[Hal Pepinsky, 2010, firstname.lastname@example.org, pepinsky.blogspot.com, draft article for DeKeseredy, W., and Dragiewicz, M., Handbook of Critical Criminology (Routledge)]
Peacemaking is the study and practice of building security and trust in the face of violence. Known variously in criminological literature as a school, theory or perspective, peacemaking criminology takes its name from the title of an edited volume, Criminology as Peacemaking (H.E. Pepinsky and Quinney 1991). Fuller (1998) has published a criminology textbook entirely from “a peacemaking perspective.” Fuller and Wozniak (2006) have recently published an update “taking stock” of peacemaking criminology literature.
The thread that unites all of us who write as peacemaking criminologists is the quest to replace the inherent negativity of criminology—the study of what not to do and how to prevent crime and criminality—with studies of what TO do. Traditional criminology embraces the vision of a crime-free world. By elementary deduction, a perfectly crime-free world would be one in which humanity had become extinct. The challenge for would-be peacemaking criminologists like me is how to transform human relations we don’t like into relations we value. All the criminologists I know who write of making peace think and act on faith that we can do better than respond to violence with violence. As proponents of restorative justice (see separate article, this Handbook) put it, the objective of peacemaking is to repair harms done rather than trying to make wrongs right.
Peacemaking is essentially an attitude toward social control, to cool down violence rather than trying to identify and subdue perpetrators—to do something socially positive in the face of the social negativity we call violence. Attitudes don’t make theories or bodies of knowledge in their own right. From Richard Quinney on, my quest for peacemaking has taken me to different places from other criminologists who write in the name of peacemaking.
It has been said that peacemaking criminology is not a theory. How true. “Peacemaking” means many different things to criminologists who use the term. I have been led to construct my own theory of how to transform violence into trustworthy relations. In this article I describe how evolution of this theory has changed my entire approach to criminology. Beyond any particular theory, peacemaking is an alternative to doing criminology as usual.
Beyond Crime and Criminality
I entered criminology with a conviction that criminology was a worthwhile endeavor, because there was something inherently wrong about crime and criminality. I eventually became persuaded that by all measures, trends and rates of crime, criminality and delinquency told more about the behavior of people who compiled the data than about the day-to-day reality of those who offended or were victimized (see a broad survey of measures of crime and criminality in H.E. Pepinsky, 1980). Beyond political discretion that inevitably shapes law enforcement, definition of crime is inherently arbitrary. Is abortion a crime, or preventing a woman from having an abortion a crime? Are innocent civilians killed in war victims of terrorism or collateral damage in acts of legitimate self-defense? Is premeditated murder a legal duty when the state that kills a person has adjudged the victim to be an offender? Are workers who resist or take over control of a factory or plantation offenders against someone else’s property or victims of an owner’s exploitation and involuntary servitude? Is possession of a gram of crack cocaine as serious an offense as possession of 100 grams of powdered cocaine? You can’t take political arbitrariness out of basic distinctions between criminality and victimization.
In discussions especially with criminal justice students, I learned that our stories about crimes and criminals we fear are almost always stories of “psychopaths” we don’t know. Regardless, they are stories of people who just don’t care. If they want your body, they will take your life if necessary. Same goes for your money. They just don’t care. This, I infer, is our primal fear of crime and criminals. Violence amounts to some people’s viewing others as instruments of their will, to trying to exert power over others rather than sharing power. Using others as instruments of one’s power scares, hurts, damages equally (so I postulate) regardless of its legality.
Ironically, since 1992, my primary teachers about the depth and breadth of violence have been children, adult survivors of sexual assault--including survivors of ritual abuse (see, e.g., ritualabuse.us and ritualabusetorture.org)—and their advocates, including protective parents in child custody proceedings. Would-be peacemakers like me acknowledge that personal violence is a lot closer to home and more pervasive across lines of race, class, gender, and age than would-be warmakers (as on crime and terror) allow themselves even to imagine. At the extreme, organized serial killing including otherwise respected community members appears to claim more victims by far than the notorious serial killers we execute and imprison. Since 1992, I have also on some occasions qualified pro bono to testify as an expert witness on “peacemaking”--in advising courts in custody disputes how to enable children to grow up loving both parents safely (by asking therapists the children liked to become advisers to the court on how visitation and such might evolve). In this work I have come to believe that child molestation is as common in upper middle-class families where there is no prosecution as among those imprisoned for child sexual assault. As the cliché goes, even in the realm of the most intimately personal terrorism, the stranger is not your primary danger.
