Peace Studies by Peaceful Means

EDITORIAL, 5 Nov 2012

#244 | Johan Galtung - TRANSCEND Media Service

Peace studies matter; same as health studies.

We are born with the inclination to reject suffering, be it from violence or disease, and to seek wellbeing, call it peace, call it health.  But we are not born with the knowledge and skills, theory and practice.

We have found causes and conditions for health in the body-mind-spirit context, as in the World Health Organization’s focus on health as physical, mental and social wellbeing.  We rejected illness as divine punishment for the sick person’s Evil and explored pathogens–factors carrying diseases–such as traumas (also from violence, wars), contagious diseases, stress diseases (cardio-vascular, malignant tumors, mental disorders), chronic diseases that we can learn to live with, etc.  To be adamantly against disease and in favor of health was seen as necessary–adding human will to the healthy as a sanogen, a factor carrying health. But health studies were needed.  Knowledge and skills were needed.  Theories were as indispensable for good health practice as vice versa.

The result is impressive: beating mortality with longer lives and morbidity with more healthy lives.  It was afforded us longer, healthier lives; and to persons in love, to enjoy their togetherness much longer.  How well we use this gift is another matter.

Like health like peace.  To be against violence and war and in favor of peace in countless resolutions and demonstrations is necessary, setting the course.  But knowledge and skills to overcome major bellogens, carriers of wars, like unreconciled traumas from violence and unresolved conflict, are as indispensable as knowledge and skills to build such paxogens–carriers of peace–as equity (cooperation for mutual and equal benefit) and harmony (suffering the suffering of Other, enjoying the wellbeing of Other).  Instead that atavistic Evil, meaning possessed by Satan, it is invoked: Other is seen as a threat to one’s own security; peace as containing or eliminating Evil.

Universities are increasingly embracing peace studies as knowledge, less so as skills.  And the setting has often been outside any particular discipline, for instance as liberal studies, or just as Peace Studies, like Woman Studies or Environment Studies, privileging no particular discipline as carrier of the field.  Like “medicine”–a strange word for health studies–was wisely lifted out of any discipline to constitute a separate faculty.  As peace studies will.

Unfortunately there are some built-in contradictions between peace and universities as they have developed.  They are old, but only from the high Middle Ages and early modern in the West, emerging with the state system (like the media).  The state is today less salient, yielding both to local communities and to regions, to nations, civilizations and global Trans-National Corporations-TNC, making wars among states yield to direct violence involving nations and civilizations, and to major increases in structural violence.  But the universities are still carriers of the myths of the dominant nation, and Western universities to Western civilization myths, like universality.  With consequences.

[1] Leading universities will tend to identify with their states and accept what that state defines as peace.  Academic freedom scanning the world transnationally for good ideas about bellogens and paxogens anywhere, building peace transnationally yields easily to being a good civil servant, promoting national myths and state interests.  Hence a key Western intellectual error: confusing the sum of state democracies and rule of law and human rights with world democracy, UN Parliament, global referenda, etc.; world law inspired not only by the Western focus on acts of commission but also by other civilizations’ focus on acts of omission; global human rights inspired not only by the Western individual but also by the collective rights on the many we-cultures in the world, and respecting equally human lives across borders, not killing them with direct and structural violence.

[2] Universities are divided into faculties and disciplines, key carriers of world views, deeply internalized by spending major parts of one’s life studying, teaching, researching, enacting.  Universities cling to their states and nations as carriers of peace, and academics are disciplined by their disciplines to cling to their turf for Peace Studies rather than scanning them all for a transdisciplinary Peace Studies in general, and Conflict Studies in particular; going beyond.

[3] Peace theory and practice have benefitted enormously from being translevel; not only inner life or person-to-person, social life or group-to-group, interstate life or state-to-state, nation-to-nation (and. indeed! to state) and world life with regions and civilizations; let alone with life itself, fauna and flora, nature.  Peace Studies are now all of the above, focusing on similarities in solving conflict and building peace, learning from healing a broken marriage to heal broken state relations and vice versa; focusing more on relations, structure and culture and less on individual parties.  Of course it is also aware of dissimilarities along the micro-meso-macro-mega axis.

