Cultures of War, Cultures of Peace

EDITORIAL, 2 Nov 2015

#400 | Johan Galtung, 2 Nov 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service

We have war and peace, theory and practice. And deeper down cultures of war and peace, notions of what the world is or could be. The latter is not necessarily peace, could also mean removing obstacles to war.

Timothy Snyder, “Hitler’s World” (NY Review of Books, 24 Sep 2015) and Greg Grandin, “The Kissinger Effect: The relentless militarism of the national-security state and its perverse justification begin with Henry Kissinger” (The Nation, 28 Sep 2015) are both on that line.

Hitler’s World derives from Darwinist struggle for niches, with survival of the fittest. His niche is not the whole world but what is needed to feed the German people, and here Ukraine plays a major role. The food chain is key to the image, with humans on top, eating animals and plants, but not eaten by them. So also for the human species, divided in races with the Aryan race on top, “fittest” as evidenced by domination all over; never slaves. On top of them are the Germans; their state not an end but the military arm obliged to be strongest.

To Hitler that world is natural, and inherently stable. Values, equality, human rights, equal right to life, Christianity, capitalism, communism, are anti-natural. For Hitler such ideas all came from the Jewish “un-nature” anti-race. Removal to bleak places would benefit the natural order and stability. Killing came later, in Ukraine.

Kissinger the German shares the first point, Kissinger the Jew not the second, and Kissinger the American trumps Hitler with USA as fittest for the world niche; if it “looks ferocious”. The effect on Americans by will-to-power matters more than consequences abroad. USA must show that it could have won, stronger than anybody else, removing obstacles at home and abroad to its natural position as the world hegemon.

The point is not that West produces such views, but the holders become key war practitioners; one even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Table offers a broader context of cultures of war and peace.

Rule of Might Strong vs Weak
(darwinism, fascism, nazism)Rule of Chosen GOD vs SATAN
(abrahamic religions)Rule of Power-over-Others
Armageddon Armament

Rule of Law as Punishment

Rule of Revenge-Retaliation

Rule of Prevention-Preemption

Rule of Polarization-Hatred

Rule of Nonviolence
(buddhism, gandhism)Rule of Human Rights
(equal right to life)Rule of Power-over-Self
Transarmament Def defense

Rule of Law as Equity

Trauma Conciliation

Conflict Solution

Depolarization Empathy

Chosen Species Humans/Nature
Chosen Gender
Chosen Race (slavery)
Chosen Caste (feudalism)
Chosen Class, Inequity
Chosen Provinces
Chosen Nations (colonialism)
Chosen States (USA Israel UK)
Chosen Regions (Northwest)Inequality
Primacy of economic growth
Domestic inequity JC cap’ism
Companies CEO autocracy
Auto-, Techno-, Banko-cracy
System of Unitary states
Global inequity Capitalism
Western TN’l Corporations
Western Political Dominance
Western fake Globalization
UN veto-money-cultural power
Western military dominance
Western-US Exceptionalism;
as the only valid, for all
Overcoming Fault-lines
Social Democracy, Equity
True GlobalizationHorizontalization
Primacy of distribution
Lifting bottom up BCI cap
Cooperative democracy
Domestic democracy, at
People Province levels
Lifting bottom up Alt’s
South + East cooperation
Global Democracy, at
State Region World levels
UN Reform United Regions
Balance of Power Peace
Civilization Dialogues;
learning, pick the best

The Table brings together two types of war and peace, direct by acts of commission, structural by acts of omission. The focus is on deep cultures, on more or less explicit notions about empirical and potential realities. The reader will find the worldview on the preceding paragraphs as the first war culture, on the top left.

Much of this is in the books A Theory of Peace and Abolishing War; the four italicized in the peace formula. Since this Table has never been seen before, here are some general comments.

First, West has practiced all the war cultures. Homer’s Odysseus-Iliad is Western civilization, with Greeks and Persians chosen by their gods. War is normal; peace exceptional, for women, children, the old.

Second, the Chosen categories are in The Holy Bible except for the last two. Inequality follows, like Judeo-Christian capitalism, with “sustainable debt” and risk-free interest serving capital accumulation.

Third, Western faith in war culture dwindles with defeats; except the hard West, USA. Prevention-preemption, hatred-polarization– anti communism-terrorism-Islam-Russia–are still on. Economic decline leads to doubts about Chosenness; but West hangs on to the inequalities, including crippling the UN. However, with exceptionalism at a tipping point, about to be given up, there may soon be a major culture-slide. The West may even find structural peace serving them better. But USA?

Fourth, the peace cultures come from all over the world, many from the West; like the Rule of Law, “justice” as punishment and protection of inequality. Christ taught non-retaliation, but without the depth of conciliation (South Africa). Major Western contributions are Human Rights, Democracy and ways of overcoming faultlines, but not (yet) across state borders; hanging on to their Westphalia state system.

Fifth, major contributions from non-West include Buddhist peace as relation, network; nonviolence as concrete practice; power-over-self as defensive defense (also Switzerland); Law, “justice” as equity; BC, Buddhist-Confucian–also Islamic–capitalism (from Japan to East Asia in general), processing-distribution oriented, with capital sharing risks and benefits; and many other alternatives to capitalism.

Sixth, not strange if West is poor at conciliation and solution: causing major traumas, West fears retaliation; benefiting from faultlines and inequalities, West fears loss of power and privilege. This column’s answer: transcendence, go beyond, to new realities.

Seventh: look at the peace culture column. Not bad at all.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 Nov 2015.

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