Introduction: Beyond War and Peace by Adam Kahane
Our two most common ways of trying to address our toughest social challenges are the extreme ones: aggressive war and submissive peace. Neither of these ways works. We can try, using our guns or money or votes, to push through what we want, regardless of what others want—but inevitably the others push back. Or we can try not to push anything on anyone—but that leaves our situation just as it is. These extreme ways are extremely common, on all scales. One
on one, we can be pushy or confl ict averse. At work, we can be bossy or “go along to get along.” In our communities, we can set things up so that they are the way we want them to be, or we can abdicate. In national aff airs, we can make deals to get our way, or we can let others have their way. In international relations—whether the challenge is climate change or trade rules or peace in the Middle East—we can try to impose our solutions on everyone else, or we can negotiate endlessly.
These extreme, common ways of trying to address our toughest social challenges usually fail, leaving us stuck and in pain. Th ere are many exceptions to these generalizations about the prevalence of these extreme ways, but the fact that these are exceptions proves the general rule. We need—and many people are working on developing—different, uncommon ways of addressing social challenges: ways beyond these degenerative forms of war and peace.
A character in Rent, Jonathan Larson’s Broadway musical about struggling artists and musicians in New York City, says,
“Th e opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation!” To address our toughest social challenges, we need a way that is neither war nor peace, but collective creation. How can we co-create new social realities? Two fundamental drives To co-create new social realities, we have to work with two distinct fundamental forces that are in tension: power and love. Th is
assertion requires an explanation because the words “power” and “love” are defi ned by so many diff erent people in so many different ways. In this book I use two unusual defi nitions of power and love suggested by theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich. His definitions are ontological: they deal with what and why power and love are, rather than what they enable or produce. I use these definitions because they ring true with my experience of what in practice is required to address tough challenges at all levels: individual, group, community, society.
Tillich defines power as “the drive of everything living to realize itself, with increasing intensity and extensity.” So power in
this sense is the drive to achieve one’s purpose, to get one’s job done, to grow. He defi nes love as “the drive towards the unity of the separated.” So love in this sense is the drive to reconnect and make whole that which has become or appears fragmented. Th ese two ways of looking at power and love, rather than the more common ideas of oppressive power and romantic love (represented on the cover by the grenade and the rose), are at the core of this book.
To read on, read Adam's exercept from Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change. Reprinted with permission from the author.