[4] Universities are still dominated by the Weberian approach, to be “value-free” in the sense of not taking stands when enacting accumulated knowledge as skills.   Physicians are permitted to make the jump from theory to practice, and back again, with a stand in favor of health.  Obviously the same applies to those studying peace, with a solution-orientation, seen as “unscientific”, and “arrogant”.  Well, health serves the elites, but some elites are not served by peace.

[5] Universities are still dominated by the Cartesian atomism-deductivism, which no doubt has increased both knowledge and skills.  But so do alternative epistemologies, like the daoist combination of holism and dialectics[i].  They do not exclude each other and the both-and is much more than the sum.  As a both-and  too along the other dimensions cited above.  Indispensable, as truths know no monopoly.


 [i]. 50 Years: 25 Intellectual Landscapes Explored, Transcend University Press, 2008.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgment and link to the source, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, is included. Thank you.


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5 Responses to “Peace Studies by Peaceful Means”

  1. satoshi says:

    The above editorial shows a full of deep insights on peace studies.

    Let me refer, among others, to the paragraph [4] on Weberian’s approach – to be value free. The attitude of “value free” is that of a (pure/fundamental) scientist. A researcher, whose research subject is peace studies, is value free might be called, a “scientist of peace”. Accordingly, his or her peace studies might be called, a “pure/fundamental science of peace”, “pure peace studies”, “pure studies/theory of peace”, or “fundamental peace studies”.

    Prof. Galtung’s peace studies is “normative peace studies”, meaning that his peace studies is based on a certain set of peace values. The “certain set of peace values” is Prof. Galtung’s own peace values. In other words, Prof. Galtung’s peace studies is an expression (or expressions) of his peace values. Therefore, those researchers who pursue science of peace might argue that Prof. Galtung’s peace studies is not a science and that Prof. Galtung’s peace studies is a systematic expression of his ideology on peace.

    Allow me to discuss “normative peace studies” a bit more as follows: Everyone has his or her own values. Accordingly, everyone has his or her own peace values. Needless to say, therefore, Prof. Galtung has his own peace values. This also can be said of whosoever, including Stalin, Mao Zedong, of George W. Bush, or Barack Obama, for instance. Imagine as follows: What if Stalin founded his peace studies? His peace studies would be based on his own peace value, then. What if Mao Zedong founded his peace studies? His peace studies would be based on his own peace his own peace values, then. What if George W. Bush would found peace studies? (George W. Bush? Peace studies? Don’t laugh. He could ask his inner-circle academicians to found a kind of peace studies based on his own peace values.) The same thing can be said of Obama’s peace studies. His peace studies, if founded, would be based on his own peace values. In the realm of normative peace studies, any capable person can found his or her own peace studies, according to his or her peace values.

    As such, for instance, even if Prof. Galtung’s peace studies would crash with President Obama’s peace studies (if founded), the crash as such could be an expected outcome because the relation between these two peace studies are relative. Their main difference is peace values, contained in their own peace studies. Prof. Galtung’s peace studies contains his own “peace values”, while President Obama’s peace studies contains his own “peace values”. (In this regard, please recall the fact that President Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate!) The relation between one set of peace values and another set of peace values are relative. All these peace values in normative peace studies coexist; at the same time they crash against each other.

    As such, it is highly likely that “normative peace studies” leads both researchers and practitioners to endless value debates/conflicts. The conflict between “peace studies X” and “peace studies Y”, if any, is a conflict between “peace values X” and “peace values Y”. “Peace values X” stem from the founder of the peace studies X, while “peace values Y” derive from the founder of peace studies Y. Imagine, for instance, that there are Catholic Church’s peace studies and Sunni Islam’s peace studies. The (possible) conflict, if any, between Catholic’s peace studies and Sunni Islam’s peace studies is a conflict between Catholic’s peace values and Sunni Islam’s peace values.

