Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Johan Galtung and the Study of Peace

Johan Galtung was born on October 24, 1930 in Oslo, Norway.  He is a Norwegian mathematician and sociologist and a principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies.  He earned his degree in Mathematics at the University of Oslo in 1956, and a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology a year later at the same university. In addition, Galtung received the first of seven honorary doctorates in 1975.
Both of his parents are from Norway and his father and paternal grandfather were physicians.  His mother's maiden name was Helga Homboe.  Galtung has been married twice, and has two children by his first wife Ingrid Eide, and two by his second wife Fumiko Nishimura.

Galtung lived through the German occupation of Norway during World War II as a young and impressionable boy.  When he was only twelve years old, he was present when the Nazi's arrested his father.  His direct experience with the horrors associated with war, convinced him to devote his professional energies to the cause of peace.  As a matter of fact, in 1951 he chose to do 18 months of social service instead of the mandatory military service.  After twelve months of such service, he insisted that the remainder of his obligation be spent working directly for peace. He was sent to prison, and spent the remaining six months in confinement.
Upon receiving his Master of Arts degree, Galtung moved to Columbia University, in New York City, where he was an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology.  Determined to work for peace, he returned to Oslo in 1959 where he founded the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Under his guidance as the Institute's Director, it grew into an independent research institute and became eligible for government funding.  In addition, the Journal of Peace Research was established as a result of his efforts.
Once the institute was well under way, he accepted a position as professor of peace and conflict research at the University of Oslo.  He then served as the director general of the International University Centre in Dubrovnik, and also was the president of the World Future Studies Federation.  He subsequently was invited to other universities located in such diverse places as Santiago, Chile, the United Nations University in Geneva, Columbia and Princeton  universities in the United States and the University of Hawaii.  In 1993, he co-founded "Transcend - A Peace, Development and Environment Network," an organization dedicated to resolve conflicts through peaceful means.  This organization was created for the purpose of directly applying the principles he developed; some of which will be described below.
Galtung has persisted over the years in his pursuit of understanding the nature of human conflict and ways to peace.  He learned to apply his academic knowledge in the fields of mathematics and sociology to this pursuit.  He has become a renowned theoretician in regards to conflict resolution through peaceful means.  He has attempted to deconstruct the origins of human conflict and conflict resolution in order to devise painstaking and orderly techniques to meet the challenges that methodologies focused on peace invariably face.
Galtung has applied logical analysis to formulate pathways to achieve peaceful non-violent solutions to conflict.  He has developed a series of paradigms to describe the process.  He compares the path to peace to the path taken in medicine to understand the disease process and regain health.  He refers to this as a process involving three stages – diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.  He likens disease to violence, and proposes that creating peace involves two possible approaches – reducing violence regarded as a cure and avoiding violence regarded as prevention.  Within this model, violence can be regarded as:
·         Direct Violence
·         Structural Violence – indirect, emanating from social structures such racism or sexism
·         Cultural Violence – represented by repression and exploitation.
The motivating force behind such violence is, of course, power.  Power can take many forms – cultural, economic, military and political.  Peace policies can, likewise, take different routes.  These dimensions echo the kinds of power enumerated – political, military, economic and cultural.  Galtung also makes distinctions between what he refers to as Negative Peace versus Positive Peace.  For example, negative peace in the economic realm would involve self-reliance, the use of local resources, etc.; whereas, positive peace would involve sharing externalities, horizontal exchange and South-South cooperation.  Positive peace would be more inclusive and extend beyond the borders of local communities or state and would be global in dimension.
According to this approach, in order to successfully develop paths to peace it is important to understand what sustains war and what prompts people to kill.  It is evident from recent human history that the political system of a country does not prevent it from using violence towards other sovereignties.  For example, democratic countries have not inhibited their governments from being involved in slavery, colonialism and other belligerent activities.  According to Galtung, an answer might be to, "democratize the inter-state system."  This would also apply to the arena of human rights.
Galtung is convinced that many of the factors that uphold war encompass patriarchy – rule by the male gender.  In his view, males have a propensity towards violence to a much greater degree than females.  To counter this tendency is exceedingly difficult since it has strong cultural dimensions as well as biological factors.  He suggests that, "The struggle against the tendency of states to seek recourse to military power goes by way of alternatives that are more compelling."
As to the issue of why people kill, he maintains that culture is a potent legitimizer of violence, but also has the potential to support the concept of peace rather than war.  Religions or ideologies can either be the purveyors of violence or peace.  Galtung delineates what he refers to as, "hard and soft" aspects of ideologies.  The hard variety would tend to be more abstract and aloof from human experience; it would tend to invoke the concept of a chosen people.  According to Galtung, this idea is particularly dangerous and essentially inimical to peace.  The softer variety is more cognizant of the plight of humanity and more closely connected to the tangible nature of human existence and, therefore, more empathic.  The major religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – are not monolithic in this regard, but have mixtures of both.  Galtung is strongly convinced that we are all carriers of peace strategies. 
In his pursuit of the study of peace, Galtung has come up with two overlapping definitions of peace:
·         Peace is the absence and/or reduction of violence of all kinds
·         Peace is the by its nature nonviolent and the result of "creative conflict transformation."

