Mulford Q. Sibley

[See alsoCivil Disobedience; Militarism; Peace.]


Allen, Devere (editor) 1929 Pacifism in the Modern World. New York: Harper.

Bondurant, Joan V. 1958 Conquest of Violence. Princeton Univ. Press.

Cadoux, C. J. 1940 Christian Pacifism Re-examined. Oxford: Blackwell.

Case, Clarence M. 1923 Non-violent Coercion. New York: Century.

Galtung, Johan 1959 Pacifism From a Sociological Point of View. Journal of Conflict Resolution 3:67-84.

Gandhi, Mohandas K. (1924) 1954 Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. Washington: Public Affairs Press. → Translated from the Gujarati edition. A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Beacon Press.

Gregg, Richard B. (1930) 1959 The Power of Nonviolence. 2d rev. ed. Nyack, N.Y.: Fellowship Publications. → The first draft of the entire book was published in India as Gandhiji’s Satyagraha: Or, Nonviolent Resistance.

Hershberger, G. F. 1944 War, Peace and Nonresistance. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press.

lee, Umphrey 1943 The Historic Church and Modern Pacifism. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon-Cokesbury.

Lewis, John 1940 The Case Against Pacifism. London: Allen & Unwin.

Ligt, BarthÉlemy de (1934) 1937 The Conquest of Violence: An Essay on War and Peace. Rev. and enl. London: Routledge; New York: Dutton. → First published as De overwinning van het geweld. The English version was translated from the revised and enlarged 1935 French edition.

Macgregor, George H. C. (1936) 1953 The New Testament Basis of Pacifism. London: Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Miller, William R. 1964 Nonviolence: A Christian Interpretation. New York: Association Press.

Niebuhr, Reinhold 1940 Christianity and Power Politics. New York: Scribner.

Oppenheimer, Martin; and Lakey, George 1965 A Manual for Direct Action. Chicago: Quadrangle.

Paullin, Theodore 1944 Introduction to Non-violence. Ithaca, N.Y.: Pacifist Research Bureau.

Schwarz, Ernst (1952) 1959 Path to Freedom Through Nonviolence: A Study of the East-West Conflict and the Methods of Nonviolent Resistance. Vienna: Sensen. → First published as Wege zur gewaltlosen Befreiung.

Sharp, Gene 1959 The Meanings of Non-violence: A Typology (Revised). Journal of Conflict Resolution3:41-66.

Sibley, Mulford Q. 1944 The Political Theories of Modern Pacifism. Ithaca, N.Y.: Pacifist Research Bureau.

Sibley, Mulford Q. (editor) 1963 The Quiet Battle: Writings on the Theory and Practice of Non-violent Resistance. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Sorokin, Pitirim A. 1954 The Ways and Power of Love: Types, Factors, and Techniques of Moral Transformation. Boston: Beacon.

Tolstoy, Leo (1908) 1948 The Law of Love and the Law of Violence. New York: Field. → Translated from the French by Mary Koutouzow Tolstoy.

Weinberg, Arthur M.; and Weinberg, L. S. (editors) 1963 Instead of Violence: Writings by the Great Advocates of Peace and Nonviolence Throughout History. New York: Grossman.

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The issues summoned up by the term pacifism are complex and varied because different concepts, traditions, and definitions exist throughout the world, often creating misunderstanding and confusionsometimes intentionally so. For example, the term may be used pejoratively in political debates by individuals seeking to portray opponents who refuse to support a specific military action, or by those who prefer nonviolent approaches to a problem or conflict while not being principled pacifists. The term underwent a bifurcation, redefinition, and narrower specification with the watershed years of the so-called Great War of 1914. The distinction between absolute pacifism and "pacific-ism"the latter a term coined by the modern historian A. J. P. Taylor and used by his successorsor other less ethically rigid "pacifist" positions emerged then. Before 1915 the term pacifist was employed as a more general term to describe one who opposed war as an institution, rejecting violence in favor of turning "swords into plowshares." But the earlier definition of pacifist did not necessarily exclude violencestill less all forceas a means to an end, for example, in opposing slavery.

This more general understanding of pacifism did not necessarily imply a refusal to support, or indeed fight in, a war once it broke out. The more rigid position became defined as "absolute" or "pure" pacifism, identifying those whose stance in 1914 or from 1915 to 1916 was based on consistent principles. The terms pure or absolute have been dropped from the political debate since then, and the term pacifist now tends to mean rejection of all and any warespecially since the 1960s, when some "pacifists" remained equivocal on violence in Indochina.

The Religious Concept of Pacifism

The individual moral concept of "turning the other cheek" is one that belongs to a number of religious traditions, though the position has perhaps arguably been most fully developed as an ethical position in Judaism and then Christianity and as a spiritual position in Buddhismand, mainly through Mahatma Gandhi (18691948), as a revision of Hindu thought. The major religious tradition with the least apparent pacifist dimension seems to be Islam. Secular ethical pacifism emerged in the nineteenth century alongside other "isms" based on humanist and universalist ethics and overlaps with several ideological strands from liberalism to anarchism and, since the 1970s, feminism.

Pacifism and Resistance to War

The biblical commandment "thou shall not kill" does not specifically refer to organized war and can thus be taken as a prohibition of individual murder, perhaps not the "legitimate" killing by soldiers in waran ethical sleight of hand that has been convenient to states and rulers and allows the concept of just war, elaborated by the Christian Church when it became institutionalized in the West in the fifth century and continuing for a millennium. The injunction to turn the other cheek in the face of violent provocation has been seen not as a theory of nonviolence but as one of passivity, suffering, and stoicism. Pacifist idealism and ethics have evolved toward a more formal position of war refusal or war resistance. More generally, pacifism worldwide has evolved from an ethic of suffering and detachment to active engagement through nonviolence as an alternative to war. The invention of Gandhian nonviolence thus represented a critical moment in the evolution of pacifist ethicsthough Gandhi was not an absolute pacifist in the strictest sense.

Conscientious Objection Based on Pacifist Principles

Since laws of universal military serviceconscription or the draftand claims of conscientious objection spread gradually during the nineteenth century, the issue of refusal to fight in war did not appear to be a universal issue of conscience. It had been possible to avoid the choice if faced with it. Pacifism as opposition to war as an institution did not mean refusal to participate in it until the drafts of 19141918, when those who accepted the call of country (so-called pacificists) divided themselves from the minority absolute pacifists who remained antiwar in practice as well as theory.

War Resistance versus Pacifism

Similar ethical divisions over war in general and specific (just) wars have continued. War resistance (often to specific wars) and pacifism are not the same; some have refused to participate in specific "unjust" wars or opposed an arms race or particular (for example, nuclear) weapons without being pacifists in regard to all war. For example, the peace movement was often partisan regarding whose weapons and wars it most actively opposeddivided over emancipatory or "progressive" war or violence (such as the defense of the Spanish Republic against fascism after 1936). Other ethical issues for pacifism have arisen over the moral duty to counsel others to refuse military service (under some laws "incitement to disaffection")or to take nonviolent action, even sabotage, to obstruct war or destroy weapons.

Further examples of this dilemma abound. Should continued religious teaching against war or military combat be interpreted as treasonable or subversive of a state in time of war? Certainly not all those who refuse to be involved in war on ethical grounds are advocates of nonviolence or turning the other cheek in other situations. Equally those who accept a nonviolent discipline in domestic politics (such as Gandhi's) do not necessarily condemn all war. The grounds for opposing war and conscription are often not strictly ethical; they may be political or personalethics of justice, liberation, equality or "national liberation" may be more important than nonviolence in antiwar protests.

The Personal versus the Political in Pacifism

The term pacifism is usually used of an ideological position that is more than purely personalthe U.S. anarchist Paul Goodman (19111972) called himself a "fist-fighting pacifist." For others personal nonviolence in life, or a meditative path, is more important than whether one dons a uniform or picks up a weapon or takes a position against a war or revolution. It is essentially retreatist. There are many variants of these positions.

