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FrontPage      Resources     Concepts:Themes



Lawler, Peter (1995) A Question of Values: Johan Galtung’s Peace Research, Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.



1. The Sociological Origins of Galtung's Peace Research   

2. Peace Research as Science   

3. Structural Violence   

4. The Critique of Global Structure   

5. Constructivism   

6. From Human Needs to Global Values   

7. The True Worlds    

8. Peace as Nirvana   

9. Conclusion



Someone coming to Galtung’s most recent work first might well conclude that it is inspired very much by the recent poststructuralist turn. It speaks of cosmologies, cultures, and civilizations and eschews state centrism – often angrily. It is highly critical of occidental intellectual practices and positivism in particular, yet it also uses much of the language of social science. A marked feature is a rejection of the wholesale adoption of any of the metanarratives of Western modernity, but at the same time there can be detected allusions to the reasonableness of the Nordic middle way. It embraces rather than attempts to dissolve contradictions within itself through reference to Buddhist metaphysics of all things. To read such eclecticism (or pastiche) as spiritually akin to postmodernism would not be implausible, but it would be a thin interpretation. Although the various phases of his oeuvre are very much of their time – and the most recent is no exception – there are also important linkages and commonalities that need to be kept in mind. Galtung himself operates with a historical account of the development of his model of peace research, frequently omitting, moreover, the possessive case. Even in his most recent work, decisive aspects of his earliest model of peace research – which certainly could not be described as outside of a modernist frame of reference – reappear to confound the reader. pp.8-9


Galtung’s consistent refusal of international relations orthodoxy concerning actors, processes, and outcomes in world politics frequently resonates with postmodern readings, even if he does not employ the same terms of discourse or make reference to seminal texts. … Over time, his work has come to express considerable disquiet with established reformist counterpoints to realist pessimism, particularly with regard to their universalizing constitutive assumptions and their unspoken culturally specific prejudices. p.9


If a political project can be gleaned from all of this, at a minimum it consists in a multifaceted resistance to a mix of traditional intellectual moves and concrete practices that are seen to have resulted in the offering of a stark choice: incorporation within or marginalization outside of a sovereign model of global social order. In the more affirmative variants can be found an overtly constructive dimension involving the rearticulation of community in novel forms at the local and global levels that have hitherto been displaced to the margins by the sovereignty of the discourse of the sovereign state. pp.9-10


Galtung believes in foundational social values, and it is precisely the success or failure of his articulation or defense of them that provides the focus and the motivation for my particular journey through his copious writings. Indeed, it was the idea of a ‘science of peace’ in the service of realizing universal values that energized his earlier writings. p.10


1. The Sociological Origins of Galtung’s Peace Research

Traces of such a faith in savants armed with scientific knowledge were to emerge in Galtung’s early depiction of the role of the peace researcher. He employed physiological imagery and the concept of health to describe the international body politic, to which the peace researcher was to apply curative scientific knowledge. As a positivist, then, Galtung was heir to the Saint-Simonian rather than the Comtean legacy. p.18


Only Saint Simon could properly claim to be a political radical, but all three of positivism’s founders [Comte, Saint Simon and Durkheim] constructed their vision of the sociological enterprise with practical, reformist intentions in mind. They commenced the process of rendering values as objects of analysis but provided no basis for critically assessing them, except in the functional sense of determining their role in the preservation of social stability and order. In recovering the classical positivist project, Galtung’s foundational model of peace research was to carry over this fundamental inadequacy. p.20


Galtung’s initial image of peace research reflected an admixture of modern scientific sociology and the Enlightenment values that motivated the classical positivists and some American sociologists. In part, it echoed Mills recollection of the classical tradition of sociology in its utilitarian depiction of peace research as a purposeful social science dedicated to the realization of progress … p.26


The application of sociology to the international system was not unique to Galtung, but in making the case for peace research he added an overt, ostensibly apolitical reformism that owed much more to Saint Simon than to Parsons. p.26


The connection between Galtung’s sociological writings and his arguments for peace research is not easily made, however, because the sociological underpinnings of his peace research are rarely fully explicated or acknowledged. Nevertheless, they are central to an understanding of his arguments for a scientific peace research that grounds its own normativity within empirical analysis rather than history or pure reason. pp26-7


The guiding vision of the (social) physician informed by a politically neutral scientific body of knowledge was a venerable image, recalling medieval ‘realistic’ utopias intended to replace speculative imaginings with secular, practical designs, the plausibility of which were predicated upon and coeval with the evolution of science. … All of these visions shared the belief that armed with scientific knowledge, savants could identify the good polity yet avoid the descent into politics. p.27


Galtung’s use of the work of Gandhi suggests that it provides a practical ethics rather than a theology or metaphysics.  … The substance of Gandhian ethics was left unexamined, internally or with reference to other ethical systems. This may help account for the paucity of substantive references to Gandhi in Galtung’s earlier work, since the language of positivist sociology is ill-suited to the appreciation of the complex admixture of metaphysical principles that lay behind Gandhi’s ‘moral ideology’ of nonviolence. But in spite of the obscurity of its foundational influence, the imprint of Gandhi’s thought on Galtung’s work would prove to be significant. p.28


Galtung offered only a minimalist definition of science as involving the formulation  of invariances (general descriptions) and theories (general explanations). p.30

… when it comes to the process of theory formation, a subjective component becomes evident. p.31

Absent was any discussion of the epistemological status of the initial observations … and their relationship to theory.

