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Pacificism is the general term for ethical opposition to violence or war unless force is deemed necessary. Together with pacifism, it is born from the Western tradition or attitude that calls for peace.[citation needed] The former involves the unconditional refusal to support violence or absolute pacifism, but pacificism views the prevention of violence as its duty but recognizes the controlled use of force to achieve such objective.[1] According to Martin Caedel, pacifism and pacificism are driven by a certain political position or ideology such as liberalism, socialism or feminism.[2]

Ceadel has categorized pacificism among positions about war and peace, ordering it among the other categories:[3]


Pacificism ranges between total pacifism, which usually states that killing, violence or war is unconditionally wrong in all cases, and defensivism, which accepts all defensive acts as morally just.[4] Pacificism states that war may ever be considered only as a firm "last resort" and condemns both aggression and militarism. In the 1940s, the two terms were not conceptually distinguished, and pacificism was considered merely an archaic spelling.[5]

The term pacificism was first used in 1910 by William James.[6] The distinct theory was later developed by A. J. P. Taylor in The Trouble-Makers (1957)[7] and was subsequently defined by Ceadel in his 1987 book, Thinking About Peace and War.[8][9] It was also discussed in detail in Richard Norman's book, Ethics, Killing and War. The concept came to mean "the advocacy of a peaceful policy."[10]

The largest national peace association in history, the British League of Nations Union, was pacificist rather than pacifist in orientation.[11] Historically, the majority of peace activists have been pacificists rather than strict pacifists.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yamamoto, Mari (2004-11-04). Grassroots Pacifism in Post-War Japan: The Rebirth of a Nation. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781134308170.
  2. ^ Nishikawa, Yukiko (2018). Political Sociology of Japanese Pacifism. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781351672955.
  3. ^ Alexandra, Andrew (2011-11-16). "On the Distinction between Pacifism and Pacificism". Retrieved 2022-10-25.
  4. ^ Western Herald – Pacifism cannot hold up under scrutiny Archived 2008-06-29 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Pacificist or Pacifism ?". The Spectator. 5 September 1940. p. 13.
  6. ^ Fiala, Andrew (2018-02-02). The Routledge Handbook of Pacifism and Nonviolence. Routledge. ISBN 9781317271970.
  7. ^ ‘By ‘pacificism’ I mean the advocacy of a peaceful policy; by ‘pacifism’ (a word invented only in the twentieth century) the doctrine of non-resistance. The latter is the negation of policy, not an alternative, and therefore irrelevant to my theme. Hence my disregard for the Peace Societies.’ AJP Taylor, The Trouble-Makers, London: H Hamilton, 1957, p. 51
  8. ^ Pacifism – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  9. ^ Pledge Peace Union – Debating Peace and War
  10. ^ Trovato, Sara (2016). Mainstreaming Pacifism: Conflict, Success, and Ethics. London: Lexington Books. p. 12. ISBN 9780739187180.
  11. ^ Donald Birn, The League of Nations Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981
  12. ^ Martin Ceadel, Semi Detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854–1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 7