The millennia of otherworldly retreatmonastic or utopianfrom a world that appears lost repeats itself as communitarian pacifism and recurrently inherits recruits from failed or dissipated antiwar movements. There is an emphasis on child development, peace education, and the construction of a more peaceful culture, which has had an impact on modern pedagogy.

Gandhi's own ambivalence on these dilemmas, expressed in his retreat after the mass 1920s campaigns became violentagain is symptomatic of this ambiguity in pacifist idealism; yet by the 1930s and 1940s he once again advocated mass nonviolent resistance to British colonial rule in India, even during wartime, while also urging such resistance to Hitlerism from the 1930s onfor those brave enough to do so. Violence in this view was the inferior weapon of the weak, preferable to cowardice, but a lesser evil at best. Gandhi's model was reproduced in Ghana to some extent, but more violent methods adopted by leftist or nationalist revolutionaries tended to dominate such struggles thereafter.

Gandhi was also a political pacifist, however, in seeking programs of social and institutional change, not merely personal transformation. He saw them as being linkedfollowing the teachings of Leo Tolstoybut went further than the Russian Christian anarchists in creating a political ethic of nonviolent collective action (drawing also from Thoreau's principles of civil disobedience). These ideas in turn inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (19291968) and other human rights leaders. In the early New Left of the 1960s and the women's movements of the 1970s and 1980s and since, the personal and the political came together again in a fusion of pacifism and antipatriarchal women's peace activisms that sought to "take the toys from the boys" not least the Cruise missiles deployed in the United Kingdom by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp at the Greenham missile base in the United Kingdom was symptomatic of hundreds of such projects, militantly antimilitarist but linked to feminist and pacifist ideologies and predominantly nonviolent in methodology.

Twentieth-Century Developments

In the twentieth century new forms of pacifism emerged that were linked to political traditions: anarchist or socialist pacifism, nationalist pacifism (for example, in Wales), nuclear pacifism or the refusal to support or tolerate the stockpiling manufacture, use, or threatened deployment of weapons of mass destruction. Many pure pacifists were ambivalent about such a movement against only one form of war, while others took leadership roles in movements opposing the atomic bomb, in turning the movement to the use of Gandhian nonviolence. Feminism took an interest in pacifism from the first women's movements, burgeoning in the antinuclear women's peace movements of the 1980s and reflected in writers such as Barbara Deming.

Since 1918 the link between individual pacifist ethics and political pacifism has been shown to be most obvious; the sum of individual conscientious stances can create a social force based on ethics that can have an impact on policy. While more noticeable in liberal democratic contexts, even in authoritarian and repressive situations, such movements have had enormous effectiveness. Acting against the military draft, opposing the threat to engage in war, or the planned deployment of a new weapon (for example, to target civilians), or the invasion of another countrysuch movements have suffered many short-term setbacks but some long-term successes. Yet often pacifist and pacifist groups have remained marginal in their attempt to bring ethical stances into political life; the peace churches and "prophetic minorities" have kept ethics alive and provided leadership but are at best pressure groups or lobbies for change, as was the attempt to stop the strategic bombing of cities in World War II (19431945). In retrospect this was, even from the mainstream, not considered treasonable behavior but a legitimate ethical position. At the time it was seen as disloyal and questionable and was therefore marginalized by the allied military-political elites.

The war in Vietnam is another instance where, in hindsight, the pacifist positions that were marginalized in 1965 seemed justifiable only a decade later. The draft resistance movement led by pacifist groups has gained a respectable if not heroic image. However, this opportunistic application of just war or pacifist theories is anathema to absolute pacifists for whom even World War II, the "good war," remains ultimately an injusticeto the victims and those forced to fight in it.

Ethical pacifists who have emerged in the twentieth century with leading roles in social movementsDr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and many othershave, like some of the great pacifist religious prophets of the distant past, had an impact on social consciousness and cultural history far beyond their immediate actions. Yet pacifist ethics are in tension not only with the institution of war but even with the violent origins, foundations, and operations of the state and its penal and security systems. Despite the Gandhian model, pacifism often finds itself in tension with nationalist aspirations, or the urge toward armed emancipation from oppression. The "Balkan Gandhi," Ibrahim Rugova (b. 1945), witnessed two decades of nonviolent struggle for the autonomy of Kosovo, but also saw his nonviolent movement overtaken by a violent reaction to Serb oppression in 19981999 and ultimately by military intervention by NATO.

The episode in Kosovo, like the Spanish Civil War of 1936, underlines the dilemmas of pacifist ethics in a highly militarized world, socialized toward violent solutions to conflict. Such events do not prove pacifism right or wrong; they do raise issues of immediate effectiveness in the last resort (especially where peoples are under threat, or as in Spain where the long-term consequences of inaction may be disastrous), as against aspirations for long-term cultural and political change, and the failure to break the cycle or self-sustaining character of violent action. The great social structural insight of pacifism (as opposed to its ethical probity) is that violent conflict and change begets violent institutions, authoritarianism, and further violence. Whether nonviolence as a method can slowly replace that structural dynamic remains open to question, yet it is surely one of the prime issues of all human politics.

See also Nonviolence ; Peace ; Resistance and Accommodation ; War .


Bondurant, Joan V. The Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958. Still the classic academic work of political theory on the ideas and practice of nonviolence by political scientist.

Brock, Peter. Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. The foremost historian of pacifism.

. Pacifism since 1914 An Annotated Reading List. 3rd ed. Toronto: P. Brock, 2000. Best bibliography on Modern pacifism

. Varieties of Pacifism: A Survey from Antiquity to the Outset of the Twentieth Century. 4th ed. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2000. Short essays.

Brock, Peter, and Nigel Young. Pacifism in the Twentieth Century. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1999. Strongest on religious debates and useful as a comprehensive reference work.

Carter, April. Peace Movements: International Protest and World Politics Since 1945. London and New York: Longman, 1990. Sympathetic critical account of pacifist and nonpacifist movements by an academic once active in the movements.

Ceadel, Martin. Pacifism in Britain 19141945: The Defining of a Faith. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980. Written by a nonpacifist who has written several other works critically examining pacifism.

Cooney Robert, and Helen Michalowski. The Power of the People: Nonviolent Action in the United States. Philadelphia: New Society Press, 1988. Accessible, wellillustrated general accounts of pacifist campaigns mostly twentieth century.

Gandhi, Mahatma. The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi. Edited by Raghavan Iyer. 3 vols. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 19861987. Contains "My Experiments with Truth" (Gandhi's autobiography).

Nuttall, Geoffrey. Christian Pacifism in History. Oxford and New York: Blackwell, 1958. A summary of the religious standpoint.

Young, Nigel. "War Resistance and the Nation State." Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1976. An academic political sociology of pacifist action written by an academic peace researcher, observer, and participant, who has written extensively on war resistance, peace, and radical movements.

. "War Resistance in Britain." In chap. 1, Campaigns for Peace, edited by Richard Taylor and Nigel Young. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1987. This collection contains several other useful and pertinent essays including on the women's peace movement; the introduction has a useful tabulation of peace traditions following R. Overy and others.

Nigel Young

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A belief or policy in opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes. Pacifists maintain that unswerving nonviolence can bestow upon people a power greater than that achieved through the use of violent aggression.

Over the years, pacifism has acquired different meanings. As a consequence, it is practiced in a variety of ways. For example, pacifists may make an individual vow of nonviolence. They may also organize and actively pursue nonviolence and peace between nations. They may even assert that some form of support for selective violence is sometimes necessary to achieve worldwide peace.


The earliest form of recorded pacifism appear in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha. The Buddha, or the Enlightened One, left his family at a young age and spent his life searching for a release from the human condition. Before dying in northeast India between 500 and 350 b.c., the Buddha taught the paths to elevated existence and inspired a new religion. Buddhism eventually spread from India to central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan, and the United States.

The teachings of Jesus Christ continued the attachment of nonviolence to organized religion.

Christ taught, in part, that an appropriate response to violence is to "turn the other cheek" and offer no resistance.