… Galtung does provide … a conceptualization of the subjective origins of hypotheses that does not reduce to observation, by utilizing the notion of ‘empathy’ between the observing scientist and the social order he or she is observing. p.31

Galtung appealed to the procedure of intersubjective confirmation as the basis for eliminating subjective influences, but he also foreshadowed Kuhn’s sociology of science by acknowledging that relevant competence groups may suffer from uniformity. p.31

The young Galtung conceded that the value predispositions of individual social scientists and the social context within which they work were barriers to adequate social science. pp32-3

Although the cross-cultural suitability of Western social policy is questioned, at this point the sociological approach itself is not. Nonetheless, notice is served that the putative universality of scientifically derived knowledge and policy, which underscores the claim to social neutrality of science and its agents, may falter under examination. p.33

Intentionally or otherwise, the discussion of this issue echoed those critiques of positivism which, in emphasizing the hermeneutic qualities of social analysis and the social role of conceptual languages, challenge the idea that scientific naturalism can adequately grasp the phenomenon of the social. The concept of empathy proves to be a two-edged sword. It may be of value in generating scientific hypotheses, but in order for science to proceed conclusively it must be eliminated at some point. As the dilemma confronting the pacifist social scientist suggests, the excision may prove difficult indeed. p.34

Yet if the value-contamination of scientific research was self-evidently an issue for a putative peace researcher, there was a further dimension of the problem that was of equal, perhaps greater, significance: the scientific investigation of social values themselves. … The key to Galtung’s treatment of this issue lies in his understanding of structural functionalism. p.35


… apart from his early sociological writings and a brief reformulation of structural functionalism written some ten years later, Galtung’s peace research tends to present itself as an example of structural analysis. … Generally speaking, his discussion of structural functionalism focuses primarily on the functional contribution of dimensions of social structure to the maintenance of the social system of which they form a part. … Certainly Galtung’s earlier sociological writings are more systems-theoretic than structuralist, in the tradition of Durkheim and Parsons rather than Marx and Levi-Strauss. p.35

These days, in spite of the imprecision of the label, structural functionalism has followed positivism in acquiring pejorative connotations. For its critics, it connotes a perspective that is innately conservative and concerned only with the analysis of the preservation of social systems. … critics question the tendency to abstraction and the assumption that all components of social systems can be understood in terms of their function in the maintenance and continuing harmonization of the wider system. It is frequently claimed that a structural-functional perspective is ahistorical, teleological, and inimical to the consideration of social change and excludes the consideration of human agency. The purpose of social existence dissolves into an account of systemic imperatives and appears independent of human consciousness or the exercise of reason. If such criticisms hold, structural functionalism appears to be an unusual choice for a reform-minded sociologist-cum-peace researcher unless such a theorist seeks to deflect the philosophical rationalization of a normative position. That proved to be Galtung’s objective. pp.35-6


Galtung also [like Robert Merton] rejected the assumption that functionalism was irretrievably wedded to a conservative ideology, claiming instead to employ a radical version that introduces subjectively held social values, not reducible to systemic imperatives, into the functionalist equation. p.36


Galtung followed Merton in rejecting the orthodox functionalist reliance upon the nondemonstrable, teleological notion of an overriding systemic imperative to explain the functionality of social norms. … His objective was to demonstrate the utility of structural functionalism in the analysis of social change as a functionally positive consequence of changing social values rather than the mysterious logic of system maintenance. p.37


Nevertheless, the identification of relevant values still had to be achieved without the intrusion of of the sociologist’s own value system or of the specific values of individuals or groups within the system. … who holds certain values and the extent to which consensus exists are recognized as important empirical and theoretical questions. In sum, the idea of system maintenance becomes socially grounded. p.37


The functional attributes of a social structure are determined by reference to a set of values embedded in the collective consciousness of that system or within a wider consciousness pertaining to the class of social systems, of which that system is a member. p.38


The interpretation of functional analysis as having creative and critical potential was most evident when Galtung revisited the perspective a decade later [1969]. In ‘Functionalism in a New Key’, Galtung correlated functions with values again, a move that was seen to distinguish radical functionalism from liberal and conservative variants. Whereas Merton located functions in the evolutionary adaptation and adjustment of a social system, Galtungian functional analysis required the empirical identification of the relevant evaluative standards prior to the examination of the functionality of a specific social system; values (or functions) could not be derived from the system itself. In focusing upon dissonance between social norms and forms of social structure, functional analysis acquired a critical role because as reflections of collective human consciousness and action, rather than the needs of an abstracted social system, functions become ‘changeable, rejectable and substitutable’. p.39

Utilizing scientific method rather than philosophy, peace research would attempt to identify those values that would enable critical assessment of the existing international system in terms of its functionality. Since the standard against which the system is judged had to be shown to be held, peace research was charged with empirically demonstrating that its normative orientation accorded with the values of a relevant reference group. p.40


Unfortunately, Galtung’s account could not but be hoisted by its own petard. The act of observing specific forms of social interaction in order to demonstrate dissonance or consonance with value-laden expectations privileges certain empirical events according to unexplained criteria. As Galtung himself conceded, observations are value-driven, yet those values could not be analyzed within the model of science adopted. Values inform cognition, from which values are then claimed to arise. … In all of his sociological writings, Galtung provided no further analysis or defense of any specific social values, other than the empirical claim that they were held, or the assumption that they should be held in reflection of changes in the relevant social system. p.41


The lacuna in Galtung’s sociology, which was to be carried into peace research, was any sense of the political ethics of social change; it was avowedly antiphilosophical. p.41


2. Peace Research as Science

Galtung’s early peace research was constructed around two principal themes: the definition of the concept of peace and the application of structural-functionalist sociology to the analysis of the international system. p.47


Galtung’s account of traditional peace thinking echoed the somewhat more considered critique of prescientific forms of knowledge by the luminaries of positivist sociology. In contrast to the quasi-theological and metaphysical content of traditional thinking, peace research entailed a different orientation for Galtung: “The whole attention is focused on the relation between thinking and reality: is it testable? Is it tenable?” The objective was to produce scientific knowledge, which was “independent of the idiosyncracies of the peace thinker and of the characteristics of the situation stimulating his thinking.” (‘Theories of Peace’, p.25) Put another way, “peace research, like all other research, should be universal in its methodology – given the problem and the method, the answer shall, ideally, be independent of space and time.” (‘International Programs of Behavioural Science’, p.169) Peace research’s interest in traditional thinking was primarily concerned with discerning its syntax – the consistency and theoretical adequacy of its assumptions – rather than its relationship to historical reality or specific thinkers.

Intersecting with the promotion of a universal methodology was a more pointed criticism of the discipline of international relations, whether in its legalist, historical, or scientific guise, for its version of particularism – state centrism. This was described as nationalism verging on chauvinism: “The whole perspective is frankly and openly asymmetrical; the whole world is seen from the vantage point of the nation-state; and whether the research takes the form of apology or criticism, the perspective is limited to the author’s immediate surroundings.” (‘Peace Research: Past Experiences and Future Perspectives’, p.249) Two implications for the content of peace research flowed from this. First, international relations as a discipline helped to perpetuate the existing international system, but peace research would seek to change it. Second, peace research was to be global in focus, again in claimed contrast to the orthodox theory and practice of international relations. p.50


Peace research required, then, a substantive definition of peace that avoided the traditional appeal to reason alone and did not adopt a partisan outlook. The first attempt at this was presented in the editorial of the foundational issue of Journal of Peace Research, written by Galtung and published in 1964. There peace was defined as having two aspects: negative peace, being the absence of war and actual physical violence, and positive peace, initially described as the “integration of human society”. The plausibility of the dual definition was predicated upon the identification of two global empirical tendencies that undermined the pervasive Hobbesian image of an anarchical world order condemned to a perpetual condition of anticipating war. p.52

First, “man identifies,” displaying a capacity for mutual empathy and solidarity: “[He] sees himself as a member of groups where a norm of reciprocity is valid and cooperation a dominant mode of interaction … In the real world integration is a fact. Man surrounds himself with a sphere of amity and mutual aid. But outside of this sphere enmity and mutual destruction may rule.” (‘An Editorial’, p.1) …..

The second empirical observation was that however bellicose relations between human communities are, “man rarely uses all of his means of destruction against all enemies all of the time.” ….. Galtung went on to propose that if we imagined the extrapolation of these two demonstrable human proclivities, then a vision of the elimination of violence and the dissolution of the distinctions between domestic and international social realms would emerge. The extrapolation of the first would realize a condition of positive peace, whereas extrapolation of the second would lead only to that of negative peace. In combination, however, they would produce a condition of general and complete peace. The distinctiveness of peace research lay in its commitment to researching the conditions for both positive and negative peace. p.53


The dictates of scientific method required peace research to translate values into testable hypotheses, and the analogy with medicine was again employed to make the point. Medical research has generated a highly differentiated understanding of illness and its treatment; peace research needed to develop a comparable understanding of “nonpeace.” Peace proposals (analogous to “treatments” in medicine), many of which already existed, could be judged according to their capacity to eliminate dimensions of nonpeace. In utilitarian fashion, the validity of a peace proposal was to be assessed in terms of positive consequences rather than inherent worth. But this suggested procedure only defrayed the argument: Nonpeace is a category as potentially disputable as peace, especially if defined as the negation of positive peace. pp.58-9


In any case, Galtung’s peace research decisively failed its own test. In order for the values embodied in the idea of positive peace to escape the indictment of subjectivism – the principal inadequacy of traditional peace thinking – they would have to be scientifically evaluated. They were not. In the early phase of Galtung’s peace research he restricted himself largely to the generation of extensive taxonomies of the dimensions of nonpeace and types of peace thinking and the mathematical exploration of the relationships between the two sets. In one of the few discussions of the autotelic value of “peace”, Galtung either grounded the values it contained within a purely descriptive account of human needs and rights or simply asserted them. p.59


Galtung frequently pointed out that the intention was not to get the final word on basic values or to impute to the concept of peace a definitive content. Nevertheless, because peace research was cast in a largely technical role, the justification of its normative orientation was effectively presupposed and criticism cast into the dustbin of philosophy, conveniently situated outside the laboratory of peace. pp.59-60


Though on one level his “A Structural Theory of Integration” can be understood as an attempt to apply abstract sociology to an analysis of international relations, its central purpose was to explore alternative forms of integration other than territorial. Processes of organizational and associational integration were seen to be proceeding at a greater pace than territorial integration, producing societies that were “overdeveloped” relative to existing state boundaries. This produced a condition of “structural fatigue” in the international order, and given the geopolitical problems associated with territorial integration, substitutes would have to be found in order to resolve the “total crisis” confronting humanity. However, the discussion of integration was entirely abstract, and no attempt was made to connect the discussion with the empirical world and verify the hypotheses. Nevertheless, the conclusions drawn were fully supportive of the normative foundations of peace research as a practical activity. pp.61-2


In spite of Galtung’s frequent depiction of social science as a rigorous procedure entailing a move from hypothesis formation through testing to confirmation and finally prescription, none of his early research conformed to this model. The idea of science was central to the argument for peace research, but it remained an unrealized ideal providing a legitimating rhetoric but not a practice. The roles of scientist and activist became as one. p.62


The distinctiveness of early peace research was built around the value idea of positive peace and the concept of oriented science, yet the substantiation of the normative premises of peace research was at best ambiguous – essential but also a potential distraction. In fact, the young Galtung wrote surprisingly little about positive peace even though its realization was cast as a leitmotiv of peace research. In spite of a positivistic rejection of unscientific traditionalism, the claims for the concept of positive peace extended little beyond an appeal to its self-evident reasonableness, premised upon the assertion of certain human capacities for cooperation and constraint. The value set that was positive peace was presented either as a plausible reflection of international consensus on the fundamentals of a universalized notion of the good life (weakly connected to unexplored notions of basic human needs and rights) – to be confirmed scientifically at some later stage – or simply as an area to be explored as peace research developed. p.63


Galtung’s original vision of peace research did not exhibit much interest in history, but history, we might say, was interested in it. During the late 1960s the idea of social science in general came under sustained attack from within a revived intellectual and public radicalism, and peace research could not escape critical scrutiny. Only four years after making the foundational claims for the new science of peace, Galtung critically reexamined the fundamental assumptions of peace research and set it upon a new path. p.64


3. Structural Violence

Against the evolution of a universal systematic science that had applied the same conceptual apparatus to the study of animate and inanimate nature, critical social theory argued for the recovery of the critical function of social theory. (Horkheimer, ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’) Its essence was the reinstatement of an understanding of knowledge that emphasized public comprehension of and participation in social life. Such a reflexive participatory understanding required “that the objectifying, value-neutral standpoint of an impartial observer give way to the subjectively open, value-committed attitude of an interlocutor in a shared practice.” (Ingram, Habermas and the Dialectic of Reason, p.4) Mainstream sociology revealed the loss of critique in its overriding focus on the description and management of the social system, the denial of the analytical significance of social class, the proclamation of the end of ideology, and the enthusiastic identification of the postindustrial society characterized by abundance based upon increasing production of material wealth. p.69


Olsen and Jarvad also utilized the theme of an abuse of science to attack the PRS(I) Vietnam conference. In their view, so-called peace researchers showed little interest in the origins of the war or the issues at stake but were primarily concerned with the technical question of ending violent conflict per se. (‘The Vietnam Conference Papers’) The preference for escaping into game-theoretic approaches was indicative of an unwarranted imposition of the assumption of symmetry between the parties to the conflict. The conference reflected the positivist view that the function of science was to create technologies that can further “commonly accepted goals,” in this case “the general goal of peace.” Yet, as scientists, the conference participants excluded themselves from formulating the desired goals on the traditional grounds of value-freedom, and in effect the conference provided American decision-makers with a variety of strategies for resolving the conflict in line with their interests.

Lars Dencik – an advocate of militant peace research to his critics – did not pull any punches and depicted peace research as a technology of control, integration and pacification. He followed Schmid in arguing that a shift in global politics away from the Cold War presented an opportunity to look more closely at asymmetric conflict relationships. … Dencik called for “conflict resolution proper,” or “realistic peace research,” which would render latent conflict visible. The assumption of a harmony of interests was described as a liberal ideological fixation, best replaced by a “structural or objectivistic starting point” that expressed a “deepened scientific insight.” Dencik used the term “structural violence” to capture the nature of latent conflict, which in his view could be far more destructive in its consequences. (‘Peace Research’) p.77


Dencik had foreshadowed the central theme of Galtung’s contribution to the debate. Unlike in the approaches of Schmid and Dencik, however, Galtung’s objective was to reconstruct the conceptual fundamentals of peace research yet retain a pacifist taboo on violence, while rescuing the idea of positive peace from the charge of vapidity. The first efforts at conceptual revision were presented in a paper entitled “Violence, peace and Peace Research.” Though its origins lay outside of the rancorous debate, this landmark of peace research can be read as a reply to Schmid. pp.77-8


Galtung’s response to Schmid … was indecisive, reflecting an as yet unexplained normative disposition rather than systematic argument. He was not resistant to the use of the term interests per se but to the implicit assumption that the interests to be pursued by peace research are the expression of values held by specific groups of actors or investigators, dominant or otherwise. pp.78-9


The concept of structural violence ostensibly brought Galtung closer to the radicals’ emphasis on latent violence, but there were some significant differences. According to Galtung, marxism’s critique of the distribution of surplus value identified one form of structural violence, but the liberal critique of the distribution of power in socialist societies identified another. In what appeared to be a backhanded swipe at the radicals, Galtung argued that in both cases individuals are prevented from realizing their potential, and therefore neither of the ideologies provided a satisfactory perspective from which to comprehend violence. p.81


… the shift in peace research’s focus from direct to structural violence was legitimated through reference to a changing global social context in which the threat of global war was declining, economic growth continuing, yet exploitation increasing. What Galtung was arguing was that structural violence does not prevent social change but constrains the direction in which it proceeds. To substantiate this, however, the normative premises that enabled a critique of specific forms of societal dynamism had to be explicitly presented and defended. p.84


The redrawing of the concept of violence necessitated the revision of the two-sided concept of peace, something that proved to be an open-ended process. Thus, positive peace came to refer to the “absence of structural violence” and semantically, therefore, transformed into a negative category. Mindful of this, Galtung suggested that it could also be referred to as “social justice,” thus restoring a positive content. Since structural violence is by definition a consequence of specific forms of socioeconomic development, then the critical analysis of development now entered the discourse of peace research. p.84


In spite of its historical significance, “Violence, Peace and Peace Research” suffered from some considerable deficiencies. Its normative premises were certainly overt but barely defended, remaining largely as assertions. Judgment of the deleterious effects of social structures and, by extension, the fleshing out of the concept of positive peace was effected not by appeal to a historically or socially grounded concept of unrealized interests but to a set of deracinated values collapsed into the autotelic value of nonviolence. The brief allusion to a consequentialist ethics was inadequate to this task, merely presupposing an understanding of the good or of human potential. pp.85-6


4. The Critique of Global Structure

In the first phase, Galtung defined peace research in contrast to the fields of international relations and conflict analysis. In adding structural violence to his agenda of concerns Galtung now had to distinguish peace research from an emergent critical literature on global political economy as well. … Galtung had already begun to explore global stratification through a structural analysis of international aggression, but the earlier efforts were constrained by the dictates of stuructural functionalism and the stultifying effects of employing a normatively barren form of orthodox sociological discourse. No account of the origins of rank disequilibrium within and between actors in the global social system was attempted; the discussion remained firmly in the realm of hypothesized descriptions. The underlying prescriptive assumption was that certain forms of global social integration could alleviate the problem of rank disequilibrium within social actors, but the connection between the posited values embedded in the original definition of positive peace and the abstract sociological description of the global social system was not adequately addressed, nor could it be. Functionalist sociology writ globally identified integration and technocratic management as the universal form of the rationalization of social relations and transformed it into a normative perspective, which was then recycled as the ethical imperative to functional analysis in the first place. Thus, Galtung’s original peace research promoted “associative” strategies of peace or “mutual interdependence.” (“On the Future of the International System”, pp.616-18) p.91

Galtung was not alone in now seeking to push peace research in a more critical direction … he eschewed a historical approach and deliberately sought to develop a broader conception of imperialism, one encompassing noneconomic phenomena and capable of including the socialist states. More important, his goal was not to contribute simply to the further refinement of the analysis of imperialism but to stimulate the exploration of strategic responses in the form of a novel model of development in the widest sense. pp.91-2


… he would later acknowledge that in his early work the verticality of all levels of social order had been taken for granted without asking what was at the root of verticality. He had focused on the behavioural manifestation of rank-dependent interaction as a form of conflict rather than exploitation. But the different intellectual climate brought about by the upheavals within peace research and the introduction of the concept of structural violence produced a shift in focus from the former to the latter. This was most dramatically evident by the publication of “A Structural Theory of Imperialism” (STI) in 1971, which unequivocally identified the new problematic as that of the violence of the global structure itself and not merely its manifestation as conflict. A retrospective comment by Galtung identified the essence of the shift: Referring in 1978 to “A Structural Theory of Aggression,” written in 1964, Galtung noted that had he written the paper later, he “would certainly have seen aggression that can be built into a social structure (as structural violence) and not only as something that comes out of a social structure.” (“Introduction”, EPR, 3, p.24)


The objective of the paper [STI] was to conceive of, explain and counteract inequality “as one of the major forms of structural violence” and develop a “theory of liberation” from a specific dominance system, in this case “imperialism.” (STI, p.437) The central premise was that the world consists of “Center” and “Periphery” nations, each of these containing its own center and periphery. … An imperialist relationship was defined as “a dominance relationship between collectivities, particularly between nations.” It was not simply a case of one state exercising power over another; the definitive feature was the establishment of a bridgehead within Periphery states by the center of the Center states – a center within the Periphery – that works for the ultimate benefit of both centers. For Galtung, imperialism was not the same as military domination or the threat of conquest; nor did it embrace the reductionism of “marxist-leninist theory,” which he read as an overly economistic model of imperialism. … Galtung viewed it as “a more general structural condition between two collectivities.” p.95


… the global social structure was seen to act as a disincentive to the development of empathy between the peripheries within Center and Periphery states, the periphery in the Center being effectively bought off througha mutually beneficial alliance with those who dominated it. A markedly lower gradient of inequality within Center states, compared to Periphery states, was obtained through welfare policies leading to improvements on most dimensions of living condition, with the exception of power. Galtung offered no evidence for this much debated hypothesis, the intended conclusion being that it was in the overall interest of imperialism that the interests of the periphery and the center in the Center state are at least partly commensurate. p.98


If two states with horizontal internal social relations were externally connected by a relation of dominance, then this would not constitute an imperialist relationship but one better described as looting or stealing. But if a secular increase in the living condition between two such states became apparent, then the researcher should be prompted to investigate the existence of imperialism. p.98


According to Galtung, there were two basic mechanisms (or principles) of imperialism: One reflected the interaction relationship between specific parties, and the other referred to the larger interaction structure. The first was that of the vertical interaction relation between centers and peripheries, assessed according to two factors: the value exchange between actors and the effects of this exchange within actors. p.99

The second mechanism of imperialism – the feudal interaction structure – has two principle features: First, multilateral interaction is monopolized by the Center state; second, interaction between Peripery states is virtually nonexistent, and their interaction with Center states is limited to bilateral relations. p.101


The difference between Galtung’s account and the supposedly more limited purview of the dependency theorists was also illustrated by a discussion of five types of imperialism: economic, political, military, communications, and cultural, … p.102


Galtung’s intended iconoclasm was bold but weakly formulated. The primacy of the economic factor was rejected, but he focused nonetheless almost exclusively on economic domination and exploitation. He borrowed heavily from the dependency literature and marxist historiography yet at the same time sought to be distinguished from these sources. What was described as a general theory of imperialism was in effect an impressionistic taxonomy of the key features of global political economy, … p.103


According to Brown (“Galtung and the Marxists on Imperialism” in Millenium: Journal of International Studies, 10(3) 1981, pp.220-28), the fundamental problem is the problematic character of Galtungian structuralism. Purporting to be an abstract, generalizable concept, Galtung’s “structure” was in fact primarily illustrated by reference to consequences of the European form of imperialism developed in the nineteenth century. By generalizing from the specific case, Galtung committed the very error that he attributed to Marxists. To be of value in its own terms, Galtung’s model had to be shown to be applicable under a variety of conditions in the empirical world, and this was not attempted. The inference that the external behaviour of specific actors is governed by an encompassing structure is itself plausible, but in Galtung’s case there was no consideration of the constant interplay of structure and action. The structure is created and from then on influences without being influenced. p.107  … Galtung wanted to avoid the depiction of a concrete structure that was in some sense historically unique from previous forms of domination; but in so doing, his notion of structure was stripped of explanatory substance. pp.107- 8


5. Constructivism

Galtung was not advocating the wholesale rejection of empiricism. He was agnostic with regard to the influential debate around positivism then going on in German sociological circles (the Positivismusstreit), preferring to explore the synthesis of  dialectics and positivism in a manner that reflected his attitude toward the political philosophies of liberalism and Marxism. Though he never displayed any interest in the complexities of Marxist dialectics, the juxtaposition of present and future within a scientific framework appealed to Galtung.