The first definition is oriented towards violence; whereas, the second is directed towards conflict.  From this starting point, peace work is involved in reducing violence through peaceful means, and peace studies delineate the conditions required for peace work.  In addition, these definitions relate to social conditions; the study of peace is, therefore, a social science.  It is apparent that Galtung used his professional grounding in mathematics and sociology to construct his approach towards the study of peace.
According to his paradigm, the study of peace involves three tiers – Data, Theories, Values.  Data is collected from what is known and what can be measured.  It is this data that are used to formulate theory.  Values determine what is desired and what is rejected.  The inclusion of values sets peace studies apart from other social sciences, for peace always is the desired outcome.
In regards to the diagnosis, prognosis and therapy approach to wellness as described earlier, the goal of intervention is to achieve a range of possible outcomes that can be exemplified by the following:
·         Best outcome – cured but also left with a health benefit and therefore can lead to a very favorable prognosis
·         Second Best  - symptom free but not necessarily protected from recurrence
·         Third Best – chronic, long-lasting but acceptable illness
·         Fourth Best – Unacceptable illness but alive.
There are obvious limitations in applying this approach to implementing peace, but according to Galtung it can be used as a reliable model in the study of peace in the following way:
·         Diagnosis – refers to states of violence
·         Prognosis – refers to the progression of violence through time i.e. increase, decrease or stays the same
·         Therapy – equivalent to peace work.
Within this model, violence can be categorized in the following ways:
·         Nature violence- originating in nature
·         Direct violence – perpetrated by human beings either individually or within the broader context of society
·         Structural violence – indirect violence built into social structures and essentially unintended
·         Cultural violence – legitimizes structural violence
·         Time violence – violence having negative impact of future generations.

In addition, therapy can take two distinct forms – violence reduction or negative peace and life enhancement or positive peace.  Although this kind of study of peace may seem cumbersome and appear to be merely an academic exercise, it affords a reliable and predictable approach to the overall understanding of human conflict and its resolution through peaceful means.

Galtung used his approach to analyze the methodologies of Mahatma Gandhi who he described as, "the leading theoretician and practitioner of nonviolence.  He also described him as a puritan in his approaches to conflict resolution.  According to Gandhi, nonviolence is a struggle against both direct and structural violence and, by its nature, avoids such violence in the struggle itself.  Gandhi relied on satyagraha – a term that can be defined as truth force – and, accordingly, there is no way to peace; rather, peace is the way.
Furthermore, Galtung determined that Gandhi's process involves disintegration so that non-cooperation becomes essential; integration or all-inclusiveness so that there are no boundaries such as gender, race, class etc.; compromise for the purpose of affecting a remedy over a shorter period of time; transcendence so that what previously seemed incompatible becomes viewed as compatible.  Gandhi was also an optimist who saw the potential of the ultimate integration of all of humankind into the fabric of peace.

In Galtung's mind, the search for peace is a road to transcendence where the usual path of social disintegration – Conflict, Polarization and ultimately Violence and War – can be upended by preventive therapy.  The goal would be to transform violent culture to peace culture and violent structure to peace structure.  The peace narrative involves the transformation to peace through depolarization of attitudes, culture and ultimately behavior.  Johan Galtung has taken a theoretical approach to achieving peace and social justice and has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the roots of conflict and pathways to viable peace and social justice. 

No comments: