This study seeks to challenge the popular belief that conflict, aggression and violence depend on human nature, and to propose that they are mere alternatives that have become predominant in certain cultures, particularly Western, and is becoming global. It shows how this myth of origin has lead to justifying, legitimizing arguments about the naturalness and inevitability of competition, power struggles and war, and has become institutionalized in today’s social structures.

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2. Human Nature

This section poses the potential role of science in justifying, legitimizing and reinforcing cultural hegemonies. It critically reviews some historical ‘epistemological loans’ from physics, biology and genetics, which have served to strengthen the myth of violence and conflict as endemic to man and society, followed by the implications of their more recent developments as supportive of a culture of peace.

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3. Social Theory

We deconstruct certain traditional theories from the social and human sciences that have served to naturalize and essentialize an agonistic culture, and look at some alternative proposals. Finally, we explore the possibility of peace activism among scientists in diverse fields.

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4. Adversarial Cultures

This part postulates that violence and conflict are no more natural to human beings and their society than compassion and cooperation, and that their apparent ‘naturalness’ is because they are part of a cultural construct that is prevalent in today’s world. It proposes that this view of humanity came to be put forward as part of the myth developed to justify the European conquest and colonization of the rest of the world. It analyzes its modern–day reproduction as a hegemonic imaginary, who stands to gain and lose from it, how it is propagated, and whether or not one could speak of a conspiracy. Finally, it explores a number of mechanisms to exchange that culture of conflict and ‘adversarialism’ for a culture of peace and mutualism.

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5. Benchmarks of Peace

This part answers the question “Where is there any society that is based on mutualism and cooperation?” This is done from a perspective of simpler societies, modern nations, intentional communities, alternative institutions, social movements, parallel subcultures, iconoclastic heroes, and everyday anonymous heroism. It reviews in some detail certain samples of these different types of referents, emphasizing that they need not be perfect to serve as alternative models. It ends by asking whether or not conflict and competition would have any appropriate place in a culture of peace.

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6. Sociocultural Change

We look at different intervention options available to change agents wishing to work for a culture of peace. The world was not always adversarial and will not always be. Achieving the world we seek will require coordinated transformations at the psycho-cultural and socio-structural levels, so interventions are proposed that take into account these two dimensions. We end with a review of the role of utopia in building a new world.

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