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Pacifist sources among civil society activists

Civil Society
Social Movements
Knowledge
Political Sociology
Qualitative
Ethics
Narratives
Peace
Katarina Marej
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Katarina Marej
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Abstract

Sources of pacifism are often sought in religious or philosophical belief and value systems. However, there are two problems with this: On the one hand, these major systems are losing their significance and certainty - the modern individual is fundamentally insecure about the sources from which to draw moral maxims (Brücher 2008: 13). On the other hand, it is open which sources of knowledge promote corresponding action – and how individuals deal with the multiplicity of moral offers and pacifist variations. However, pacifism does not only encompass knowledge about and attitudes towards non-violence, but emphasises the action dimension (pax+facere / peace+making). When it comes to identifying sources of pacifism, those that move people to action are therefore of special interest. Action in civil society initiatives is particularly sustainable and impactful, because these serve not only as a critical corrective for politics, but also as networking and education points for the population (Coate 2004; Trumann 2013; Miethe/Roth 2016). People who are involved in civil society thus obviously have sources that not only give them orientation, but also motivate them to act. The article therefore examines from the perspective of the sociology of knowledge from which sources pacifist knowledge and action are fed among those engaged in relevant civil society initiatives? The results are relevant for both pacifist research and practice. The article explores from which sources which types of knowledge are drawn and how they are connected with each other. Here, the classification of types of knowledge according to Kaiser (2005: 169-174) is helpful, who distinguishes between declarative, situational, procedural and sensomotoric knowledge. This paper pursues the thesis that committed persons do not have a closed system, but rather a 'bricolage' (Levi-Strauss 1962) of pacifist sources that can be further systematised. Methodologically, a qualitative approach at the micro level with biographical problem-centred interviews (Witzel 2000; Hanses 2010) is chosen, since meaning and identity (e.g. as 'pacifist') are produced primarily through narratives, not through arguments (Fisher 1984). The interview partners for the case study in Germany were recruited through the Platform for Civil Conflict Transformation, where 100 individually and 60 collectively engaged people are interconnected. The qualitative narrative approach makes it possible to explore transitions and interactions between unconscious behaviour and conscious action (Schütz 1932) and to inductively reconstruct subjective knowledge systems. The research design is conceived as "co-construction research" (Horner 2016) in order to align research itself non-violently through the transdisciplinary approach (Marej 2021; 2022: 74-77). This is intended to promote 1) significance of pacifist research on the one hand, because 'responsible research' (Colombo 2015) and 'robust knowledge' (Weingart 2017) are required for topics of the 'grand challenges' and 2) reflexivity, as postcolonial perspectives and the revealing of epistemic violence increasingly challenge scholars to reflect on their own research practices (Brunner 2020; Foucault 1969; Spivak 1988). Therefore, the results are relevant for research on knowledge, social movements and political participation as well as for pacifist practice, e.g. with regard to recruitment and educational processes.