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Volume 5

Expanded Contents

1: Perspective And Summary
2: What is Peace?
3:Alternative Concepts of Peace
5:The Social Contract Model
6:The Global Convention of Minds
7: The Just Peace Principles
8:The Just Peace
10: Principles of Conflict Resolution
11: The Positive Peace Principle
12:The Grand Master Principle

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace

Other Related Work

Conflict And Violence page

Democratic Peace page


Chapter 9

Implementation Of A Just Peace:
Incrementalism *

By R.J. Rummel

No Great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
----Epictetus, Discourses, Book I, Chapter 15


It is one thing to pose a just peace as an end and standard of policy; it is another to try to achieve it. The natural and critical question is, "What should we do?" This question can be asked about our global society of international relations and about national societies and interpersonal relations. And this begs a prior question about the scope of the just peace.

While the social contract model focused upon a global society, the same logic and conceptual approach are applicable to any society that lacks a fair and impartial consensus on first-order sociocultural and sociopolitical principles. The Just Package has great horizontal and vertical applicability, with suitable reinterpretation of the Constitutional Principles necessary to apply them to societies within nation-states.

For any society the question of social justice is this: What principles would people select for their social institutions if they had no idea what their abilities or place in society would be? If major sociocultural and sociopolitical divisions exist in a society that rule our consensus on first-order principles, then the Just Package is the just solution. That is, social institutions should then permit and secure each individual's rights to determine his social contract--community--with others, and to leave any community.1 And for any such society the question is how to achieve this just peace.

Given this understanding, in the following section and next two chapters I will first discuss a philosophical approach to implementing the Just Peace, which I will call incrementalism;2 second, I will outline principles and rules for peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacefostering that are consistent with or derived from the theoretical and empirical work of previous volumes and point toward a just peace; and third, I will present two general principles for incrementally moving toward a just peace.


Except for societies that have recently undergone violent social revolution (such as Ethiopia, Iran, or Nicaragua) or foreign conquest (as has occurred in South Vietnam, Cambodia, or Afghanistan), the institutions, laws, and norms of society form a structure of expectations--a social contract--that has developed gradually or by fits and starts out of numerous adjustments among opposing interests, capabilities, and wills. It is based on a particular balance of powers and is itself a complex of interlocking, overlapping, multifold lower-level expectations and balances. So much was discussed in Chapter 2.

Significant for a just peace policy, this complex comprises innumerable subbalances of unknown interests, each operating through unknown perceptions and moralities, each a separate fit of specific knowledge and experience to particular circumstances. Each is a present phase in a historical path traced by its specific conflict helix.

This incalculable diversity of intrinsically subjective balances, all accumulating to concretely structure society, creates a number of policy limits. First, the knowledge about society and its balances is fundamentally and necessarily restricted. Social science is restrained to the margins of this great subjective unknown. Its existence can be recognized, its components delineated, but social science is inherently unable to calculate its concrete variety, weigh its specific elements, and gauge their contextual meaning and value to each person! Prosaically, while modern technology may now be able to tell the wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches, only the wearer really can know whether he wants to buy another shoe and at what price.

For this reason, socialism is fundamentally flawed in its belief that experts can establish the best prices for goods (and just wages) in a market and the proper balance between input and output for economic production. They cannot do so in theory and have dismally failed in practice. The reason is given above: a price is a micro-example of the macro, overarching structure of expectations spanning society. A price for such goods as bread, an automobile, or a book, results from both the innumerable balances between supply and demand along the line from raw resources to final product, and the extensive net of balances among various products and prices within which a particular price is determined. No group of experts can sufficiently reproduce this subjective totality to fix a price, even on one product, or a wage. To be clear, this is not a matter of computer capability, measurement, adequate models, and the like. It is a matter of the subjectivity of meaning and values, of perception and interest, of will, involved in the whole process.

This subjectivity of society's multiple balances is one critical consideration. Another is the settled nature of the diverse functional inter-dependencies among those varied balances. A society is like the original plumbing in an old house.3 It is a sensitive balance of interrelated parts, each of which gets a certain job done. With age, each part in the system has adjusted to the changes in its neighbors and the gradual shift in weight and sentiment, volume of use, and the settling of the house. Try to fix a part of the plumbing system, change an elbow here or a pipe there, and the stress on the system or adjacent parts caused by the strain of the repair can cause leaks or breakdowns elsewhere. One soon learns to tolerate minor inconveniences, or do the least necessary to repair a part, than risk upsetting the plumbing system. This repair is a balance between the old system and our need and desire to fix it. And this balance is achieved by incremental trial and error.

And so it should be with societies. This is the philosophy of incrementalism. If changes in society must be instituted within a functioning status quo, then they should be done in small increments. This is necessary, first, because we do not know how any change will affect all the various, subjective balances composing society. Second, an incremental approach will help evaluate the effects of each change. This is a test through practice. Third, incremental changes do not commit us to alterations so great that we cannot draw back from them if unexpected, undesirable consequences occur. If radical changes are made, however, then the previous balances must be destroyed first, which means that if the changes are disastrous, all that can be done is to replace them with other new and untested changes.

But, of course, when the status quo itself is destroyed through invasion, war, natural disaster, or revolution, a new status quo based on a new balance of powers must be determined. When the plumbing system breaks down, then whole sections must be replaced. But this raises other questions. What should be done when a gap is forming between the social status quo and underlying balance of powers? When tension is rising and hostility between groups is manifest? When violence, revolution, or war might break out? When, normatively, the time for incremental reforms is past and even trying them could be considered a partisan attempt to preserve an unjust status quo?

The problem, then, is no longer that of incremental change toward a just peace. It is now making, keeping, and fostering a peace suitable to incrementalism and the creation of a just peace. It is now a matter of the three general principles of conflict resolution to be given in the following Chapter 10.


* Scanned from Chapter 9 in R.J. Rummel, The Just Peace, 1981. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. It may appear that a just peace logically cannot be defined for some types of societies. For example, while at the global level people may be free to form their own communities, some of these communities may be totalitarian or authoritarian, thus foreclosing on a free choice of subcommunities for their members. A just peace at one level therefore may foreclose on a just peace--social justice--at lower levels. This is not the case, however. A just peace means people can voluntarily contract to form a particular community. If it is rigidly authoritarian, for example (like a monastery), this is by the choice of all members. They have a consensus on their first-order social justice. To them, their community manifests a just peace. If someone subsequently does not accept this, that person has a right to leave.

2. This is not a new or unique philosophy, but one that is common to the liberal tradition. Although I do not agree with their rational constructivism (a fundamental orientation of those supporting government interventionism and socialism--see Hayek, 1973-1979: 1, Chapter 1), Dahl and Lindbloom indicate this centrality of incrementalism.

Because means must be regarded simultaneously as crucial and yet constantly open to change, incrementalism is indispensable to rational calculation and control. And, significantly, just as a commitment to the central core of values logically produces a commitment to incrementalism, a commitment both to the central core and to incrementalism has, in the long pull, created basic agreement on means among the warring factions that grew out of the Renaissance tradition. Thus socialists who firmly held to the central core--Attlee and Blum, for example--finally became incrementalists despite a formal loyalty to a grand alternative. Incremental changes in turn converted the means of classic liberalism into those of neoliberalism, and the means of neoliberalism have converged with those of the socialists. Hence the central core has outlasted the particular techniques that were the fad of a generation or even a century.

3. Somewhere in his writings George Kennan used the same simile for foreign policy.

For citations see the Vol. 5: The Just Peace REFERENCES

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