A Ten Point Primer
Galtung, Transcend, TFF Associate
June 4, 2005
This is an important conference.
The world's biggest country, based on one of the world's
oldest civilizations, soon also with the world's biggest
economy, is having a serious look at peace studies. A
small step for China, but a major one for us who have
been working in this field for soon fifty years. We are
most grateful to the hosts, Nanjing University and
particularly its Department of History, and Coventry
University and particularly its Centre for the Study of
Forgiveness and Reconciliation, for this important
international and interdisciplinary
I have been given the task of
reflecting on the field of peace studies, something I
will do with the warning that what you get from me is one
person's perspective. Others will have other
perspectives. We can enter this field from many angles,
and it is important that we do so.
Peace studies, like anything else,
is a process. It has to be born and reborn, again and
again, like our colleagues from Coventry have done by
entering the field via reconciliation. No doubt China
will put its particular imprints on it, and I cannot
How will the daoist, confucian,
buddhist and other traditions find their ways into the
field, and how will the daunting task of coming to grips
with peace conceptually, theoretically, practically
reshape them? How will the experience of China, between
the Tundra, the Gobi desert, the Himalayas and the China
sea, with almost no military excursions outside, but the
subject of several incursions, with the Nanjing massacre
by the Japanese Imperial Army as a major example, impact
on peace studies?
So, here follow five short
descriptions, and five elaborations:
1. Peace studies
explore handling of conflict by peaceful means.
Another word for peace is equality.
And other words for equality are equity, symmetry,
reciprocity, equal rights, equal dignity. You can see
them as part of the definition of peace, or of the
peaceful means. As such they are necessary rather than
sufficient conditions. Equality etc. does not guarantee
peace. But inequality etc, almost guarantee the opposite,
direct violence, in one form or other, physical or
verbal, directed against the body, mind or spirit of
human beings. And inequality etc. are also parts of
structural violence, meaning that absence of structural
violence is a necessary condition for the absence of
Most people agree that peace is
more than the mere absence of direct violence also found
in a battlefield after the fighting is over. The word
"justice" is often used for this "more", as in "peace
with justice". But "justice" is ambiguous and has to be
supported by adjectives like punitive, restorative and
transitory. I can see the pragmatism of giving "peace" to
the political left and "justice" to the right, hoping to
come out neutral, supported by both. But the intellectual
quality of such maneuvers is low.
"Another word for peace is
equality" gives to peace a progressive connotation and
explains why it is so often resisted on the right,
including resisting peace studies. In practice, however,
peace is not that radical but rather expresses common
sense, a world with less insult to the basic needs for
survival, well-being, freedom and identity--meaning with
life--and without the inequality, inequity etc. that
generate these insults.
Peace is similar to health, a rich
summum bonum which we can fill with new meanings.
Violence, like disease, is suffering. And peace, like
health, is liberation from suffering and fulfillment.
2. Peace studies
are empirical, critical and constructive.
As empirical studies peace studies,
like any other field of inquiry, collect data, construct
hypotheses, and then compare data and hypotheses to
conclude in terms of true, false, both-and, neither-nor.
The standards for this activity should be as rigorous as
in any other field of study. It is worth noting that
empirical studies by necessity are past-oriented as only
the past can produce data. Of course, we can make more or
less well founded predictions about the future, but they
remain hypotheses till the future becomes past with data
that can be used to check hypotheses.
As critical studies peace studies
do the same as critics of human behavior--moral
philosophers, priests, criminal judges--do, compare data
with values related one way or the other to peace, and
then conclude in terms of right, wrong, both-and,
neither-nor. For this the criteria have to be explicit
and the comparison carried out with the same rigor as in
any other field. Art critics are important "human
behavior critics", an important activity serving as a
guide to good art and literature for artists and users.
Critical peace studies do the same for politicians and
As constructive studies peace
studies would not shy away from making recommendations,
the "therapy" part of the useful diagnosis-
prognosis-therapy triangle taken from health studies.
Expectations from therapy can then be held against values
relating to peace to conclude in terms of adequate,
inadequate, both-and, neither-nor.
The peace researcher should ideally
be up to all three tasks. The empirical studies should
fully respect the canons of research, the critical
studies should be based both on adequate reasoning from
value premisses and on adequate data, and the
recommendations both on explicit values and well tested
theories. Not always easy.
3. Like health
studies peace studies are an applied
Imagine a person suffering badly
from some disease, barely able to come to the office of a
famous physician. The person is duly examined and at the
end the doctor expresses his gratitude for offering a
case that will be written up in a forthcoming article. -
But what are you going to do to cure me? the "case" asks.
