The Role of Vision in History


David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Mar 2024 – I begin from the theory of historical change as conceived by Karl Marx, that economic contradictions lead to revolutionary change and that the nature of this change depends upon “ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.” Marx considered that “this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life,” but we may also consider how this consciousness may also be influenced by a collective vision for a new social order.

As I have considered in previous blogs, we are entering an era of economic and political contradictions that will lead to revolutionary change. Capitalism, clothed in its cover of bourgeois democracy, is crumbling. This is already evident in political terms with the rejection of traditional establishment political candidates. But this will have serious consequences as well on a global economy that is precariously devoted to speculation and to the production and sale of armaments while neglecting the real needs of people.

Central to this process is the crash of the American Empire and its currency, the dollar.

As considered in many previous blogs, the crash of the American Empire will open a window of opportunity to change the system of global governance.

Can we hope that there will be a sufficient consciousness on the part of the masses of the people, influenced by a new vision of the future, to seize this opportunity and move from the dominant culture of war to a culture of peace?

As described in this month’s bulletin of CPNN, there are some initiatives of culture of peace as a vision for the future that can make a contribution, although they are not yet shared by many people.

Another consciousness-raising initiative proposed in this blog has yet to be realized: an alternative security council composed of mayors who would issue regular press releases about what they would do if they ran the council.

When the window of opportunity arrives, can we hope that the remarkable spread of new forms of communication, including the internet and the widespread use of cell phones, can make it possible to disseminate rapidly and universally a collective vision for a new social order based on a culture of peace? And that such a vision could give shape to the future?

Will this moment arrive soon?

In my book Psychology for Peace Activists, looking at the consciousness development of Nelson Mandela, I wrote “At the present moment of history it is possible that an additional step is being added to those of consciousness development: a step of vision. Mandela exemplifies a new generation of peace activists whose actions provide a vision for a peaceful world. Not content to struggle against the vicious, anti-human system of apartheid, Mandela and his fellow activists in the ANC had the courage and foresight to develop the Freedom Charter which provides not only a vision for South Africa, but by extension for the rest of the world as well.”

And in the conclusion to the monograph UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, I wrote,

“When in the course of history there is an accumulation of changes which make possible a revolutionary transformation in social relations, the mobilization and participation of people on a vast scale, a global movement, becomes possible through the development and sharing of a common vision of a new world. The time is ripe for such a movement and vision for a culture of peace.

“The transformation of society from a culture of war to a culture of peace is perhaps more radical and far reaching than any previous change in human history. Every aspect of social relations – having been shaped for millennia by the dominant culture of war, is open to change – from the relations among nations to those between women and men. Everyone, from the centres of power to the most remote villages, may be engaged and transformed in the process.”


Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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