Peaceful Societies

Alternatives  to Violence and War



News and Reviews
Peaceful Societies

September 11, 2014. The Ladakh Project: An Audiovisual Mashup
The Times of India reported last week that Ladakh had inspired Sarvesh Shrivastava, a music composer/producer from Mumbai, to produce a new audiovisual mashup called “The Ladakh Project.” (Full story)

September 11, 2014. The Peaceful Ju/’hoansi Mistreat their Dogs
James Suzman published an essay last week that raises a troubling question: why would a supposedly peaceful society such as the Ju/’hoansi treat animals cruelly? (Full story)

September 4, 2014. Amish Hate Crimes Convictions Reversed
Last Wednesday, a U.S. appeals court reversed the hate crimes convictions of Sam Mullet, Sr., and his followers, a decision that Donald Kraybill compared to “splitting legal hairs over Amish beards.” (Full story)

September 4, 2014. The Baybayin of the Buid
It is always heartening when the news media update really important issues, such as the ways people cherish their love poetry, rather than produce more dreary stories about wars and murders, diseases and disasters. (Full story)

August 28, 2014. Inuit Plural Marriages
Nunatsiaq News reported last week that an Iqaluit filmmaker named Alethea Arnaquq-Baril has just produced a dramatic romance film about the abandoned Inuit practice of multiple spouses. (Full story)

August 28, 2014. Zapotec Women Push Changes [online magazine article review]
The Zapotec woman spoke insightfully: "I feel that we have deep roots as an indigenous town, which has changed over time, it's true, but [it] is still very rooted in our values, in solidarity, brotherhood, in community work.” (Full story)

August 21, 2014. Violence in a Yanadi Community
Changes occur in all societies, and while many of the peaceful peoples have been able to retain some—or most—of their nonviolent values and practices, very few of them remain static. (Full story)

August 21, 2014. Frog Woman and Her Moral Code [anthology chapter review]
The Chewong believe that their forest is composed not only of humans but of a wide range of sentient beings, all of which live by rules that prescribe correct behavior. (Full story)


For earlier articles, please visit the listing of older stories on the News and Reviews page.




Peaceful societies are contemporary groups of people who effectively foster interpersonal harmony and who rarely permit violence or warfare to interfere with their lives. This website serves to introduce these societies to students, peace activists, scholars and citizens who are interested in the conditions that promote peacefulness. It includes information on the beliefs of these peoples, the ways they maintain their nonviolence, and the factors that challenge their lifestyles.

Zapotec boyLISTS: A list of peaceful societies is never completely finished or accurate. However, social scientists have convincingly described at least 25 societies around the world in which there is very little internal violence or external warfare. Generalizations are difficult to make accurately, except that most of the time these peaceful societies successfully promote harmony, gentleness, and kindness toward others as much as they devalue conflict, aggressiveness, and violence.

DISCLAIMER: While scholars have clearly identified a small number of societies in which people rarely act aggressively, it must be emphasized that no stamp of approval is intended for the societies included in this website. None of them are utopias. They share many problems with the rest of humanity. That said, however, most of the time they interact in a highly pro-social manner and they successfully avoid both violence within their own societies and warfare with other peoples.

OTHER "PEACEFUL" SOCIETIES: Popular writers and casual observers have also described many other societies as “peaceful,” but often in a more general or romantic sense. This website focuses, instead, on societies where there is significant scholarly literature to support the claims of peacefulness, and where the evidence provided by those scholars appears to be quite convincing.

COMPARISONS: Part of the fascination of this scholarly literature is the way readers can compare the extent of peacefulness and violence in these societies. Their differing ways of developing social, psychological, ethical and religious structures that foster peacefulness should inspire—and challenge—anyone interested in the processes of peace building. This literature suggests several questions:

APPROACHES TO PEACEFULNESS: Most of the nonviolent peoples have a wide range of strategies for promoting interpersonal harmony, building mutual respect, and fostering toleration for individual differences. Many of them are masters at devaluing conflicts, minimizing and resolving them when they do occur, and preventing them from developing into violence. Many of these peaceful societies also devalue competition, self-focus, and other ego-centered social behaviors that they feel might lead to violence.

LITERATURE: While the literature about these societies is small in contrast to the vast number of works about violence and war, there are some notable, highly readable books about peaceful societies and some useful websites that describe a few of them. Most of the best literature, however, is available in books, journal articles, and essays contained in published volumes. A small number of the best journal articles and essays from books are included in the Archive of Articles on Peaceful Societies of this website. Three different encyclopedia articles describe peaceful societies and the literature about them (Dentan 2002; Fry 1999; Sponsel 1996).

ADDITIONS: Additions to the website, as well as news about the peaceful societies, are noted on the News and Reviews page.

Photo: Seven year old Zapotec boy eating a tortilla in the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, near the village of La Paz. D. P. Fry photo collection.




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