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A Theory Of Development
ISBN: 978-82-300-0557-6
Year: 2010

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A Theory Of Development

In mainstream development theory there is a narrative:

  • Problem: The difference & deficits in what MDCs have and LDCs have not
  • Direct violence arises out of envy as the MDCs advance further
  • Remedy: The LDCs have to imitate the MDCs and be assisted to do so
  • If imitative enough growth will make LDCs have what they have not

This book challenges that, arguing an alternative narrative:

  • Problem: The relation between poor and rich people and countries
  • Structural violence keeps poor people in poor countries in misery
  • Remedy: decouple vertical and build horizontal equitable relations
  • If horizontal enough nature, humans, societies, world will unfold

Johan Galtung, born 1930 in Oslo, Norway, lives in Spain, France, Japan and the USA, mainly engaged in mediation and research. He has so far published about 150 books and over 1500 articles on peace and related issues. 40 of his books have been translated into 33 languages, for a total of 134 book translation. He founded TRANSCEND: A Peace Development Environment Network in 1993 and was founding rector of Transcend Peace University 2003-2007 and again from 2011 (see and


Johan Galtung

A Theory of Development:

Overcoming Structural Violence

Table of Contents

Preface 7

Dedication 9

Introduction 10

Prologue: Development and Structural Violence:

The Millennium Development Goals:

Why, How, and Why so Difficult? 11


1. What Is in a Word: Development as Unfolding 16

2. A Theory of Development: Diversity, Symbiosis and Equity 20

3. Development Meeting Basic Needs of Humans and Nature 31

4. Development Overcoming Structural Violence 40

5. Development Overcoming Cultural Violence 45


6. De-Development: Three Theses on Social Disintegration 50

7. A Macro-Historical Perspective: Structural Transformations 55

8. A Macro-Historical Perspective: Cultural Transformations 64

9. From Nomadism to Monadism-Atomie-Anomie 68

10. The Four Worlds and the Rise of Northwest and Southeast 78


11. Why Study De-Development as Imperialism? 90

12. Toward a Theory of Development: Seven Factors 93

13. Toward a Theory of De-Development: Twenty Factors 97

14. Ten Case-Studies, Twenty Factors, and Five Reflections 99

15. Sustainability, Acceptable Death and Euthanasia 115


16. Eschatology and Development Visions 122

17. The Buddhist and Islamic Models 129

18. The Western Liberal and Marxist Models 137

19. The Japanese and Chinese Models 142

20. Six Developments Overcoming De-Development? 150


21. Nature Development: Ecological Balance 159

22. Human Development: A Living Income For Everyone on Earth 163

23. Social Development: Pluralism Within and Between 181

24. World Development: Weltinnenpolitik 183

25. From Development Assistance to Reciprocity 186

Epilogue: Development as a Way of Life 193

Appendix 1: Development and Its Discontents: 50 Theses 196

Appendix 2: Development Indicators 206

Appendix 3: Bivariate Diachronic Analysis 211

Appendix 4: The Cocoyoc Declaration 213

Literature 222

Endnotes 233

Index 275


Epilogue: Development as a Way of Life

The way development has been conceived of in this book goes far beyond a comparison of countries in economic achievement. All kinds of dimensions are considered, economic, military, political, cultural and social = structural and cultural. All spaces are there, nature, human, social, world. And above all an overriding very simple theory: diversity and symbiosis, with equity.

And that translates into a program for development as a way of life, for you, for me. There is a message worth considering: if you want to develop, unfold, then cultivate diverse potentials in yourself. Your selves. Do not go for only one for your whole life, go for many, maybe not for all at the same time. Do not see them as separate compartments in your self, but open the walls between them, let them flow through the walls, let them inspire each other. You love nature, you love running; so run in nature. You are a social scientist, you like writing more literary stuff; so write about the human and social drama. You like travel, you like history, so build your travels around historical themes.

Practice equity in your mind. Conceive of your potentials not as competitive, but as cooperative. Try to avoid seeing any one of your potentials as the one, the single axis around which your life rotates, even if society has defined you that way. Rather, praise them all, see yourself as blessed with potentials in plural, even if only one or two of them earn your bread. See your development as unfolding; as a goal in itself, not a means.

Do so and a richer life will come to you as a ripe fruit. Moreover, its seeds will spread to others around you. The more you are enriched the more you can enrich others. Compete, but with yourself, to improve yourself, not with others to beat them.

Others you should try to enrich, and if they happen to be your partners enrichment may become reciprocal. You will enrich each other, both will get tenfold back. Of course your potential profiles will have similarities and differences, so find a basis for equitable symbiosis across differences, within and between.

