The term ‘peace’ has various interpretations. For instance, some individuals choose to define peace as the absence of any serious conflict. Usually the term ‘peace’ refers to achieving conflict resolution without resorting to any mean of violence.
Another interpretation of the term is considered to be the coexistence of different cultures and diverse societies on the basis of communication, understanding and tolerance. It is believed that individual rights are granted in the absence of intolerance which leads to a state based on trust, harmony and cooperation which is the closest a human society comes close to the idea of a utopia.
On the other hand, the term ‘security’ is often associated with eradication of threats to cherished values, especially those threats that affect the survival of a certain referent object or an ideal. There are arguably two significant understandings of ‘security’. The first understanding views ‘security’ as a commodity; this perspective sees security being synonymous with ‘accumulation of power’ as it believes the more power (property, weapons, money etc.) the actor has, the more secure they will be.
Whereas the second understanding views ‘security’ as it being based on emancipation; it focuses on justice and the provision of human rights. Rather than a commodity, ‘security’ is understood as a relationship between different actors as these relations allow a degree of confidence, shared commitments, reassurance and predictability, and therefore determine how secure an actor is.
The Marxist approach
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” “… oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another… a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” Communist Manifesto, 1948
Among the main conflict-related concepts which have emerged, particularly in the West, the Marxist understanding of peace and security occupies the forefront place. The well-known founder of this school of thought, Karl Marx emphasises on dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism refers to the theory that political and historical events result from the conflict of social forces and are interpretable as a series of contradictions and their solutions. The conflict is seen as caused by material needs. Marx identifies two classes of people, namely slave-master or exploited-exploiter that have always existed in the society. The state is held responsible for inequality between the two which consequently result in internal tension amounting to conflicts, sometimes of fierce nature. The oppressed (proletariat) go forward to fight against the oppressor (bourgeoise) to attain freedom. Through a radical change, the revolution by the proletarians becomes the normal situation and the society reverts to a conflict-free state. Thus, according to Marxism, a bloody revolution is inevitable and essential in this regard.
The Marxist understanding of conflict, and therefore peace and security, is essential in the academic world as it adds a new dimension to the socio-political thoughts of the entire world, the West in particular. There are three important features of this understanding: the first relates to and can be observed in the economic perspective of human history; the second pertains to the role of economic aspects of class struggles and the domination of a particular class which occupies and controls the economic structure of society on a socio-political system; and the third highlights, as well as accepts, inequality as the cause of class struggle and therefore, the absence of peace.
“Class struggle is a terrible and the greatest social problem, and in the whole history of the world, not a single problem of class struggle has ever been solved without violence” Karl Marx, 1948
The Marxist approach desires class equality with the purpose of avoiding class struggles or conflicts on state and international level. The Marxist view seems to guarantee security of each and every one.
But it is important to note this approach emphasises that state-level action is required to achieve internal and external peace and security; equal distribution at the state level and equal arrangement of market for states at the global level. However, for that to be achieved, first the state needs to be established in such a way where they are able to take such initiatives and control for inequality. The Marxist theory argues that this state is established by the violent action or the bloody revolution lead by the proletariats.
Therefore, it seems that Marxism seems to lack familiarity with the reality of non-violence, which is the permanent attribute of humankind, and effective and long-time changes are possible through non-violent methods which are preferable to violent means.