As civilization expanded and distinct states were formed, Christianity was carried to developing areas. It became popularized as the official religion of entire states, the leaders of which sought to retain both Christianity and a stronghold on power. In the third century, the nonresistance aspect of Christianity was reconsidered, and certain passages in the Gospel were interpreted to mean that resistance is an acceptable reaction to evil forces.

Saint Augustine solidified Christianity's break with pure pacifism in the fifth century with a warmly received religious treatise. In The City of God, he maintained, in part, that peace could be realized only through the acceptance of Christianity and that the Church was to be defended.

More than a millennium passed before the next great pacifist movement was seen. In the fifteenth century, Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation, which inspired religious creativity. Europeans who were disenchanted with Catholicism broke away from the Church in Rome, experimented with observations and practices, and founded their own religions. The most pacific of these was Anabaptism. Anabaptists practiced nonviolence and actively supported those suffering from violence.

In the seventeenth century, still more pacific religious groups were established, such as the Mennonites, the Brethren, and the Religious Society of Friends. Of these, the Friends have gathered the largest following in the United States.

Religious Society of Friends

In 1652, George Fox founded the Religious Society of Friends in England. Initially, Friends were known as Children of the Light, Publishers of Truth, or Friends of Truth. They held fast to the belief that there exists in all persons a light, which can be understood as the presence of God. With this reverence for other people, nonviolence came naturally. And, since God exists in all people, violence can be avoided by finding and revealing the Light in others.

Friends were also called Quakers, perhaps from the trembling some experience as they find the Inner Light during meetings. The nickname was originally coined by antagonists and intended as derisive, but many Friends began to use it in their own speech. Quaker soon lost its derogative connotation, and it remains the most recognized name for Friends.

A Friend's commitment to pacifism often came with no small dose of activism. Friends interrupted church services and refused to take oaths in seventeenth-century England, arguing that if one always tells the truth, one need not promise to do so. Friends ignored social niceties, refusing, for example, to remove their hat in the presence of royalty. Friends also used the informal thee and thy in place of the more respectful you and your. Within four years of the creation of the Society, Friends in England were being imprisoned by the thousands, and they began to seek refuge in the New World.

Ann Austin and Mary Fisher were the first Friends to reach colonial America from England. After their arrival in 1656, Austin and Fisher were imprisoned and deported. Friends who came after them suffered a similar fate. Many of those who stayed moved to Rhode Island, which Roger Williams founded on religious freedom principles.

In 1681, Charles II gave to William Penn, a longtime Friend, the charter to colonial land in America as repayment for a debt owed to Penn's father. In 1682, Penn founded Pennsylvania as a "holy experiment," and many English and European Friends found permanent sanctuary there.

Friends continued their activism in colonial America by obstructing the business of slavery. Many Friends published their opposition to slavery and assisted fugitive slaves. Friends also addressed other social issues, such as the treatment of mentally ill persons and the rights of women. With the onset of the Civil War, many Friends reconsidered their absolute refusal to participate in war and helped the Union forces and slaves. In World Wars I and II, many Friends took an active part in medical and relief work.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi was the first great modern pacifist. Born October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India, Gandhi led a high-profile life dedicated to political and social reform through nonviolence.

During the 1900s, Gandhi experimented with various means of resolving conflict. Passive resistance, according to Gandhi, had to be supplemented by an active effort to understand and respect adversaries. In an atmosphere of respect, people could find peaceful, creative solutions. This active campaign for equality is called satyagraha, or "grasping for the truth."

Gandhi led a well-orchestrated political campaign for Indians in South Africa through the early 1900s. The movement reached its pinnacle in November 1913, when Gandhi led Indian miners on the Great March into Transvaal. The march was a profound show of determination, and the South African government opened negotiations with Gandhi shortly thereafter.

By promoting a variety of nonviolent activities designed to dramatize and call attention to social injustice, Gandhi won new rights for laborers, members of minorities, and poor people in South Africa and India. In many cases, however, Gandhi was working against centuries of hatred, and success was never absolute.

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

Gandhi's campaigns became the inspiration and model for the U.S. civil rights and political

movements in the 1950s and 1960s. Among those inspired was martin luther king jr. King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, the son of a Baptist preacher. His Baptist upbringing was supplemented by the study of theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he was introduced to the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi.

In 1955, King became involved with the first great pacifist movement in the United States, the African American civil rights movement. He eventually spearheaded that movement. On December 1, rosa parks, a black Montgomery resident, refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man. Her subsequent arrest for violating segregation laws sparked a boycott of the Montgomery transit system led by King and the black activists of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The boycott lasted over one year, until the Montgomery city government abolished segregation on buses. King's leadership had helped effect political change without the use of violence, and he resolved to build on the success.

In the late 1950s, King organized the southern christian leadership conference (SCLC). The SCLC operated as a network for civil rights work and a platform from which to address the nation and the world. Armed only with fortitude, the moral rightness of a cause, and an exceptional gift for public speaking, King was able to garner widespread support for a

series of popular campaigns that led to the end of official discrimination and segregation in the southern United States.

The influence of Gandhi on King was apparent. At the core of King's philosophy was nonviolence, but this pacifism was buttressed by action. Like Gandhi, King directed much of his energy toward the organization of nonviolent campaigns designed to call attention to social injustice. The campaigns did not always win the hearts and minds of other U.S. citizens. Occasionally, King and fellow civil rights activists suffered from the violence of their opponents.

Conscientious Objector Status

When the United States becomes involved in war, military service may become mandatory, and the status of conscientious objector (CO) is sought by pacifists to avoid military service. To qualify as a CO, one need only show "a sincere and meaningful" objection to all war (Reiser v. Stone, 791 F. Supp. 1072 [E.D. Pa. 1992] [quoting Shaffer v. Schlesinger, 531 F.2d 124 (3d Cir. 1976)]). This objection need not be grounded in religion. It is legitimate if it results from an "intensely personal" conviction that some might find "incomprehensible; or "incorrect" (Reiser [quoting United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163, 85 S. Ct. 850, 13 L. Ed. 2d 733 (1965)]).

In Reiser, Dr. Lynda Dianne Reiser sought discharge from military service on the grounds of a conscientious objection to war. Reiser had entered the Army in 1983 in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program at Washington and Jefferson College. After graduating in 1986, she sought and received a deferment of military service in order to attend Temple University Medical School. Upon graduation from medical school in 1990, Reiser sought and received another deferment in order to perform a one-year medical internship. In August 1990, Reiser informed the Army that she was a conscientious objector and that she would refuse the four years of military service required of her in return for the ROTC scholarship.

Although Reiser had possessed moral convictions approaching pacifism before entering the ROTC program, she had envisioned a career in medicine and expected her participation in military service to be minimal. In 1985, serious misgivings over military service began to take hold in Reiser. By 1989, her opposition to military service was firm. After treating a 16-year-old shooting victim, Reiser experienced nightmares and attempted to avoid all contact with violence. In April 1990, her beliefs crystallized into complete opposition to violence, war, and military service. Four months later, she applied for CO status.

The Department of the Army Conscientious Objector Review Board (DACORB) denied Reiser's application in September 1990. Despite supporting testimony from Army chaplain Colonel Ronald Miller and Army investigator Lieutenant Colonel Charles Nester, DACORB concluded that Reiser's belief in pacifism was not sincerely held.

Reiser appealed the DACORB decision to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. After reciting the chronology of the case and the legal standards for CO status, the court conducted a complete review of the record. This included an in-depth examination of Reiser's evolution to pacifism.

In addition to possessing a predisposition to nonviolence, Reiser had undergone a pacific metamorphosis that had not been disproved. Reiser had been deeply affected by the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five (1969) and had had her growing pacifism affirmed by roommates. She had also experienced a strengthening of her nonviolent convictions as a result of her medical training.

DACORB had ruled that Reiser had failed to prove that she would have "no rest or inner peace" if she were not discharged. This standard had been rejected by the court in an earlier case, which held that conscientious objectors need only show sincerity in their opposition to war (Masser v. Connolly, 514 F. Supp. 734, 740 [E.D. Pa. 1981]). According to the Reiser court, the "no rest or inner peace" standard was valid, but nothing in the record supported the DACORB conclusion that Reiser would lose no sleep over forced military service.