- Cure? Nothing, I am a scientist, I am objective, value
Fortunately we are better served
today by maybe as many as 44 health professions. The
constructive connection between the value of health, well
specified, and reasonably well grounded hypotheses about
what can be foreseen as the result of an intervention has
been made. again and again, often successfully, sometimes
not. Peace studies should be able to deliver the same, at
the same level of adequacy, through conflict
transformation, peacebuilding, peace- keeping,
reconciliation to mention some approaches. Let many peace
professions grow, mediators, conciliators, and so on and
But what if we, like health
professionals, do not succeed but even make mistakes?
Then we should be accountable and not like so many
economists with misleading diagnosis (because they cut
the issue wrongly), prognosis far off the mark (because
they take too few factors into account) and highly
unsuccessful therapy/remedy (for the above reasons) get
off with impunity. They cannot get off the hook blaming
politicians who execute plans developed by peace or
economy specialists. Adding to the predicament come
politicians who would rather go wrong with a war than
with a peace, like the politician who would rather go
wrong with growth than distribution. Growth, like
aggressive war, seems to need less legitimation than
peace and distribution. So better be careful, never do
what cannot be undone, you may be on a wrong track.
Violence is irreversible.
4. Peace studies
are trans- rather than inter-disciplinary.
Like women studies make women and
their conditions of suppression and liberation visible,
peace studies make peace visible, understandable,
obtainable. No academic discipline has any monopoly on
peace, just as little as they have any monopoly of women
-- but all disciplines have something to
As a rule, in a good peace
researcher the PhD field is no longer visible. There are
often four stages on this road.
In the multi-disciplinary stage a
university, or a conference, invites specialists from
several disciplines to contribute to peace studies from
their angle. People or disciplines who never meet because
our universities fragment human knowledge, keep us apart
fighting for funds and recognition, learn the art of
In the inter-disciplinary stage a
university or a conference encourages dialogue among
approaches, an obvious method being to address the same
event or phase in history, or the same
In the cross-disciplinary stage
this dialogue goes further, into mutual learning. A
psychologist may pick up a sociological hypothesis about
status disequilibrium (like high on education, low on
power) as aggression productive and explore the
psychology; a sociologist may explore the social effects
of cognitive consonance as "peace of mind". Usually such
explorations are bilateral.
In the transdisciplinary stage,
based on the preceding three or not, the problem that
determines the choice of intellectual tools and they will
usually have to come from the tool chests of several
disciplines. Like for health studies. But in this process
other disciplines will also learn and change. Historians,
for instance, will focus more on peace and on how war
could have been avoided, economics more on survival and
5. Peace studies
are trans- rather than inter-national.
Peace studies in Europe, a very
belligerent and aggressive continent, emerge mainly
outside the capitals and "universities of excellence" of
big powers. They study "security". Starting in the Nordic
countries, Spain (Barcelona), Italy (Firenze), Austria
(European Peace University) and England (Bradford) are
today more important. But no country has monopoly, nor
does any gender, generation, race, class, nation. As
peace belongs to all of us so do peace
This is important because the study
of peace is so intimately related to the study of
conflict. About conflict we know something for sure: each
actor in a conflict has his own angle. The conflict
always looks different looked at from different angles.
Hence we have to listen to all parties, understanding
what they want, to sort between legitimate and
illegitimate, using, for instance, human rights as a
measure, and then try to bridge the gap between
legitimate goals. Such is the TRANSCEND approach. All
parties to a conflict have equal rights to be understood,
but not the same right to be accepted and supported. That
depends on legitimacy.
Ideally a peace research team
should be not only inter- disciplinary but also
international, each participant listening to the other
angles in a spirit of tolerance, entering into dialogue.
The cross-national stage of mutual learning, reciprocity,
will then follow, adding more depth to the analysis of
the conflict. And this is exactly what China invites the
USA to do in connection with human rights, publishing a
yearbook on human rights in the USA, now in its sixth
edition. Let us approach such problems cross- nationally,
in a spirit of equality, and the way we study peace is
already peace. Any pretense at having a monopoly on
understanding reality is violence, aggression, in this
case cultural violence.
insults to the basic needs of body, mind and spirit, is
caused by unresolved conflict and polarization =
dehumanization of human and social relations.
That is a basic hypothesis linking
conflict and peace. Conflicts have to be solved; human
and social relations to be depolarized = humanized; and
the cycle of "violence breeding violence" to be
controlled, basically nonviolently, also with healing of
traumas and closure through reconciliation. Toward this
end peace studies train mediators for conflict resolution
and transformation and conciliators for reconciliation,
to mention two specialties in the field of peace work. We
know a lot about this.
And there is an enormous demand for
such peace workers, more than for peace researchers, and
much amateurishness and denial that there may be
something to study and learn before leaping into
practice. One example, often found in Anglo-American
approaches, is inability to distinguish between conflict
and violence. Both are seen as shocks to be managed and
controlled. Thus, there is talk about "post-conflict
reconciliation" where "post-violence" would be
appropriate. Conflict is ubiquitous, forever, violence is
The two concepts are different.
Violence is to hurt and harm, insulting basic human
needs. Conflict is a state of incompatible goals, within
and between persons, societies, regions, the world.