Grammar is useful here. "To develop" is in this context not transitive, but intransitive, reflexive, reciprocal. "I develop you", meaning I am the cause of some effect in you, is influence, power, grafting me onto you; not development as you unfolding. "I develop" makes sense, stating the fact that unfolding is going on. "I develop myself" is even better, with my self entering as both subject and object, meaning I work on myself, identifying my potentials, letting them unfold, dropping some, improving others.

But the best of them all is "we develop each other", meaning mutuality, reciprocity. "I sense some potential in you left un-unfolded; I appeal to it and will watch it unfold, blossom. Do you see some unattended potential in me?" Maybe more generosity, more spirituality, more attention to form not only content in language and body language. There is mutual benefit in enriching each other if not equally at least not flagrantly unequally.

Do this within your own gender, generation, race, class, nation and state and you develop friendship. Cross the gender line and you may enter love or deepen a friendship. Cross the generation line and you build a family. Do all of this and you build a humanly and socially rich community. The more equitable and the more reciprocal the more easily will enrichment resources flow between persons. To accept being inspired by others is easier when you yourself are accepted as a source of inspiration. Mutuality can become highly addictive and contagious.

Like human and community development, so also countries. The same applies to their relations. If development is practiced within oneself, and in the relations to significant others, then it may be easier to understand what works and what not. Thus, one-way "aid" or "assistance" to "catch up" will have to yield to two-way development assistance. All countries have deficits and potentials, all can benefit from advice and help from others. And the time to start is now, two-way, equitably.

Shaping the minds of others implies willingness to be shaped by them; like letting development models--buddhist, islamic, Western liberal, Western marxist, Japanese, Chinese--flow both ways. Using other persons by relating only to one aspect--muscular power, security, money-making, menial services, sex--with no broadening of the relation is anti-development for persons.i Like preparing Third World countries for delivering resources only at ever higher quality over price, pitting them against each other in competition, rewarding them for knowing their place in the world, punishing them--by military intervention--if they do not.

The parallels are many, the isomorphism is rich. And the morale of the story: if you are eager to develop something, why not start with yourself, making development your way of life? Like learning to listen to the diverse potentials longing to blossom inside yourself, enriching each other. From developing your own selves proceed to others, at the least not standing in the way. If you want to relate to others through your best insights then others might want the same, beyond being listeners. Like a country wanting "Made In..." to stand for high Q/P and C/N, high quality and culture, mindful that others might want the same. Make development your way of life; and you will be amply rewarded.

In conclusion, also as a summary, let us spell out some implications of this for the spaces of development, both within them and between them:

Nature. Beyond the obvious implication to protect abiota and biota diversity, and such symbiotic processes as photosynthesis--including putting CO2 to work in a maximum of greenhouses--comes another implication: exposing nature and humans to new challenges, like in the oceans, in space, rather than waiting for mutations.

Intra-personally this calls for rich, complex, contradictory cognitions and emotions, nursed through rich and complex lives, and a quest for syntheses, tolerance of ambiguity, inner dialogue.

Inter-personally this calls for human diversity, cooperation, harmony, friendship, love-sex, new partnerships with equity across faultlines, like inter-race, inter-class, inter-nation marriages.

Intra-socially this calls for dialogue and equity across faultlines like gender, generation, race, class, included-excluded, nation, state to enhance diversity, cooperation.

Inter-state and inter-nation: this calls for borderless trade and exchange for mutual and equal benefit, enhancing diversity.

Intra-region: this calls for neighboring countries with overlaps in deve-lopment models because of overlap in codes to come closer together, in veto-free associations, communities, unions, like the European and African uni-ons, the South Asian and Southeast Asian associations and the likely region-nal organizations for Latin American, islamic and East Asian countriesii, based on diversity-symbiosis-equity, and relating to the whole world.

Inter-region and inter-civilization: this calls for a maximum of RDCs, reciprocal development circles, sharing positive, and cooperating on nega-tive, externalities in trade, for global conflict resolution, a veto-free UN, and diversely selecting and eclecting the best from all religions, cultures and models.

Global governance: this calls for a global democracy, not First Past the Post (the winner takes all), but coalition governance and global referenda (Swiss model); UN reform by expanding the Security Council and abolishing the veto, a UN Governmental Assembly, UNGA, for states, a UN People's Assembly, UNPA based on direct elections, and a UN Corporate Assembly, UNCA.

Holism and dialectics: the basic point would be to think, speak and act, globally, regionally, nationally and locally, for more diversity and new forms of symbiosis with equity. And human, social and world development will reinforce each other mutually.

In short: Let thousand development flowers unfold.

i. The implication for trade is obvious, and this is why there is so much emphasis in islam on not treating each other only as buyer and seller, but getting to know each other beyond that.

ii. See Galtung (2009), Part Two on regional and global alternatives to imperialism.


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