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Pacificism is the general ethical opposition to war or violence, except in cases where force is deemed absolutely necessary to advance the cause of peace.

It falls between pacifism, which usually states that violence, war or killing is unconditionally wrong in all cases, and defensivism, which accepts all defensive wars and acts of deterrence as morally just.[1] Pacificism states that war can only ever be considered as a firm "last resort", condemning both aggression and militarism.

The theory was first put forward by A. J. P. Taylor in The Trouble-Makers[2] and was subsequently defined by Martin Ceadel in his 1987 book, Thinking About Peace and War.[3][4] It was also discussed in detail in Richard Norman's book: Ethics, Killing and War.

The largest national peace association in history, the British League of Nations Union, was pacificist rather than pacifist in orientation.[5] Historically, the majority of peace activists have been pacificists rather than strict pacifists.[6]


  1. Western Herald - Pacifism cannot hold up under scrutiny
  2. ‘By ‘pacificism’ I mean the advocacy of a peaceful policy; by ‘pacifism’ (a word invented only in the twentieth century) the doctrine of non-resistance. The latter is the negation of policy, not an alternative, and therefore irrelevant to my theme. Hence my disregard for the Peace Societies.’ AJP Taylor, The Trouble-Makers, London: H Hamilton, 1957, p. 51
  3. Pacifism - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  4. Pledge Peace Union - Debating Peace and War
  5. Donald Birn, The League of Nations Union, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981
  6. Martin Ceadel, Semi Detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 7