Transcend and Transform
Year: 2004

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Transcend and Transform

An Introduction to Conflict Work

by Johan Galtung

TRANSCEND AND TRANSFORM is about how to overcome conflicts at different levels, with 40 concrete examples based on the author's four decades of experience as mediator. Instead of the legal approach where either one or the other party is declared to be right, a good solution to a conflict bridges the gap between the legitimate goals of all parties. Conflicts can rarely be "resolved" in the sense of making them disappear totally, but they can and must be "transformed," so that they are carried out peacefully, without violence, whether verbal or physical. "Transcending" a conflict means going beyond it, by overcoming the underlying contradiction between clashing goals, so that all parties' needs and aspirations can be fulfilled.

TRANSCEND ( is also the name of a global peace and development network of invited scholars‑practitioners doing action, training, research and dissemination within 20 programs, founded by the author. See also "Searching for Peace: the Road to TRANSCEND" (2nd edition, Pluto Press, 2002).

TRANSCEND AND TRANSFORM begins with Micro-conflicts at the personal level, how to overcome domestic and work conflicts on a regular daily basis, particularly useful for couples, parents, teachers, social workers and many others.

Galtung calls the next level Meso-conflicts, where issues arise on gender and generation, race or class, where there are groups of people in contradiction with each other.

Next TRANSCEND AND TRANSFORM is about Macro-conflicts between states and nations, like the numerous conflicts among nations within states for independence or autonomy.

Finally it addresses Mega-conflicts, like East-West, North-South and between civilizations like Christians-"Heathens" or Christianity-Islam.

Galtung understands the connections between conflicts at all of these levels of human society. TRANSCEND AND TRANSFORM is a primer to help us all understand, work with, and then transcend conflicts. Galtung shows there are many different ways to find solutions. If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. A good doctor has a comprehensive medicine chest, with a variety of cures for different illnesses.

All readers will find something in this book which relates to their lives. The original Norwegian edition was the number 1 bestseller.


Transcend and Transform

An introduction to conflict work

Table of Contents



The Flying Couple

The Dress

The Sun

The Wardrobe

The Infidelity

Siesta and Fiesta

Guess Who is Coming for Dinner?

The Parents, the Children and the Good House

The Woman, the Man, and the Good Life

Freud and Life as Transcendence


The Colour-blind School

The Classless Company

Economic Alternatives

Political Alternatives

Defence Alternatives

Schools and Alternative Schools

School Medicine and Alternative Medicine

Women, Men, and the Good Society

Switzerland as Transcendence

Marx and History as Transcendence


Ecuador-Peru: Binational Zone, Natural Park

East Greenland: Norway/Denmark "forgot" the Inuits

Hawai'i: Sovereignty as a Process

Colombia: Build a Society, Not Only a State

Rwanda/the Great Lakes: a Bioceanic Confederation

Ulster: Functional Independence

Euskadi: Functional Independence

Yugoslavia: Equal Right to Self-Determination

Israel/Palestine: A Middle East Community

Mandela/de Klerk/Tutu: Truth-Reconciliation-Peace


Cold War I: Polarised Dialogue About Depolarisation

Cold War II: A Democratic UN as transcendence

North-South: Basic Needs as Goals, State-Capital as Means

Globalisation: Globalisation: Yes, From Below, Democratically

Sustainable Development: Humanity as Transcendence

Christianity and the Heathens: The Truth Was False

Christianity and Islam: The Truths Do Not Exclude Each Other

USA, the West and the Rest: Basic Needs, Then Trade, Religion

Conflict Parties and Conflict Thieves: Transcendence in Dialogue

Gandhi's Nonviolence: Resist Evil, Empower People


Deep Culture

Deep Behaviour

Deep Structure








Transcend and Transform

An introduction to conflict work


I quote from one of Western civilisation's most important and for that reason also least known documents, the Papal Bull Inter Caetera of 4 May 1493. The Pope was Spanish, Alexander VI, and he was praising our "very dear son/daughter in Christ", los reyes catolicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, for spreading the

-Christian religion so "that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith":

-as witnessed--with so much glory to the Divine Name in your recovery of the kingdom of Granada from the yoke of the Saracens;

-you--chose our beloved son, Christopher Columbus--to make diligent quest for these remote and unknown mainlands and islands through the sea, where hitherto no-one had sailed; and

-discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered--wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace--going unclothed and not eating flesh-disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals-.

-built a fortress fairly equipped, wherein he has stationed in garrison certain Christians, companions of his, who are to make search for other remote and unknown islands and mainlands. In the islands and countries already discovered are found gold, spices, and very many other precious things

-bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and

-bring them to the Catholic faith.

Whereupon He, Alexander VI, assigns to los reyes catolicos

-and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever

-all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered;

-we-appoint-you-lords of them with full and free power and jurisdiction of every kind (italics ours).

-Let no one, therefore, infringe, or with rash boldness contravene, this our recommendation, exhortation, requisition, gift. grant, assignment, constitution, deputation, decree, mandate, prohibition and will. Should anyone presume to attempt this, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

In short: the Earth belongs to God, the Pope is the administrator of God's will, and he has the mandate to delegate all jurisdiction to the kings of Spain. In doing so Alexander VI legitimised for a long lasting posterity the gigantic violence of colonialism and imperialism, and created a protracted conflict between those who suffer under this illegitimate papal bull, and those who do not revoke the bull.

Author: This does not call for transcendence, but for an alternative, soft Christian Papal Bull, for instance:

We Alexander VI, servant of the servants of the Christian God, to the Catholic Kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Granada:

Us has been given a remarkable gift: to travel by ship, guided by the Almighty's stars, across vast oceans, to distant islands and mainlands different from ours in Europe, and above all inhabited by people and peoples different from us in Europe.

We thank you, our Mother and Father God, the Son, the Holy Spirit, for this wonderful opportunity given us to be enriched by encountering Others, engaging them, celebrating the diversity of us humans, of our beloved animals and plants, of the seas and coasts and mountains under the magnificent sky, illuminated by the God Sun.

We shall learn from their Truths, from how they see the world and all the miracles dwelling therein. We shall offer them our Truths for them to taste and judge by their fruits. And together we shall all move forward, spiritually, materially, learning from each other through the word, dia logos, through exchange of our products. What a wonderful, challenging opportunity for us all to explore deeper truths than any single segment of humanity can ever develop alone.

We, Alexander VI, servant of the servants of the Christian God, direct you, Kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Granada, to

-approach these peoples, discovered by us and to be discovered by us, in deep humility and respect--never imposing upon them, by any kind of power, by force or threat of force, by gifts or promise of gifts--but engage in friendly exchanges guided by reciprocity if they so want. If they do not want, leave them in peace, tell them where you can be found should they become of an other mind. And you may ask them what could change their mind, to understand their reasons not to take us on as we want to take them on.

-learn from these peoples. Us has been given the understanding that they live in peace, walk naked and do not eat meat. Try to learn from them the knowledge and wisdom that has guided them toward a life in peace, so sorely missing in our part of the world. Is it in any way related to the other two points? Ask them humbly to be your teachers in the difficult art of harmony.

-never build any fortified tower or garrison, but ask them for the permission to dwell among them, at your risk, not theirs.

You expelled the Muslim Saracens because they had unlawfully occupied your land, and the Jewish Moriscos. I direct you to invite back as many Muslims and Jews as want to return, to settle in your lands, to enrich you by having different ideas of the message in the Holy Book, and to continue the wonderful dialogues among the abrahamitic religions in Alhambra, in Granada, with the hope of reaching ever higher, and ever deeper in the understanding of the Creation that unites us all.

Problem: The papal Christianity of 1493 could not have produced anything like this. But Pope John Paul II, after the attempt at his life gave him a new spirituality, could perhaps have done so. And how about the next Pope? And the one after that?

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