Because the timing of a CO application alone cannot be used to deny CO status, DACORB took pains to deemphasize the timing of Reiser's application. However, Reiser's application came less than one year before she was scheduled to begin military service, and DACORB was unable to let the issue go untouched. The timing of the application, admitted DACORB, called Reiser's sincerity into question.

DACORB use of application timing did call Reiser's sincerity into question. What DACORB failed to do, according to the court, was answer the question of Reiser's sincerity. Without additional support for its skepticism, DACORB use of application timing as a basis for rejecting CO status for Reiser carried no weight. The court ultimately reversed the DACORB decision and relieved Reiser of her obligation to work four years for the U.S. Army.

further readings

Beck, Sanderson. 2003. Guides to Peace and Justice: Great Peacemakers, Philosophers of Peace, and World Peace Advocates. Ojai, Calif.: World Peace Communications.

Burkholder, J. R., and John Bender. 1982. Children of Peace. Elgin, Ill.: Brethren.

Churchill, Ward, with Mike Ryan. 1998. Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America. Winnipeg, Man.: Arbeiter Ring.

Kellett, Christine Hunter. 1984. "Draft Registration and the Conscientious Objector: A Proposal to Accommodate Constitutional Values." Columbia Human Rights Law Review 15.

Randle, Michael, ed. 2002. Challenge to Nonviolence. Bradford, U.K.: Univ. of Bradford, Dept. of Peace Studies.

Todd, Jack. 2001. Desertion: In the Time of Vietnam. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Wallis, Jim, ed. 1982. Waging Peace: A Handbook for the Struggle to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. New York: Harper and Row.


Civil Rights Movement; Conscientious Objector; Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand; King, Martin Luther, Jr.

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PACIFISM. The development of sentiments of peace arose in a period of religious and political turmoil and strife. This period of strife resulted from the Reformation and from the process that led to the emergence of sovereign states and a new international system characterized by anarchy. The various ideas, proposals, and peace movements can be divided into three categories. Pacifism, the rejection of all violence and war, initially on the basis of religious doctrine or conviction, was exemplified in several Christian sects of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Such pacifism manifested itself more in personal witness than in political movements. A second tradition, more avowedly political in orientation and origin, was that of the perpetual peace plansproposals for the abolition of warfare through international organization. Virtually all such proposals, which flourished especially in the eighteenth century, contained provisions for the coercive exercise of power by the envisaged international authority; therefore these proposals were internationalist rather than strictly pacifist in nature. Even less pacifist was a third approach that emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which attempted to regulate the relations between sovereign states through the development of a law of nations (for which Jeremy Bentham coined the expression "international law" in 1780). These three traditions have continued to develop and interact with each other and have shaped humanity's thinking about war and peace up to the present. However, the start of the modern age witnessed a great flowering of antiwar writings that have continued to encourage critics of war and inspire dreamers of peace through the centuries.


Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466?1536), the "prince of humanists," drew on both his theological and classical scholarship to ridicule and condemn war as stupid, costly, and unworthy of Christians and the human race in general. Writing at a time when Christian rulers (including the pope) were fomenting and fighting wars, Erasmus used wit and satire to depict the brutality and irrationality of such campaigns. Going against the conventions of his time, Erasmus argued that nothing was less glorious than war, which only brought death, destruction, and misery. He stressed constantly the far-reaching and long-lasting consequences and evils of war. The friend of princes and bishops throughout Europe, he urged them to adopt a saner and more Christian attitude. He argued that their duty was the safety and happiness of their people, not the wanton destruction of their lives and livelihood in incessant, senseless warfare. These themes are pervasive in his numerous writings, but are most fully and devastatingly addressed in War Is Sweet to Those Who Do Not Know It (Dulce Bellum Inexpertis, 1515) and The Complaint of Peace (1517). His best-loved book, The Praise of Folly (1509), contains a mocking criticism of war. The numerous translations and reprints of Erasmus's antiwar writings are testimony to the fact that his glowing convictions and sharp pen have inspired the peace movement since his day.

Erasmus's condemnation of war was shared by his friends, notably the English humanists John Colet and Thomas More, and the Spaniard Juan Luis Vives, whose writings also deglorified war and urged a more rational, humane, and Christian policy on the rulers they addressed. For Erasmus, in an age of absolute monarchy, the education of Christian princes along pacifist lines was indeed of critical importance. He treated the subject in The Education of a Christian Prince, and his advice was very different from that offered at the same time by Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince. In the Erasmian literature there is little beyond these appeals to education, apart from the need to submit disputes to arbitration, as proposals for the avoidance of war. Erasmus was not an absolute pacifist, as evidenced by his discussion of whether war against the Turks was justified. Given the abuse of the traditional Catholic Just War doctrine, he took as his starting point the unchristian nature of war as shown in the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and thus shifted the balance of the argument away from justifying war to condemning it. Sebastian Franck's Kriegsbüchlen des Frides (1539) contains elements of a very modern pacifism in its emphasis on personal responsibility and individual conscience. The greatest French writers of the sixteenth century, François Rabelais (14901553) and Michel de Montaigne (15331592), condemned and ridiculed war as evidence of human stupidity.


The absolute rejection of war and the doctrine of nonresistance characterized the pacifist sectssome with roots in the heretical sects of the medieval worldthat emerged at the time of the Reformation and the period leading up to it. In the middle of the fifteenth century, Bohemia became a center for the absolute renunciation of war through the teachings and writings of Petr Chelcicky (c. 13801450s). He influenced the emergence during 14571467 of the Bohemian or Czech Brethren, who adhered to a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, preached a return to the teachings of Christ and his early followers, and rejected the state as an unchristian institution. Before the end of the century, the sect abandoned these absolutist views as a result of internecine struggles. However, they were adopted by the Swiss Anabaptists (or Brethren) under their leader Konrad Grebel (14981526) and also by the leader of the Dutch Anabaptists, Menno Simons (14961561), whose renewal of the sect was reflected in its new name, Mennonites. They secured the unprecedented right to an alternative civilian service in place of military service. Small Mennonite communities can still be found today in North America, where they continue to provide an active and living witness of Christian pacifism.

The largest of the Christian pacifist sects are the Quakers, who emerged in the 1650s in England, then in the throes of religious and political turmoil. Founded by George Fox (16241691), in 1661 the Quakers expressed their commitment to a renunciation of all violence and an individual witness against all war and all preparation for war in the Quaker Peace Testimony. From an initial refusal to take up arms, the Testimony has grown into a wide-ranging, active, and constructive program for the promotion of social and international peace.

Among early Quakers who worked for international peace were Robert Barclay (16481690), William Penn (16441718), and John Bellers (16541725). In 1678, Barclay addressed his "Epistle of Love and Friendly Advice" to the ambassadors of the several princes of Europe, who met at Nijmegen. He exhorted them to be guided by the divine light within and a peaceable spirit, which alone were capable of delivering a lasting peace settlement. Penn reacted to the wars of his time by proposing a European parliament in his Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe (1693). He argued that as civil war was prevented by just governance, so international war could be avoided by the creation of an international body entrusted with the just solution of contentious issues between its member states. In Some Reasons for an European State (1710), Bellers stressed that religious tolerance and liberty of conscience are essential prerequisites for European peace. It was precisely their absence in England that led Penn to establish his "Holy Experiment" in Pennsylvania, which became a haven for his coreligionists and similarly persecuted Nonconformist sects from Europe. For some seventy years (16811750), his colony was a tolerant and peaceful community that, unusually, also lived in harmony with Native Americans. It has inspired many who have dreamed of creating an ideal society.


