Pacifism as Pathology

Authored by: José-Antonio Orosco

The Routledge Handbook of Pacifism and Nonviolence

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138194663
eBook ISBN: 9781315638751
Adobe ISBN:


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Opponents of pacifism usually employ two arguments against it. In terms of pacifism as an ethical position, critics typically attempt to reveal an inconsistency in taking a principled stance against the use of violence. For instance, they may try to demonstrate that some pacifists reject war, but would still revert to violence for personal self-defense, or to protect a loved one. Pacifists usually respond by pointing out that the inconsistency occurs when one assumes that there is only one form of pacifism, namely absolute pacifism. Yet there are a variety of pacifist views; some forms focus on the actions of institutions, some focus on the behavior of individuals, and within the latter there are some that allow for the use of violence for the protection of others or for self-defense by an individual (Ryan 2009). The second critique holds that pacifism, as a commitment to the use of nonviolent means for social conflict resolution, is ineffective in being able to deal with a particularly vicious, sadistic, or powerful foe. Here, pacifists respond by highlighting the growing body of empirical evidence that shows how nonviolent campaigns tend to be, on a whole, much more successful than armed struggle in achieving political transformation against dictatorial regimes in the twentieth century (Chenoweth and Stepan 2012).

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