Azar Gat: Peace for Our Time?
Time: Thursday, 20 September 2011
Place: PRIO, Hausmanns gate 7, Oslo
The third PRIO Annual Peace Address was given by historian Azar Gat, who spoke over the long trending decline of war, violence and fatalities in the world. Gat is Ezer Weizmann Professor for national Security in the Dept of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, and his book War in Human Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2006) on the same topic as the Address, was named one of the best books of the year by The Times Literary Supplement.
In brief, Gat argues that there are two major steps in the decline of violence:
The first was the emergence of the state-leviathan thousands of years ago, which greatly reduced in-group violent mortality but also, less recognized, out-group war fatalities. The second is the process of modernization since 1815, which sharply reduced the occurrence and fatalities of war through a combination of rocketing economic growth and commercial interdependence, a parallel explosion in affluence and comfort, the liberal-democratic peace, nuclear deterrence and the sexual revolution. Contrary to widespread belief, it is not that war has become more lethal and destructive; rather it is primarily peace that has become more profitable. At the same time, the specter of war continues to haunt the parts of the world less affected by the above developments, and the threat of unconventional terror is real and troubling.
The event was chaired by Henrik Syse (PRIO) and Gro Holm (NRK) and Håvard Hegre (PRIO/UiO) acted as commentators.