    Value free peace studies (“pure/fundamental science of peace”, “pure/fundamental peace studies” or whatever you name it as mentioned above) is suitable for analyzing peace. It is appropriate to cognize what “peace” really is. It is a pure or fundamental science. Usefulness of pure/fundamental science is not questioned. That is what pure/fundamental science is because it is value free, even free from any values on usefulness. But if the fruits of peace studies are to be used in bringing about peace to a conflict situation, a set of values on peace is necessary. That is the limit of value free peace studies that pursuits the cognition of peace exclusively, not the usefulness of the application of the fruits of peace studies. (Here in this context, I am not judging which peace studies is superior/better or not. I am simply clarifying the nature of both types of peace studies.)

    To transform a conflict means to introduce a new set of values (= peace values) to a conflict situation (= plural values are conflicting). The newly introduced peace values must transcend the those conflicting values in the conflict. Therefore, when a peace worker is to transform a conflict into peace, his or her own peace values may be questioned. According to his or her own peace values, the conflict is transformed into “any kind” of peace. Peace is not only one kind. There are many kinds of peace, according to peace values of relevant actors. Therefore, the peace transformed (from a conflict) is the reflection of the peace worker’s or the relevant parties’ peace values. Imagine, for instance, how an Israeli peace worker (or a peace worker hired by the US government, for instance), if any, would transform the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Imagine, also, how a Muslim peace worker (or a peace worker hired by the Iranian government, for instance), if any, would transform the same conflict? In any case, however, their transformation of that conflict would be an expression/reflection of their own peace values. (Note that the reality, however, is that it is very difficult to find peace workers whom both conflicting parties agree to hire.)

  2. […] First published at Transcend Media Service Posted in Johan Galtung, Peace, Pro-peace & proposals, Reflections, essays & more […]

  3. […] così fanno pure le epistemologie alternative, come la combinazione taoista di olismo e dialettica[i]. Esse non si escludono reciprocamente e il sia-sia è ben più che la somma. Come pure un sia-sia […]

  4. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra says:

    I agree. The universities over-emphasize rational knowledge and under-emphasize values and ethics. I come across a number of peace methods devised in universities which may utterly fail in different cultures. The major focus must be how to transform individuals from within, it is like Tolstoy saying ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ Unless the conflicting parties realize peace within, the rationalist methods will at best checkmate violence in its outer manifestation, but fail to address the causes of violence.

  5. satoshi says:

    I agree with you, Debidatta, saying, “The major focus must be how to transform individuals from within, it is like Tolstoy saying ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ Unless the conflicting parties realize peace within, the rationalist methods will at best checkmate violence in its outer manifestation, but fail to address the causes of violence.”

    “Outer-peace” (= world peace, international peace, regional peace, community peace, inter-personal peace, etc.) begins with you (= everyone of us). Your peace begins with your “inner peace”. Unfortunately, it is very often many of us forget about the importance of inner peace.

    An example: You may happen to see: Both conflicting parties, during their “peace” negotiation, are banging on the negotiation table and yelling at each other. What kind of the “peace” negotiation is it? It is highly likely that their “peace” negotiation will fail. Both parties do not have “peace” within themselves.

    Another example: You may also happen to see: A “peace” demonstration in the street. But it is very often that the demonstrators are aggressive, ready to fight with the riot police. They are extremely confrontational. What kind of “peace” do these demonstrators wish to bring about to the society/world?

    Who should become peaceful, first of all? The answer is “me”. (“You” also.) You and I are to become the first persons to be peaceful before we will take any action to the world outside us. (I tell myself that I am to become the first person to become peaceful.) In this regard, let me share Thomas Merton’s words with you, Debidatta: “If you are yourself at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world. Then share your peace with everyone, and everyone will be at peace.”

    Peace be with me. Peace be with you. Peace be with everyone in the world.