Constant European warfare, the result of political and religious disunity, inspired many peace plans whose real aims were frequently to favor the hegemony of one or other power, and to protect Christianity from the Turks. Among the earliest of these plans are the Universal Peace Organization (1462/1464) of King George Podebrad (ruled 14581471) of Bohemia and the Grand Design of Henry IV (1638). The latter was the work of Henry's chief minister, Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully (15591641), who attributed it to the king in his Mémoires in order to enhance its authority. A truly modern, universal plan for world peace is in The New Cyneas (1623), written by the Parisian monk Eméric Crucé (c. 15901648), which appeared in the middle of the Thirty Years' War (16181648). It did not favor any particular power or religion and stressed the potential for world peace inherent in global free trade. Since Crucé wrote when the ruling economic doctrine was bellicose mercantilism, which held that trade between countries could only benefit one of them at the expense of the other(s), his ideas were too far ahead of his time to make an impact. He contrasted the old ideal of the destructive warrior with that of the productive worker and foresaw a global community of mutually stimulating peace and prosperity. The wars of Louis XIV (ruled 16431715) inspired plans for European peace such as those by Penn and the Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1713), whose voluminous Project of Perpetual Peace (17131716) was summarized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1761). Voltaire (16941778) shared Saint-Pierre's abhorrence and condemnation of war, calling it a "plague and crime . . . which includes all plagues and all crimes." However, he rejected as utopian Saint-Pierre's remedy: a confederation of European states meant to perpetuate the status quo internally as well as internationally. Philosophes, such as Voltaire, condemned the dynastic wars of their time and decried the fanaticism, despotism, and superstition that gave rise to war. Its elimination, they held, would come about through reason, tolerance, and social justice.


The rise of independent, sovereign states, together with their discoveries and colonization of extra-European territories, necessitated agreement on the principles for governing the emerging international system. The theory of the existence of a natural lawwhich held that humanity had common bonds, and that there existed fundamental rights and obligations that were not grounded in theologyallowed the development of a new science of international law. While the Spanish theologians Franciscus de Vitoria (14801546) and Franciscus Suarez (15481617) prepared the ground, the secularization of international law was brought to fruition by the Italian jurist Alberico Gentili (15521608). Gentili influenced Hugo Grotius (15831645), whose On the Laws of War and Peace (1625) was the first comprehensive and systematic attempt to formulate the principles of the new science. The Dutch diplomat asserted that there existed a common law among nations, and that this law also applied in war. He rejected the popularly held view that in war, law was in abeyance, and he was much concerned with the rules governing the behavior of belligerents. Writing in the middle of the Thirty Years' War, Grotius agitated against the lawless practices that were only too evident and that, he noted, would have made even barbarians blush. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) that ended the war sanctioned the new system of independent states. Grotius's famous treatise provided a body of rules to govern their relations in both war and peace.

See also Erasmus, Desiderius ; Franck, Sebastian ; Grotius, Hugo ; Law: International Law ; More, Thomas ; Quakers ; Rabelais, François .


Adams, Robert P. The Better Part of Valor: More, Erasmus, Colet, and Vives on Humanism, War, and Peace, 14961535. Seattle, 1962.

Brock, Peter. Pacifism in Europe to 1914. Princeton, 1972. Exhaustive study of Christian sects repudiating war from late medieval times.

Cooper, Sandi E., ed. Peace Projects of the Seventeenth Century. New York, 1972. Reprints of writings by Sully, Grotius, and Penn, with introductions. Part of the large Garland Collection of War and Peace reprints.

Eliav-Feldon, Miriam. "Grand Designs: The Peace Plans of the Late Renaisssance." Vivarium 27, no. 1 (1989): 5176. Focuses on Erasmus, Sully, Crucé, and Franceso Pucci.

Heater, Derek. The Idea of European Unity. Leicester, 1992. Concentrates on Sully, Penn, Bellers, Saint-Pierre, Rousseau, and later authors.

Hemleben, Sylvester John. Plans for World Peace through Six Centuries. Reprint. New York, 1972. Comprehensive study with full descriptions of plans from 1300s until World War I.

Johnson, James Turner. The Quest for Peace: Three Moral Traditions in Western Cultural History. Princeton, 1987. On radical Christian sectarianism, humanist utopianism, and the Just War tradition.

Kende, Istvan. "The History of Peace: Concept and Organizations from the Late Middle Ages to the 1870s." Journal of Peace Research 26, no. 3 (1989): 233247. Documents the evolution of peace concepts and organizations as a result of social developments.

Ter Meulen, Jacob. "Bibliography of the Peace Movement, 14801776" (1936). Reprint. In From Erasmus to Tolstoy: The Peace Literature of Four Centuries, edited by Peter van den Dungen. Westport, Conn., 1990. Chronological listing of 450 published works, mainly in Latin, French, German, and English.

Peter van den Dungen

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Pacifism is the principled rejection of war. It has found expression in American history through individuals who acted upon basis of personal conscience and through groups who acted out of a corporate sense of peoplehood. Pacifism has involved the refusal to participate in war or military service, as well as organized activities to promote peace and to give witness to the power of love in social and political relationships. Degrees of pacifist expression and commitment have varied widely, from a total renunciation of war by separatist religious sects to a general secular bias against militarism. Pacifism has had a role both at the sectarian fringes and at the public center of American life. By the broadest definition of the term—the desire to avoid war—in the words of John Dewey in 1917, “the American people is profoundly pacifist.”

Some Native North American tribes had developed corporate pacifist traditions before contacts with the Europeans. In the early fifteenth century, Deganawidah, semimythical founder of the Iroquois confederacy, taught a gospel of disarmament, social cooperation, and the rule of law. Sweet Medicine, legendary founder of the Cheyenne, established a “Peace Chief” tradition that counseled chiefs to suffer nonviolently rather than to take violent revenge. The Lenni Lenape (Delaware) had traditions of peacemaking and mediation which, together with the pacifism of William Penn and the Quakers, helped the colony of Pennsylvania for seventy years to avoid the scourge of war that afflicted Indian‐white relations elsewhere.

The pacifist Quaker movement began in the mid‐seventeenth century in the separatist wing of the Puritan dissent against the Church of England. The Quakers taught that all people, not just “the elect,” could be saved and live a life of righteousness through the guidance of the “inner light” from God, without the mediation of priest or sacrament. The Quakers took the Bible seriously, especially the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, but gave primary emphasis to the universal light within. William Penn made liberty of conscience and the renunciation of war central to his “Holy Experiment” in social and cultural pluralism in the Delaware Valley. Social order in Pennsylvania was not guaranteed by militia, imposed creeds, or social hierarchy, but by an ideal of social harmony and mutual forbearance among different groups. From the founding of Pennsylvania in 1682 to the withdrawal of Quakers from political control in 1750, this experiment evolved a set of pacifist‐oriented social ideals and institutions that worked a lasting influence upon American life. After 1750, Quaker pacifism became a more marginal and perfectionist movement, but it remained a continuing source of humanitarian reform impulses for movements against slavery, militarism, and other social ills.

Among the groups Penn attracted to his colony were German‐speaking pacifists of Anabaptist and Pietist origin, notably the Mennonites, Amish, and Dunkers (Church of the Brethren). The Mennonites originated in the left wing of the Protestant Reformation on the European Continent and held to a doctrine of two kingdoms that separated church and state. The state was “outside the perfection of Christ” and ordained by God to maintain order in the world. The church was a body of disciplined adult believers who literally followed the teachings of Jesus, including the commandment to love one's enemies. Mennonites and their cousins, the Amish, generally stayed aloof from politics. The Dunkers, of eighteenth‐century radical Pietist origin, expressed a warmer evangelical piety than the Anabaptists, but also maintained a strictly disciplined church life of nonresistance, simplicity, and separation from the world. The Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren eventually became known as the “historic peace churches.” Other church and communitarian groups also developed pacifist stances based upon varying apostolic, eschatological, and reform visions (Shakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh‐Day Adventists, Churches of Christ, Church of God in Christ, and others).