I grew up reading Sunday comics. I particularly loved the irreverence of Walt Kelly’s depiction of the possum Pogo and his associates in the Okefenokee Swamp that straddles Georgia and Florida. Pogo’s common refrain was, “I have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” From my perspective, criminalization and vilification of “those people” allows us to continue to deny and fail to defend against torture our children suffer at home. Right now, Catholic clergy worldwide are taking a pounding for child abuse. The evidence I see is that in my part of the world, heterosexual, established Protestant white men with no criminal records are as likely to abuse children as anyone else.
From time to time, men and women in my classes—personally or openly—have trusted me enough to disclose personal victimization, notably rape. Several times women have written or spoken of having had “a drink or two” and then having awoken with guys on top of them in bed. Time and again, they would report that police advised that there was nothing to prosecute because the woman had been drinking. Time and again, my students and visitors to my classes have suggested to me that we most forcefully blind ourselves to violence closest to home. Venting our personal anger, fear and pain in childhood at “pedophiles,” “murderers,” “terrorists” and the like is a way to avoid facing how distrust and insecurity escalate in our own closest social relations. Our caricatures of criminals we don’t know are as impersonal as talking about the weather, as depersonalized as law enforcement can be in rape cases.
When I took up peacemaking in the late 1980s, I gave up my research on how to measure crime and criminality. Beginning with my 1972 dissertation on how police in Minneapolis’s high-crime precinct decided whether to file offense reports, I had done a number of studies of the history of crime measurement including additional field studies of police crime recording in Indianapolis and Sheffield, England. When after the Sheffield study I proposed a moratorium on counting crime and criminality, I had considered two centuries of all manner of deciding crime and criminality rates and trends, and concluded that the rates and trends told me more about the behavior of those who gathered the data than about the events and people on whom they reported. I had become a criminologist because I felt that there was something fundamentally socially wrong and I (a recovering lawyer as it happened) was going to fix it. Now I saw that there was no politically or culturally neutral way to draw a line between good and bad behavior. As someone who turned from lawyering to victim-offender mediation, I would say that I have “reframed” my basic social problem. I now study the violence we fear in the criminal psychopath we do not know--a passion to command obedience that breeds distrust among all actors involved in their own relations. My paradigm has shifted from the study of crime and criminality to the study of violence and peacemaking.
I spent my last year of secondary school as the only foreigner in a centuries old building in Trondheim, Norway, in 1961-62. At this post-World War II period before Norwegians found oil in their portion of the North Sea, they lived simply if by today’s standards poorly. I came to hate boiled potatoes and nuggets of cod in bland white sauce, or “fish balls.” As I struggled in Trondheim to understand and make friends with classmates who were two and three years older than me (in part because Norwegians then began first grade when they turned seven), I with the help of my mother (P.N. Pepinsky, 1984), felt a marked departure from my Midwestern-American roots. Showing off wealth and rank was virtually considered a national threat after Norway’s World War II German occupation. Displays of wealth and power were, in Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung’s (1969) words, “structural violence.” Norway also had one of the lowest incarceration rates in the world and had not sent combat troops abroad since 1821. They celebrated Independence Day, May 17, with children’s parades rather than military displays. I returned to Norway in 1986 on a research Fulbright (U.S. government grant) to study “peaceful societies.” There, three events critically re-defined “violence” for me.
From Norwegians I learned the importance of being plainspoken. Being plainspoken is the essence of becoming trustworthy.
In Oslo at the criminology institute at the university in 1986, I took it upon myself to give a guest lecture in Norwegian, armed with a 20+-year-old memory of teenaged Norwegian vocabulary. I decided to talk about the contradiction I saw between “holding” someone responsible and “making” someone responsible. When we hold people responsible as by punishing them, we take over responsibility for the consequences of their actions. We show each other we are responsible only by showing each other respect and attention when we let each other make our own honest decisions. As I prepared my talk in Norwegian I wanted to discuss differences between how white-collar criminals were held civilly liable, and poor criminals were deemed offenders.