Another word is contradiction. That is a challenge, and
the Anglo- American tradition is unwilling to assume that
there could be contradictions even in their social and
world orders. Their term "dispute" does not cover the
depth, nor does, indeed, "trouble". Anglo-Americans lay
down rules and demand that people follow them.
So there is conflict before
violence, and more easily solved before than after. And
ceasefire, armistice is not peace; peace is much more
complex. Politicians and journalists, please take note.
7. In security
studies, violence is seen as caused by evil forces, like
dangerous classes and inferior races/religions/ideologies
"out to get us", and the remedy is to have enough
strength to deter or destroy those forces.
A parallel in traditional health
studies was disease seen as caused by Satan or God's
punishment for evil. The remedy was strength as faith, to
resist all evil, and to believe in God, the Church and in
authorities in general. One problem with modern hygiene
and simple rules to stay healthy was less need for the
Church. We have something of the same in today's struggle
between peaceful conflict transformation and the reliance
on court systems, governments and the UN Security (not
This security discourse stands in
the way of a rational approach to peace. The remedies
offered are two: to be strong enough to deter, and/or to
crush those forces of evil, as we see it all over the
world in the Anglo-American effort to deal with terrorism
or tyranny. The net result is a security state like a
fortress, and much, much killing, all over. Very
8. Disease can
be seen as an unresolved contradiction between Exposure
to pathogens and the Resistance capacity of an organism,
and violence as unresolved contradictions among the goals
of parties in a conflict.
was basic to Chinese medicine. Then came the idea of some
microbes hiding somewhere, "out to get us", and the
remedy was to be strong, building up our immune system,
if necessary through outside assistance in the shape of
inoculation. I guess most of us believe in that. But I
wonder if health studies could not learn something by
studying the phenomenon also from the micro-organism
point of view? Chinese medicine saw health as natural and
many thinkers saw peace = harmony the same way. Very
9. Major sources
of violence in the 21st century are globalized,
privatized, monetized capitalism; the US empire expanding
that system also by military means including the
encircling of Russia- China-India (40% of humanity); the
contradiction between 2000 nations, 200 states and 20
nation-states basically with one nation; violence against
women through selective abortion, infanticide,
discrimination; and among the abrahamitic religions
Judaism, Christianity and Islam and them and other world
Peaceful solutions include better
distribution/alternative economic systems; boycott of the
US empire; confederations (East Asian Community) among
states and federations (like Switzerland) inside states;
gender parity; civilization dialogue.
There are many pointers in such
directions in China Daily these days, coinciding with the
10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference (CPPCC). There is talk of social
development, gender equality, social harmony, how to
calculate ecological costs (cutting China's growth rate
by 2% points!) all over. The many people standing in line
to deliver protests and suggestions to authorities come
to mind, and it is not obvious that idea democracy is
inferior to arithmetic democracy, but it depends, of
course, on who in fact has the last word.
I also welcome the White Paper
"Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China". And I
deplore the hypocrisy of countries criticizing an
anti-secession law. How would Washington react to a
Declaration of independence from Hawai'i? Or Paris to
Corsica - England relative to Ireland or parts of Ireland
we know. And yet I feel China would be better off as some
kind of decentralized federation linking Beijing to
Taiwan, Hong Kong/Macau, Inner Tibet, Xianjiang and Inner
Mongolia. Let us have a good dialogue!
studies focus less on actors, more on deep cultures and
structures and how they affect mediation and
I wonder if the next stage in this
amazing country's history will not be a turn toward
cultural rather than economic development and in addition
to the much needed economic distribution? The focus on
economics is also a focus on materialism and a country
that seems to change, and even basically so, every nine
years (1949, 1958, 1966-69, 1976-80, 1989. 1998, 2007?)
might well also turn from material to the more spiritual.
As any student of China knows there is much to draw upon,
and even more importantly, the enormous creativity of
today's Chinese people.
There has been much focus on the
role of structure for peace, particularly of gender and
class relations. Time has come for much more focus on
culture, and not only in the sense of
Thus, what is the secret behind the
outer peacefulness of the Kingdom in the Middle, the
Zhong Guo? The USA, following the English tradition of
watching the second biggest, has already appointed China
its natural enemy and the Project for the New American
Century, PNAC, talks about changing the regime in China.
The aggressiveness is unbelievable instead of doing the
obvious, not only tolerance but dialogue and mutual
learning like the Chinese do. We are all anxiously
watching how the only surviving superpower and the
Kingdom, in the Middle, relate to each other.
Well, if the US thinks it has the
right to create Free Trade Areas in Latin America, China
has the same right with Japan and the Korean Peninsula in
East Asia. Of course, Japan has to reconcile, revise its
textbooks, apologize deeply for Nanjing.
Nanjing? A possible center for an
East Asian Community, for peace and prosperity? And the
suffering would make some sense.
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