It was this combination that his new model of “trilateral science”, introduced in 1972, was intended to address. The objective was to explore modifications to orthodox social scientific methodology that would address the problems raised during the debates of the late 1960s. In his 1971 commentary on the Camelot episode, Galtung wrote of now looking differently at the goal of science. It was no longer seen as “anything abstract or isealistic called ‘objectivity’” but as something that could contribute to “a liberation process. … It is the task of science to participate on the side of the dominated party.” (‘Science and Development Assistance’, p.162)

The revised understanding of scientific activity hinged entirely on foregrounding values as a category of equal status to theory and data, the latter two being seen as the cornerstones of orthodox conceptions of science. Different forms of science could be conjured by variously juxtaposing the three categories of data, theory, and values. p.116


Effectively, Galtung was engaging in self-criticism. Whereas he had formerly presented empirical scientific method as a neutral arbiter of truth, which in the spirit of the early positivists was seen to have an emancipatory potential, it was now cast in the conservative role of a potential agent for the preservation of the social status quo. By excluding normative discourse, empirical science had been transformed from a critique of dogmatic reason into an instance of it. p.118


Galtung wanted to construct an alternative model of science that would free scientific procedure from its servility to data. He had identified what Habermas has called a social-technological “guiding interest of cognition” underpinning social scientific orthodoxy. In the process, an alternative conception of science guided by a “social-emancipatory” interest was anticipated. p.122


The key to the new understanding of science was the introduction of a third category of sentences into scientific procedure. To data and theory sentences were added value sentences. The critique of orthodox empiricism hinged on the claim that it secreted a value agenda but was epistemologically incapable of acknowledging the fact. Galtung’s response was to build values into the scientific process by depicting value sentences also as dichotomizers of world space into points that are either preferred or rejected. The problem with this procedure was his assertion that such sentences were “more or less valid” in a similar manner to data and theory sentences. However, Galtung sidestepped the issue of how to validate value sentences by claiming this to be the function of something called “axiological science”. What such a science entailed was not explained, although consensus, intersubjective acceptability (as for data sentences), and dedicibility from “more fundamental values” were canvassed as a means for validating norms. p.123


Constructivism – the comparison of theory and value sentences – was the category upon which the novelty of the reconstructed model of science supposedly rested. Yet, if theory sentences are inherently value-laden as Galtung admitted they might be, then constructivism becomes an entirely circular process given that no reference is made to an empirical reality. Constructivism merely entails the systematization of values; if realized, the values would produce a social reality that looked like this or that. p.125 …Yet, in contrast to the pragmatist model that implies that some connection values, theory and reality is necessary, Galtung’s account did not show how the corroboration of values was connected to the empirical world. Even then, the validity of value sentences existed only insofar as they might correspond with (be realizable within) either the empirical world or a hypothesized world. Validity reduces to plausibility. p.126


In spite of the interconnectedness of the components of trilateral scientific procedure, Galtung attempted to describe its conduct sequentially. But in so doing further problems were exposed. The first step in trilateral science was criticism – the comparison of data with values. ….

The second stage was empiricism – the comparison of data and theory. …

The third and fourth stages entailed the use of values to generate an image of a preferred world and the development of theory suitable to the task of hypothesizing a potential reality that contains the preferred world. The ground is then laid for the fifth activity of constructivism wherein values and theory are compared to assess the viability and attainability of the preferred world. Yet given Galtung’s earlier claim that no reference need be made to empirical reality, the model of a preferred reality can be assessed as either attainable or viable only according to criteria internal to it. In fact, any practicality to the constructivist vision emerges in a sixth, praxeological stage. The previous five stages – critique, analysis, goal formation, theory construction, and proposal making – are classified as “paperwork” and as such are not presumed to go much beyond traditional scientific activity. Galtung’s science is, however, in the business of creating new reality; science is politics and “politics is also science, precisely because it is concerned with bringing about consonance” (‘Empiricism, Criticism and Constructivism’ – revised in 1977, p.68). The final stage of trilateral science is “reality creation”, when consonance between all three types of sentences is achieved. By this stage, “consonance” has acquired a political content, since it refers to the realization of an alternative and preferred social reality. p.127


What trilateral science offered was no more than a systematic description of a process undertaken after values had been decided upon. The analysis of values was purely instrumental:  Were they realized within contemporary reality? If not, could a model that might realize them be devised? p.128


Against the universalist aspirations of orthodox science was posited an alternative vision of a “nonmissionary”, Buddhist model of science, the possibility of which was connected to the declining hegemony of Western imperialism and its theological corollaries. … In its place were the shadowy outlines of an alternative scientific practice and consequently another possible reality. Although the new scientific method – the rules governing the comparison of categories of sentences – may have universal applicability (although Galtung was ambiguous on this point), it was not initself intended overtly or covertly to legitimate a set of universal social values under the guise of truth. Rather, it consisted of an epistemology intended to fit a global social order characterized by value pluralism and the celebration of difference. p.130


As was the case with Galtung’s study of imperialism, perhaps it is a mistake to pay too much mind to the ostensible concerns of his reworking of the idea of science. Instead, it might be better understood metaphorically, as a plea for changing the style of utopian political discourse in order to place it on a more systematic footing through the application of a set of discursive rules. It was an argument, then, for the dissolution of the wall between science and politics. … Increasingly liberated from the constraints of orthodox protocols of science, Galtungian peace research revealed itself to be what its conservative critics have always suspected. No longer restricted to the exploration of ways and means for eradicating violent conflict, or the exploration of extending systemic tendencies toward global cooperation and integration, it was openly presented as the systematic exploration of an alternative world order – the global good life, made up, it would transpire, of a multiplicity of diverse communal and individual good lives.