It turns out that Norwegians use just one word for “responsibility,” “liability” and “accountability” (as in political accountability): ansvar, the Germanic equivalent of “answer,” which literally is a compound word for “responds toward.” I initially called “peacemaking” “responsiveness” in the article manuscript (H.E. Pepinsky 1988) that led Richard Quinney to invite me to do the peacemaking book with him (Pepinsky and Quinney 1991). I drew the conclusion that the only general difference between the labeling of harm done, including killing, was in the class of people labeled. Poor folks were irresponsible; rich people in the private sector were likely instead to be labeled held civilly liable; officials to be held accountable. English distinctions between responsibility, liability and accountability reveal that when it comes to labeling social harm, who’s who matters more than what’s what. As a result, in Reiman and Leighton’s (1991) words in a popular criminological text, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison. Poor young people of color get arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated most of all. White-collar offenders who kill (as in industrial accidents and unnecessary surgery) or steal, pay fines in consent decrees with authorities in which they deny even liability. Far from being accountable for coziness with those they regulate, corrupt officials get taken in by private enterprise before they can be held to account; at worst except in rare cases, official offenders are forced to resign or fired.
Violence as straightening life’s flow
I returned to Norway in 1986 especially to spend time with and learn from a criminological hero of mine and kindred spirit, Nils Christie. Nils had for years been closely involved with a village south of Oslo called Vidaråsen. Vidaråsen is a Steiner village, named for the “clairvoyant,” Rudolf Steiner, who in practice and in many volumes described a way of living in harmony with nature which he called “anthroposophy.” In Steiner villages state-supported social workers lived by anthroposophical principles together with those on state disability as developmentally disabled.
Nils took me to spend a couple of days with villagers. As luck would have it, we were there for a lecture by a German anthroposophical hydrologist describing how he had designed Vidaråsen’s liquid waste treatment system, built into a small hillside in the heart of town. Beside the path at the top of a hill raw sewage water flowed steadily out of a pipe. The water landed in a bowl in the first of six or eight pieces of molded concrete embedded in the hillside below. Each piece of concrete looked like a cross-section of a human kidney with two bowls side by side. Water sloshed from the first to the second, slightly downwardly sloped, bowl in each piece of concrete. From one piece to the next, a second bowl of the flow emptied into the first bowl of the next, sloped downward in the other direction. As I stood there, I was struck by the swish, swish of the sound of the water as it flowed on down into a pool. From there the water flowed over a grass spillway into another pool big enough to provide Vidaråsen’s entire water supply, which in turn spilled over a dam into a pre-existing creek bed below. The water supply met Norway’s stringent water quality standards (by which even mountain streams are deemed too contaminated by animal waste to drink safely).
The hydrologist showed slides of the Rhine, from before and after that river had been dredged and straightened, from when plants and animals flourished, to when, essentially, animal and plant life in the river died. His point was that water cleanses and supports life when its flow is permitted to meander. As a corollary, it is now recognized that straightening and dredging of the Missouri-Mississippi River basin to enhance the flow of human commerce has produced catastrophic disasters from the 1927 Mississippi Delta flood on.
I infer that straightening all our relations destroys them. As we destroy ecosystems by human engineering, so we destroy human relations by trying to straighten people out at all social levels, from damage caused by personal perfectionism to that caused by rigid strategic planning and management in its many forms.
When I hear of setting and meeting goals, of overcoming adversity, of becoming efficient and effective, of the pursuit of profit and growth, I hear justifications for blindness and deafness to ensuing pain, fear and anger, including that of holders of power who fear losing their grip and falling from grace. Engineering human relations by straightening them out threatens the security of all concerned.
Power over others is the problem
In 1983, I visited Norway on a visit for the first time since 1962. Nils Christie invited my family to dinner. He also invited Birgit Brock-Utne, a prominent, feminist peace educator. Thanks to Nils’s introduction, when I returned to Norway in 1986, Birgit became another Norwegian mentor, who taught me to embrace “radical feminism.” I returned to the United States assigning her groundbreaking book, Educating for Peace: A Feminist Perspective (1985, see also 1989), as required reading for my “alternative social control systems” students.
As Birgit defines it radical feminism is the belief that power over others is the primary problem of social relations. Historically, relations of power over others originate from the idea that social security rests on having a father figure who controls his family, where in the words of that popular U.S. television series of the fifties and early sixties, “Father Knows Best.” In a word, “patriarchy.” Women who aspire to recognition in a patriarchal world want to achieve classic recognition of their ability to be real men too, as by winning elections for being tough. As Birgit puts it, radical feminists don’t want a bigger share of the pie; they want to change the recipe of the pie. Or, “Women who aspire to be equal to men lack ambition.” She envisions a world of educating FOR peace rather than educating ABOUT peace, where the principal challenge to an educator like me has been how to learn with my students rather than demanding that they show that they have learned what I already presume to know. Birgit has made power over others my primary social problem too.
Determination to meet goals entrenches power over others, including determination to keep or put ourselves and others in their proper places. In this way of thinking, social control entails mobilizing power of some over others. In power games, inevitably, who’s who ends up mattering more than what’s what. Holding and taking positions takes its toll on personal and social interests.
Principles of Peacemaking
We transform violence in our relations when we allow the course of our lives with others to meander. Like a healthy river, we may head in a straight line to get somewhere in particular, and then lay down the debris we have stirred up along the way while we change direction. Writing about international peace negotiations, Roger Fisher et al. (1991) have called this process of Getting to Yes! one of “moving from positions to interests.”
In my own work in and around criminal justice, I have experienced moving from positions to interests as a difference between prosecution of offenders and mediation between victims and offenders.
In prosecution, the issue is whether the defendant has broken a law written by people who don’t know anything about this defendant. Defendants who plead guilty or are found guilty at trial become convicts. If they are convicted of a felony, they become felons. In the United States, felons are barred from federal grants for higher education. Drug felons are barred from federally subsidized housing. Felons in some states are barred from voting for life, although they are counted in the U.S. Census as residents of the jails and prisons they inhabit, considerably elevating the power of political districts where prisoners are housed. Felons may be barred from ever holding any number of licenses. All these bars are for life, except when a governor or president formally pardons a felon. Here is a classic case of getting ourselves stuck in positions as presumably law-abiding citizens versus offenders. If ever there were a case of being stuck doing things to people regardless of the consequences to them or anyone else, this is goal fixation, variously known as “doing justice” or “retribution,” at its fiercest. This may be violence legislated and enforced with the best of intentions. When it comes to violence, the road to hell is indeed paved with noble social intentions. The consequences of violence, like that done to convicts, their families and so forth, are no less destructive.
As I turned to peacemaking I became a recovering, retired lawyer. As such, in the late nineties, I went through a raft of training programs and became a volunteer victim-offender mediator. In the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program in Bloomington, Indiana, we generally co-mediated. That is, there were at least two of us every times victims and offenders faced each other, and we got to compare notes. In our program, before parties volunteered for the session, we took pains to interview them to let them know how the session would proceed, to get their stories, and to do our best to ensure that participation was voluntary.
At session time, I became known as a minimalist. I gave victims the option: Universally, I first turned to offenders to tell victims what they had done and why, and to say anything else they wanted (never asking for an apology, often having one given). I then told victims that they could say to or ask anything of offenders. I told others—parents in many cases—that they would have their turn, and that even if we had to come back, I would do so until everyone in the room had said everything that was left to be said. At some point, if the parties wished (not mandatory, but they always did wish), we would turn to their dictating to us mediators what they chose to agree to, which they would sign, and receive copies of. If they wished, we would send a copy to a referring probation office. Our office would cooperate in facilitating carrying the agreement out, as by collecting restitution payments. Mediation sessions typically lasted one to two hours. In one instance of 23 people including 3 young people who had knocked down a row of mailboxes on a Friday night, their parents, their victims and 3 co-mediators, meeting in a local church (where at the climax a 5-year-old girl told us all how she and her single mom had been scared about a possible return attack), we took two Saturday morning sessions to work things through. This helped drive the realization home to me that legally trivial offenses can have highly significant consequences, especially for victims and for families of offenders, which mediation can address where adjudication does not.
