Peaceful Societies

Alternatives  to Violence and War



News and Reviews
Peaceful Societies

May 21, 2015. The Lepchas Want Teachers
The Lepchas are confronting the authorities in India’s West Bengal state over their right to have their language taught in the local schools. (Full story)

May 21, 2015. The English Are Coming, the English Are Coming—Run! Hide!
The showdown began at 7:45 AM on Friday, November 19, 1965, when a school bus pulled out of Oelwein, a city in northeastern Iowa, headed for the Old Order Amish settlement a few miles away. (Full story)

May 14, 2015. Inuit Men Helping Each Other
Piita Irniq argues that the best way to overcome a tendency toward violence in young Inuit males is for other men to help them reconnect with their cultural history. (Full story)

May 14, 2015. Overcoming Memories of Violence [journal article review]
The Zapotec living in the mountains north of Oaxaca City had a violent history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a subject that a recent journal article carefully explores. (Full story)

May 7, 2015. Problem Drinking on Tristan da Cunha
Norwegian sociologist Peter Munch noticed during his fieldwork on Tristan da Cunha in 1937–38 that the Islanders consumed no alcohol. (Full story)

May 7, 2015. Progress among the Ladakhis
Every spring and summer, Queen Elizabeth I of England repeatedly ventured out on a “progress,” a series of visits to communities in her realm so she could interact with her subjects. (Full story)

April 30, 2015. Ju/hoan Man Appointed to Government Position
Royal /Ui/o/oo, the only Ju/hoan person to be elected to the Parliament of Namibia, has been appointed to a position as deputy minister in the office of the Vice President. (Full story)

April 30, 2015. Semai Women Making Progress
When she approached the microphone at an international conference in Kuala Lumpur, Fatimah Bah-sin wasn’t intimidated by the fact that she could not speak English. (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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