The classical republican political philosophy that guided the founders and leaders of the early American republic contained significant elements of pacifist antimilitarism. Classical republicanism, derived from scholars of the French Enlightenment and from English Whig opponents of monarchy, assumed that warfare resulted from the alliance of the ruling aristocracy with their national military forces. This alliance produced standing armies, which encouraged despotism and threatened the freedoms of the people. To maintain public order, classical republicans counted upon the superior virtue of citizens in a republic and upon the efficacy of well‐regulated local militia. Classical republicanism, in its acceptance of militia and of defensive wars, was far from absolute pacifism. But it was a “halfway pacifism” opposed to professional military training academies, to a standing army in peacetime, and to national military conscription in wartime. In the early American republic, it also informed peace initiatives such as President John Adams's decision for peace with France in the wake of the XYZ Affair (1799–1800) and President Thomas Jefferson's use of a trade embargo as an alternative to war (1808). Also in the classical republican tradition were rapid disarmament and reduction of the army after wars, strong opposition to military conscription in the Civil War and World War I, and alarm over the power of the military‐industrial complex in the Cold War.

The first nonsectarian peace societies in the United States emerged in the wake of the War of 1812. In 1828, the local and state peace societies joined to form the American Peace Society. The peace societies were deeply religious and primarily Christian, believing that God was revealed in Christ, and that Jesus' ethic of love required the rejection of violence and war. The relationship of the peace reform to movements against slavery and for women's rights was especially important in this reform‐minded era. In 1838, some radical pacifists, led by William Lloyd Garrison, formed the New England Non‐Resistance Society and called for righteous people to separate themselves from an evil world, particularly the slave‐owning South. The peace societies opposed the Mexican War (1846–48), but when the Civil War broke out (1860) they nearly all supported the North's military effort as a justifiable police action to end slavery and preserve the Union.

Between the Civil War and World War I, the pacifist‐anarchist teachings of the Russian author Leo Tolstoy added a new dimension to the peace movement, even as the movement adapted to the new challenges created by urbanization and industrialization. Tolstoy taught a universal nonresistant gospel based upon a law of love common to all world religions. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the secular theme of internationalism became especially prominent, with proposals for international law and for arbitration of disputes. In 1910, the philosopher and psychologist William James wrote an influential essay, The Moral Equivalent of War, which argued that the apparent opposites, killing and service, were both expressions of a universal impulse to heroic self‐sacrifice. James's essay gave new psychological depth to pacifist thought and fostered alternative service programs to military service. Jane Addams, founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, envisioned benevolent social work on a grand scale as a means of achieving world peace.

Pacifism in the twentieth century addressed the problems of total international warfare and ultimately of a thermonuclear arms race. During wartime, the historic peace churches continued their conscientious objection to war and refused military service. The numbers of men who went to prison or to alternative service programs remained small, reduced through acculturation to American patriotism. But the peace church precedent of conscientious objection provided a wedge for massive challenges to the military draft during the unpopular Vietnam War, when the Selective Service System almost broke down. Some pacifists worked together with socialists and labor movement leaders in direct action for social justice—sometimes involving civil disobedience.

The nonviolent teachings and methods of Mohandas K. Gandhi, expressed in the popular movement for Indian independence from British imperial rule, influenced American pacifists with their integration of personal and social ethics, their unity of means and ends, and their combination of Hinduism and Christianity. Martin Luther King, Jr., adapted Gandhi's methods in leading the civil rights movement from 1956 to 1968 as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King's pacifism extended to opposition to the Vietnam War at a time when that stance seemed to threaten the civil rights coalition. A boycott on behalf of striking grape pickers in California, organized by Cesar Chavez, (1965–70), was a form of pacifist nonviolent direct action.

During the Cold War, pacifist activity waxed and waned according to recurrent crises in the competition between Communist powers and the West. The threat of atomic destruction produced a position known as “nuclear pacifism”—reflected in the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and held by people who could justify winnable or “just” wars but who in principle opposed nuclear warfare because of its consequences. Pacifist ideals gained expression through activist organizations as well as through the growing academic discipline of peace and conflict resolution studies. A government agency, the United States Institute of Peace, was founded in 1985. National problems of escalating violence led to creative new movements for peer mediation in public schools and victim‐offender reconciliation programs in local communities. These new initiatives drew upon a long history of pacifist idealism in the American experience.
[See also Just War Theory; Militarism and Antimilitarism; Nonviolence; Nuclear Protest Movements; Peace and Antiwar Movements; Vietnam Antiwar Movement.]


Peter Brock , Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War, 1968.
Charles Chatfield , For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914–1941, 1971.
Charles DeBenedetti , The Peace Reform in American History, 1980.
Lawrence S. Wittner , Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 1933–1983, 1984.
Valarie H. Ziegler , The Advocates of Peace in Antebellum America, 1992.
Charles Chatfield and and Robert Kleidman , The American Peace Movement: Ideals and Activism, 1992.
Matthew Dennis , Cultivating a Landscape of Peace: Iroquois‐European Encounters in Seventeenth‐Century America, 1993.
Louise Hawkley and James C. Juhnke, eds., Nonviolent America: History Through the Eyes of Peace, 1993.
Charles C. Moskos and John Whiteclay Chambers II, eds., The New Conscientious Objection: From Sacred to Secular Resistance, 1993.
Staughton Lynd and Alice Lynd, eds., Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History, 1995.

James C. Juhnke

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PACIFISM. Four unique types of pacifism have entered American life and politics: (1) conscientious objection to war, resulting in personal refusal to participate in war or military service; (2) opposition to and renunciation of all forms of violence; (3) a strategy of nonviolent action to overcome specific injustices or to bring about radical change in the social order; and (4) a "positive testimony" to a way of life based on conviction of the power of love to govern human relationships.

Conscientious objection to war was a central doctrine of the "historic peace churches" (Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers), which held war to be in fundamental contradiction to their religious faiths. In prerevolutionary Pennsylvania, Quakers tried with some success to apply their pacifist convictions in the colony that William Penn had established as a "holy experiment," a colony where they could live at peace with each other and with all persons, including their Indian neighbors. The American Revolution, however, split the Quakers on the issue of political pacifism and led to their permanent withdrawal from politics as an organized religious body. This development returned pacifism to the individual for decision—on refusing to fight, pay taxes for military purposes, or in other ways to support the war "system."

The number of objectors and the form of their objection varied with the moral appeal of each war, reaching a climax of opposition to U.S. military action in Vietnam and Cambodia in the late 1960s. Probably one out of five of those of draft age during this period were exempted from military service because of conscientious objection (although many of these were ostensibly deferred for other reasons, because local draft boards did not wish to acknowledge such claims formally). An unprecedented, though unspecified, number of draftees were discharged from military service or were absent without leave (AWOL) because of objections after induction. In addition, a substantial number were imprisoned because they refused to fight or to be inducted.

During this time pacifist ranks reached out to most denominations, and many of the country's religious leaders were included. Also, persons whose objection to war stemmed from humanitarian or philosophical convictions rather than religious training and belief—the criterion for conscientious objection specified in the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940—were legitimized by a succession of Supreme Court decisions. Meanwhile, pacifists in the twentieth century had again sought political means to prevent war and keep the United States out of war. They were a principal force in the American peace movement and were often at odds with those who urged a collective security system with international military sanctions as the most effective approach to maintaining peace.

The second form of pacifism abjures violence in any form and sees violence operating not only in outright war but also through social institutions that permit human exploitation and discrimination and that rely on repression and force to maintain "law and order." Consequently, the major goal of such pacifists has been social reform. The core of the American antislavery movement was largely pacifist. For example, in the 1750s John Woolman preached to his fellow Quakers that slavery was incompatible with their professed respect for "that of God in every man." Social pacifism also infused the struggle for prison reform, the fight against capital punishment, the championing of women's rights, efforts to improve care of the mentally ill and retarded, and the securing of civil rights for all minorities.

Social-reform pacifists were in direct conflict with those who insisted that effective action demanded violence. They found themselves denounced as soft-headed dupes, if not outright lackeys, of the entrenched oppressors. To such charges pacifists responded with the third pattern—a strategy of nonviolent direct action. Modeled on Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of civil disobedience (satyagraha), sit-ins (put to an early test by some unions in the industrial conflicts of the 1930s), marches (which achieved dramatic impact with the "stride toward freedom" from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, of Martin Luther King Jr., who called for an end to racial discrimination), vigils (usually conducted by smaller groups with a strong religious motif), and boycotts (as notably organized by César E. Chavez, 1965–1970, on behalf of grape pickers striking against California growers) became expressions of nonviolent protest. These actions were characterized by extraordinary self-discipline, even when met by violent counteraction.

