Book review — Peace in the Age of Chaos (Steve Killelea)

Book review — Peace in the Age of Chaos (Steve Killelea)
by Constance VICTOR
23 January 2021

Peace in the Age of Chaos is a fascinating book that guides the reader to question the current analysis of peace as an absence of violent conflict, as well as evaluate the inner workings of a peaceful society.  The goal of the book, published in October 2020,  is to understand the positive qualities that sustain and create peaceful societies.

Author Steve Killelea offers in his newly published and anticipated book an overview of strategies that can allow for a new and original approach to alleviating and solving many of the intractable problems that humanity is facing. 

A crucial observation that the author stresses frequently in his work is that when we study peace, generally we are studying how to stop a conflict. This is what Steve Killelea calls “negative peace”, a term which he isn’t particularly fond of, given its lack of focus on long-lasting sustainability. 

Instead, Killelea would advise us to study “positive peace”, in order to reach the best solutions for the establishment of a peaceful society. This term encapsulates the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. By focusing on such actors, one can then build social resilience against the onset of violence and as a result preliminarily avoid the rising of violence. 

Steve Killelea is the founder of the global think tank, Institute for Economics and Peace, established in Sydney, Australia. The institute has been recognised as one of the 50 most impactful philanthropic gifts in Australia’s history. Killelea has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Killelea supports his arguments on the way of handling peace through his personal experiences with peace, which he notably shares in the second chapter of the book. 

In 2001, Steve Killelea and his wife set up The Charitable Foundation, whose goal was to work with the poorest of the poor. The author first had a glimpse and witnessed the ravages of poverty when leaving for a surf trip in Bali, Indonesia. It was his first time leaving Australia, and he came back with an ambition to work in development aid. 

The most impactful event in the author’s journey was during his trip in Gulu, Northern Uganda, which was at the time devastated by the horrible activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army. He met a young woman who had lived eight years of brutal captivity, which left her gravely ill and unfortunately led to her death a few months after Killelea and the girl met. 

As the author increasingly listened to the many stories of survivors of violence, he realised that the West is ineffectively mystifying violence as a heroic and glorious act. However, it must also encapsulate the tragedy and sadness that results from the devastating impacts of wars.

Additionally, Killelea argues that much of the last peace of our current decade has been due to the West’s inability to solve (versus stop) some of the wars it has started, as well as politicians’ inability to understand peace. This is a problem that he tries to solve through his understanding of positive peace.

In response to the state of things, positive peace can be used as an antidote. 

In summary, the message that resonates the most throughout the book is that problems can’t be solved without cooperation. 

This book is highly recommended to anyone, whether it be policy makers, academics, or simply positively motivated and globally conscious individuals who are willing to explore in-depth a new narrative of peace that challenges its narrowly visioned predecessor.

For more information on Steve Killelea’s book and work, you can explore the website:

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