The mediations that were most gratifying to me, and I think to others concerned, were where none of us could have predicted the most important consequences. As a minimalist, I think I might once or twice have hinted at a basis for agreement, but it was when the parties themselves negotiated their own arrangements for some kind of settlement, or just got to say and hear what they wanted and seemed satisfied with the response, that I felt that people were getting to yes! I have come to see the principles of mediation, the principles of getting to yes, as a template for what relieves violence or stress, however manifested, in all our social relations.
Peacemaking takes time. It requires persistence and patience. It takes time to balance three elements first and foremost in one’s own social interaction: talking, listening, and reflecting. I came to telling my students that as a would-be peacemaker in the classroom, I considered it more important for me to tell them what they had taught me than to know how much they themselves had learned. As a would-be peacemaker, I considered it my responsibility to announce what I was doing next to deal with violence rather than figuring out who else should solve my social problems. As professor, I considered it a primary responsibility keep reflecting on how classes were going, deciding above all whether it was my turn to talk next or to listen.
Our social lives may be described as conversations. Violence—power over others—is a symptom of conversations out of balance. Some people, or worse yet, some transcendent right or wrong, get(s) to do more talking than listening. One tactic to making peace in moments of violence is to reach out to listen to and amplify voices more often talked about (such as prisoners or children who report having been sexually assaulted) than heard speaking for themselves. Peacemaking entails balancing between asserting and then seeking out voices that call one’s own goods, truths and beauties into question. This is essentially what transforming power over others into powersharing entails in everyday practice, from individual to global levels. At the individual level, we have people change course in recovery from self-destructive addictions. At the institutional level, on the witness stand in custody disputes where I qualified as an expert on “peacemaking,” I recommended to judges that they ask a counselor the children “liked” to recommend to the court what evolving conditions might be set on parental visitation, so that the children might have the best chance of growing up to love both parents safely. In effect, I was suggesting that judges rely on mediators whose ties to children themselves were closer than their allegiance to parents.
At the global level, the book on Getting to Yes! (Fisher et al. 1991) is in itself an account of how international conflicts have in practice become settled, as parties focus on interests rather on establishing the righteousness of their positions.
Taking time instead of doing it
Prisoners I know speak of doing their time, of suspending time. Meanwhile, in what they sometimes call “the free world,” the people around me have practically no free time.
Mediating human issues takes more time than processing them effectively and efficiently. But making responses to violence more efficient and effective only compounds human separation and distrust. Security rests instead on accommodation to unforeseen social circumstances—on balancing moments when we do the talking with moments we seek out and listen to previously unheard voices in our midst, and reflect on whether it is our turn to say more or hear more next, and on changing course as circumstances indicate. The security of letting go of attachment to outcome and of taking time for listening and reflection applies in all social circumstances, from raising children to taming militants and corporations. Peacemaking takes time. Time spent in peacemaking transforms violence.
For elaboration of this theory of violence and peacemaking and its implications, see H. Pepinsky (2006).
Brock-Utne, B. (1985). Educating for Peace: A Feminist Perspective. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon.
Brock-Utne, B. (1989). Feminist Perspectives on Peace and Peace Education. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon.
Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (1991). Getting to yes!: negotiating agreement without giving in (2nd edn.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Fuller, J.R., & Wozniak, J. (2006). Peacemaking criminology: past, present, and future. In F. W. Cullen, Taking Stock: The Status of Criminology Theory (pp. 251-273). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Fuller, J. (1998). Criminal Justice: A Peacemaking Perspective. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research , 6,167-191.
Pepinsky, H. (2006). Peacemaking: Reflections of a Radical Criminologist. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Final page proofs ending with a list of publications are freely available at http://critcrim.org/sites/default/files/Pepinsky_proofs_0.pdf.
Pepinsky, H.E., &. Quinney, R. (1991). Criminology as Peacemaking. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Pepinsky, H.E. (1988). Violence as Unresponsiveness. Justice Quarterl y, 5, 539-563.
Pepinsky, H.E. (1980). Crime Control Strategies. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pepinsky, P.N. (1994). Worlds of Common Sense: Equality, Identity, and Two Modes of Impulse Management. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press.
Reiman, J. &. Leighton, P.(2010). The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice (9th edn.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.