Pacifist influence was fractured by a succession of violent events. The assassination of King silenced the most effective spokesperson for nonviolence at a time when militants among blacks and others in the civil rights movement were clamoring for confrontation by force. Later, a sense of helplessness swept over the peace movement when President Richard M. Nixon moved to extend the war into Cambodia and substituted massive, electronically controlled bombing and mining for the presence of most American draftees in Vietnam. But backlash against the civil rights and peace movements demonstrated that a wide base of nonpacifist values existed throughout America. The collapse of the George S. McGovern campaign for the presidency in 1972 seemed to bury the hopes for effective political expression of pacifist concerns, leaving a vacuum of disillusionment that militants eagerly sought to fill.

Two influences combined to generate a fourth type of pacifism. Many conscientious objectors became increasingly troubled by the essentially negative posture of their position. They wanted not simply to protest wars and injustice, but also to create the conditions for a human community. Second, a growing number felt that societies in general and American society in particular were past reforming and that peace would have to be sought within a small group of kindred souls. Both influences moved toward a definition of pacifism as a total philosophy of life and toward experimentation with human relationships in which love would replace violence. These two expressions of pacifism, however, differed in focus. The first emphasized an outward "testimony" by which the principles of cooperative community could be demonstrated to others as a viable way of life. This was the original intent of the Civilian Public Service program, which had been organized voluntarily by the historic peace churches to offer an alternative to military service during World War II. Conscientious-objector units worked, with commendable efficacy, on conservation and park projects, in fire fighting and disaster relief, in mental health hospitals and schools for retarded children, and as "guinea pigs" for medical research. The effectiveness of the testimony-by-work approach was seriously undermined, however, by Selective Service control and the inescapable consciousness that the testifiers were in fact conscripts, not volunteers.

The second approach rejected society in favor of a commune of persons willing to live simply on a share-alike basis, as independently as possible from the requirements of the so-called system (including fixed employment). The new communes followed the long tradition in America of experimental communities devoted to the ideal of self-sufficient and harmonious living. In the mid-1970s pacifism in America seemed to have returned to its pristine base of individual conviction. But the activism of the 1960s had imparted both a commitment to conscientious objection to war and a sensitivity to social injustice that encompassed a much broader swath of American life than ever before. Indeed, events of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century revealed a broad spectrum of Americans ready to protest what they saw as injust wars, at home and abroad.

Citizens organized beginning in the 1980s to protest the civil-liberties violations, injuries, and deaths, and high imprisonment rates wrought by the war on drugs launched in the early 1980s by the administration of President Ronald Reagan. The police became increasingly militarized, using tactics of war rather than domestic law enforcement. The 1990s saw more traditional antiwar protests over the Persian Gulf War. After Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in 1991, the United States launched a war to push Iraq back out. The United States government sent some 500,000 troops to the region and dropped huge numbers of bombs on Iraq, killing tens of thousands of Iraqis and destroying much of the nation's infrastructure. A significant protest movement against the Persian Gulf War, and the economic sanctions that followed, developed in the United States.

Pacifism became a much more dangerous position to hold publicly in the United States after 11 September 2001, when Islamic terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands and shattering Americans' sense of safety. President George W. Bush launched a "war on terrorism," which involved both sending military personnel around the globe and restricting privacy rights and other civil liberties at home. Citizens across the political spectrum, who had been shocked and horrified by the events of 11 September, nonetheless found themselves ill at ease over a "war" with no clear ending point and with an alarming tendency to rationalize the curbing of domestic civil liberties.


Birnbaum, Jonathan, and Clarence Taylor, eds. Civil Rights since 1787: A Reader on the Black Struggle. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Bush, Perry. Two Kingdoms, Two Loyalties: Mennonite Pacifism in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Early, Frances H. A World without War: How U.S. Feminists and Pacifists Resisted World War I. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Hawkley, Louise, and James C. Juhnke, eds. Nonviolent America: History through the Eyes of Peace. North Newton, Kan.: Bethel College, 1993.

Kammen, Michael, ed. Contested Values: Democracy and Diversity in American Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.

Klejment, Anne, and Nancy L. Roberts, eds. American Catholic Pacifism: The Influence of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996.

Schlabach, Theron F., and Richard T. Hughes, eds. Proclaim Peace: Christian Pacifism from Unexpected Quarters. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Tracy, James. Direct Action: Radical Pacifism from the Union Eight to the Chicago Seven. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Philip E.Jacob/d. b.

See alsoAntiwar Movements ; Civil Rights Movement ; King, Martin Luther, Assassination ; Missiles, Military ; Persian Gulf Syndrome ; Persian Gulf War of 1991 ; Shakers ; United Farm Workers Union of America ; Utopian Communities ; Youth Movements ; andvol. 9:Peace and Bread in Time of War .

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The term pacifism is a neologism that was coined in the early twentieth century. It was invented by the French notary Emile Arnaud, who used it in a newspaper article in 1901. According to Karl Holl, Arnaud wanted to stress the peculiar determination and common ideological orientation of those who were not only peaceful or peacemakers, but pacifists, and he therefore formed an ism similar to other political currents, such as socialism or liberalism. The new concept was meant to incorporate all previous goals of the bourgeois peace movementincluding arbitration, disarmament, and a European confederationunder a new label. The term was also meant to suggest parity with other political movements, and to play up the theoretical pretense of this current. The last point was particularly important for central European pacifists such as Alfred Hermann Fried. Older terms such as peace movement, mouvement pacifique, or Friedensbewegung were not fully displaced by the neologism.

It has been suggested that an analytical distinction be made between pacifism, a position that rejects both war and support for war, and pacificism, which aims to reform the international system and rejects aggressive wars, but which also underlines the justification of military defensive against a foreign aggressor (Ceadel 1987, p. 5). This distinction is problematic, however, because it disregards most of the early proponents of pacifism, including most of the peace societies of nineteenth century Europe. These groups were sympathetic to the idea of national defensive warfare and promoted what the historian Sandi Cooper has called a patriotic pacifism (Cooper 1991). The distinction also focuses too much on the ideological ramifications of peace activism, thereby neglecting forms of agitation and group sociability as key angles for a historical interpretation.

The strength of pacifist groups in the period from 1810 to 1945 depended particularly on their ability to lay claim to a respected position within the political culture of the respective countries. The capacity for pacifist mobilization was strongest in countries with a substantial pietist community and related cultural traditions, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries. The pietist mentality, with its moralistic language and its commitment to salvation for a sinful world (based on the consciousness of the individual), fed into the dominant semantic patterns of pacifist activism and its often intense moral dichotomies. Even in the predominantly Catholic country of France, most of the founding members of the Association de la paix par le droit (ADP, Association for Peace through Law) in 1887 were Huguenots and members of the Reformed Church (Ingram 1991, p. 27).


Religious motives (particularly from the historic peace churches of the Quakers and Mennonites in England and the United States) engendered the first peace societies in New York (1815) and London (1816), while philanthropic motives led to similar societies in Paris (1821) and Geneva (1830). In both Europe and the United States, nineteenth-century pacifism relied on a homogeneous stratum of middle-class supporters and their characteristic patterns of sociability and associational life. International contacts between peace activists intensified in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and these contacts were institutionalized through the International Peace Bureau in Bern, Switzerland, founded in 1892. The outbreak of war in August 1914 betrayed pacifist hopes that a growing network of international relations would prevent war. It also compromised most bourgeois pacifists, who demonstrated their readiness to support a national war effort. In a response to this perceived moral bankruptcy of patriotic pacifism, pacifist organizations with a more radical approach emerged in various countries, including the Union for Democratic Control in the United Kingdom and the Bund Neues Vaterland (New Fatherland League) in Germany.

