In This Review

World Peace (And How We Can Achieve It)
World Peace (And How We Can Achieve It)
By Alex J. Bellamy
Oxford University Press, 2019, 288 pp

The search for peace is as old as war itself. In this thoughtful account of the “theory and practice of peace,” Bellamy takes aim at the old claim that war is hardwired in human nature, noting that civilizations and societies have existed for long periods in relative peace. He argues that the movement for world peace is not a wide-eyed utopian project but a pragmatic endeavor that builds on a long history of small victories. Although religious and ethnic wars seem to be on the rise, Bellamy is more optimistic about the historical trend away from conflict: the great powers have abstained from war with one another for the longest period in the modern era; the United Nations has established norms and institutions for the peaceful settlement of disputes, peacekeeping, and the protection of civilians; and the use of force for territorial conquest has lost its legitimacy as a tool of statecraft. War will never be abolished, but humans do have the capacity to learn, adapt, and reach for the moral high ground. Bellamy tracks ongoing efforts to create “minor utopias” through pragmatic and incremental steps such as placing legal limitations on the conduct of war, building institutions for conflict mediation, cooperating on peacemaking after war, promoting norms of human dignity and human rights, extending humanitarian aid, and protecting women and children in war zones.