Peaceful Societies

Alternatives  to Violence and War



News and Reviews
Peaceful Societies

December 18, 2014. Pioneering Rural Thai School
One of Thailand’s daily newspapers, The Nation, published a story last week about the Mechai Bamboo School, an innovative institution which is mostly run by the students. (Full story)

November 18, 2014. Life in the Desert, or Life in a Resettlement Camp
Kesebonye Roy spoke about San life in Molapo, a Kalahari Desert village: "If someone gets sick, we go to the grave site of that person's ancestor to ask for help.” (Full story)

December 11, 2014. A Malaysian Newspaper Revisits a Batek Village
Last week, Utusan Online, a Malaysian news service, made a return trip to a Batek community that the paper had visited a year ago while reporting on logging in the nearby forest. (Full story)

December 11, 2014. A Malaysian Newspaper Revisits a Semai Village
Five months ago, a Malaysian newspaper, The Star, accompanied a celebrity to the Semai village of Kampung Ulu Tual and last week it published a story about a follow-up visit. (Full story)

December 4, 2014. Pashmina Wool in Ladakh
Although Babar Afzal comes from the city of Jammu, he is devoting a lot of energy to saving and revitalizing pashmina goat wool production in Ladakh. (Full story)

December 4, 2014. Pond Inlet: The Old Days Are Gone
Pond Inlet has a spectacular setting. (Full story)

November 27, 2014. An Overnight Visit to the Dzongu
According to Kachyo, police officers stationed at the entrance to the Dzongu Reserve in Sikkim have hardly any work to do—there is very little crime among the Lepcha people. (Full story)

November 27, 2014. Campfire Stories of the Ju/’hoansi [journal article review]
Halloween is almost a month past but memories of ghost stories told around the open fire—along with the s’mores—will live in children’s memories for a lifetime. (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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