European pacifism in the 1920s and early 1930s was characterized by the coexistence of a liberal current on the one hand and a more radical or integral current on the other. The former was represented by the ADP in France, the League of Nations Union in Britain, and the liberal current in the Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft (German Peace Society, DFG). The latter was exemplified by groups such as the Ligue internationale des combattants de la paix (LICP) in France and the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), founded by the Anglican clergyman Dick Sheppard, in the United Kingdom. Toward the end of the 1920s, ideological conflicts between the two wings hardened, and sectarianism and organizational fragmentation prevailed. This was due not only to individual idiosyncrasies and the growing militancy of many radical pacifists. It also reflected the fact that the political and cultural cleavages between liberal dignitaries, with their characteristic patterns of sociability, and radical democrats, socialists, and anarchists, which represented a broader cross section of society, could no longer be reconciled.

The Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, the remilitarization of the Rhineland by the Nazi government in 1936, and particularly the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 undermined the moral and political foundations of European pacifism. The tendency of the PPU to grant concessions to Nazi Germany, along with the apparent failure of the British appeasement policy, compromised its moral grounds. Italian and German military intervention against the Spanish Republic called for a revocation of a principled nonviolent stance, as powerful critics such as George Orwell argued. And with the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, German pacifists were forced into exile or became subject to police persecution. Soon, pacifists in countries such as Norway or France would have to decide whether they would participate in violent resistance against the German occupation.

In both historical and sociological perspective, pacifism ceased to exist as a major political current after World War II. In terms of sociability and mobilization, the permanent but small associations of middle-class dignitaries were transformed into the more fluctuating single-issue campaigns of peace movements, with their ability to attract highly volatile mass support. In terms of ideology and the support of nonviolent methods, some of the former pacifist impetus shifted toward an engagement in human rights campaigning. Yet since 1945 a strictly nonviolent, pacifist orientation has still consistently been displayed by organizations such as the War Resisters International (WRI). Since its foundation in 1921, the WRI has promoted nonviolent direct action and supported conscientious objectors. It has emerged as a major transnational network of radical pacifists, with branches in various European countries, the United States, and other parts of the world.

SEE ALSO Peace; Peace Movements


Brock, Peter. 1972. Pacifism in Europe to 1914. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Ceadel, Martin. 1987. Thinking about Peace and War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, Sandi. 1991. Patriotic Pacifism: Waging War on War in Europe, 18151914. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holl, Karl. 1978. Pazifismus. In Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, ed. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck, Vol. 4, 767787. Stuttgart, Germany: Klett-Cotta.

Ingram, Norman. 1991. The Politics of Dissent: Pacifism in France 19191939. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Benjamin Ziemann

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pacifism, advocacy of opposition to war through individual or collective action against militarism. Although complete, enduring peace is the goal of all pacifism, the methods of achieving it differ. Some groups oppose international war but advocate revolution for suppressed nationalities; others are willing to support defensive but not offensive war; others oppose all war, but believe in maintaining a police force; still others believe in no coercive or disciplinary force at all.


One of the strongest motivations in the promotion of peace has been religion, the objection to war being, in general, based on the belief that the willful taking of human life is wrong. The Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, decry war and advocate nonresistance. There has also been a strong pacifistic element in Judaism and Christianity. The Sermon on the Mount, in particular, contains a strong exhortation to peace. The church generally voiced opposition to war as such (with the notable exception of the Crusades); in the Middle Ages the truce of God was the outcome of ecclesiastical attempts to halt private warfare. Some later sects—especially the Anabaptists, Quakers, Moravians, Dukhobors, and Mennonites—have elevated nonresistance to a doctrinal position.

Another motivating force in pacifism has been humanitarianism and the humanitarian outrage at the destruction caused by war. Economic motives have also played a part in pacifist arguments; the pacifists condemn the economic waste of war, which they claim is avoidable. International cooperation and pacifism are closely connected, and pacifists usually advocate international agreements as a way to insure peace. Pacifism is also closely connected with movements for international disarmament.

Pacifism in the Nineteenth Century

Modern pacifism began early in the 19th cent., with peace societies that were formed in New York (1815), Massachusetts (1815), and Great Britain (1816). Other countries followed, and societies were established in France and Switzerland not long afterward. In 1828 William Ladd, one of the early pacifists, welded the many local societies that had been established in the United States into the American Peace Society. Soon more radical pacifists came to the fore, and the peace movement in the United States became connected with other causes under the leadership of such men as Elihu Burritt and William Lloyd Garrison. However, Garrison later abandoned his pacifism and advocated war to end slavery.

The first international peace congress met in London in 1843, marking the earliest attempt to organize on an international scale. Both the Mexican War and the Crimean War checked development temporarily, and the Civil War completely destroyed for the moment the peace movement in the United States. After the Civil War the movement reappeared in new forms, influenced strongly by the internationalists. The efforts of Frédéric Passy in France and of Sir William Randal Cremer in Great Britain led to the foundation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1892. The International Peace Bureau was founded at Bern, Switzerland in 1892. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize (see Nobel, Alfred Bernhard) did much to encourage pacifist thought. Even the Franco-Prussian and Spanish-American wars did not check the spread of peace agitation.

Pacifism in the Twentieth Century

The peace societies, the international organizations, and the Hague Conferences of the 19th cent., were all powerless to check the rush of events to World War I. Although the percentage of conscientious objectors was small, after the war the peace movement reappeared with greater vigor than before, and, in spite of increased nationalism throughout the world, a concerted effort toward peace was made not only in the peace congresses but also in such agitation as the pacifist resolution (1933) of the Students' Union at Oxford.

During the 1920s and early 30s pacifism enjoyed an upsurge; the doctrine of nonresistance as applied in India by Mohandas K. Gandhi gained attention and respect for the movement. The hopes placed in the League of Nations, however, failed to materialize, and some pacifists placed their trust in isolationism and appeasement as events led to World War II. This time the number of conscientious objectors in the United States and Great Britain was larger than in World War I.

After World War II broken international contacts were again restored; a world pacifist conference projected for 1949 in India was postponed because of the assassination of Gandhi. At its meeting in 1948 the World Council of Churches was unable to reach agreement in regard to pacifism and the church. Although pacifists were not very active in the United States during the Korean War in the early 1950s, this was not the case during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 70s; pacifists and other antiwar groups joined together for several major protest marches in Washington, D.C. and other cities. Recent pacifist movements have tended to concentrate their efforts on urging unilateral or multilateral disarmament and the cessation of nuclear testing (see disarmament, nuclear).

Prominent Pacifists

The presence of ardent pacifists among the prominent figures in the literary and artistic worlds has had an effect in spreading the aims of the movement. The writings of Bertha von Suttner and of Ludwig Quidde demonstrate how pacifism may be espoused in fictional writing. Apart from such statesmen as Aristide Briand, William Jennings Bryan, Frank Kellogg, and Ramsay MacDonald, among other notable names in pacifism are Leo Tolstoy, Jane Addams, Élie Ducommun, Guglielmo Ferrero, Albert Gobat, Alfred H. Love, David Starr Jordan, Sir Norman Angell, Nicholas Murray Butler, Philip Noel-Baker, Bertrand Russell, Martin Luther King, Jr., A. J. Muste, Staughton Lynd, and Dr. Benjamin Spock. Among the many agencies and associations that have been organized for the advancement of world peace are the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, War Resisters International, and International Peace Bureau.


See D. Martin, Pacifism (1965); P. Brock, Pacifism in the United States (1968) and Twentieth-Century Pacifism (1970); R. Seeley, The Handbook of Non-violence (1986); D. Brown, Biblical Pacifism (1986).

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pac·i·fism / ˈpasəˌfizəm/ • n. the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means. ∎  the refusal to participate in war or military service because of such a belief. DERIVATIVES: pac·i·fist n. & adj. pac·i·fis·tic / ˌpasəˈfistik/ adj.

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"pacifism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from


pacifism Philosophy opposing the use of war or violence as a means of settling disputes. Elements can be found in ancient Hebrew and early Christian theology, and in later Anabaptist and Quaker beliefs. International pacifist groups were organized in the 19th century. The doctrine of ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi was based on pacifist philosophy. See also Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

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"pacifism." World Encyclopedia. . 21 Oct. 2016 <>.

"pacifism." World Encyclopedia. . (October 21, 2016).

"pacifism." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from