There remained, however, that persistent lacuna: the normative framework that guided the search for an alternative reality. Were Galtung truly ensconced within contemporary postmodern discourse, this might now be dismissed as something beyond resolution without an unacceptable recourse to a teleological metanarrative. But Galtung was endeavouring to ground his normative outlook; there were foundations, and they lay in the concept of human needs. p.132


6. From Human Needs to Global Values

… Galtung drew upon a conceptual tool that appeared to provide a bridge across the fact-value and is-ought divides: human needs. It was needs-talk that he saw as enabling the connection of the structural critique of imperialism with the blueprinting of an alternative world order. In short, it provided a means for grounding the value amalgam of positive peace. pp.135-6


In a short paper published in 1975, Galtung reviewed ten broad “value dimensions,” derived antonymically from a set of negative social conditions, … The ten values and their antonyms were

1. Personal growth                                       Alienation

2. Diversity                                                  Uniformity

3. Socioeconomic growth                             Poverty

4. Equality                                                    Inequality

5. Social justice                                            Social injustice

6. Equity                                                       Exploitation

7. Autonomy                                                Penetration

8. Solidarity                                                  Fragmentation

9. Participation                                              Marginalization

10. Ecological balance                                  Ecological imbalance     p.136


Galtung was looking to construct goals on as least controversial a basis as possible. Yet, contrary to the stated objective of developing theory-free indicators that did not merely reflect means, he was effectively arguing for the identification of indicators of something – needs fulfillment – as the bases of goals, which were themselves inescapably normative. p.139


The defenders of different types of social formation would all argue that it is only within their preferred society that human needs are best understood and satisfied. In order for a theory of human needs to have critical effect, it must therefore be able to distinguish between true and false needs, a fact acknowledged by many needs theorists. Beyond identifying the most basic needs – the prerequisites for human existence – needs-talk is necessarily contingent upon a whole host of culturally and ideologically specific categories. p.140

Ostensibly, at least, needs-talk dovetails with the trilateral model of science, since it generates a set of value sentences. p.141


Galtung’s subsequent work revealed increasingly numerous but often still veiled hallmarks of Gandhism, in inverse proportion to a declining reliance upon orthodox sociological discourse. Writing in 1971, Galtung identified three significant principles in Gandhian thought: nonviolence (ahimsa), self-reliance (swadeshi), and self-realization, the first two being servants of the latter. (‘Gandhi and Conflictology’ p.126-7) Gandhi’s work was described as a bridge between the oriental concern with inner well-being and the occidental focus on social structure, although the latter is subordinated to the former. It is from Gandhi that Galtung took the concept of a nonviolent and nonexploitative, or horizontal, social structure, to be contrasted with an occidental tendency to develop vertical social relations that constitute a significant source of alienation and a barrier to self-realization. p.145


In contrast to his earlier enthusiasm for interdependence as a basis for extending the realm of peace, an example of an associative peace strategy, Galtung switched to advocating self-reliance as a precursor to interdependence. Structural transformation was now seen sometimes to require dissociation between social units, followed by autonomous development and eventual reassociation on a more equitable basis. p.149


Galtung’s presentation of an alternative development paradigm proceeded in a familiar manner: a critical description of a prevailing pattern of development, from which positive values could be antonymically derived and expressed in terms of the fulfillment of human needs. Two analytical frameworks were employed: a fourfold taxonomy of social structures that captured existing and potential models of social formation; and two broad developmental patterns – “alpha” and “beta”. Alpha represented the dominant paradigm of industrialized development. The beta pattern fused ideas derived from Gandhian thinking, oriental philosophy, and the concrete developmental practices of Cuba and Maoist and post-Maoist China that, unlike Soviet socialism, Galtung saw as still providing a genuine alternative to liberal capitalism. p.153


Three crucial elements were missing from Galtung’s vision of an alternative cosmology to challenge the hegemony of the bourgeois way of life: an explanation of the precise relationship between social cosmologies and the empirical social world; a compelling defense of the preferred values that overcomes the limitations of the concept of needs; and a clear indication of how the preferred vision is historically and practically connected to the hegemonic vision – in short, a theory of social change. p.158


7. The True Worlds

Galtung’s The True Worlds: A Transnationalist Perspective was published in 1980 as a volume in the series Preferred Worlds for the 1990s, commissioned by the World Order Models Project. p.163


Not intended to be simply an academic treatise, the text appeals to the critical impact of social structure on everyday life: violence, very broadly understood, connects with the most intimate of individual human experiences. In its varying discursive tone, The True Worlds reads as the output of a pamphleteer as much as a scholar.

Furthermore, there is hope. The reader is reminded of how crisis is written in Chinese – two characters representing the dialectic of danger and opportunity. … The question he posed was simply this: Can the world do better? pp.164-5


The True Worlds responds to this question by way of a descriptive adumbration of a preferred global social structure, in which philosophical differences between communities do not necessarily generate a pathology of direct or structural violence. Moral philosophy is sidestepped in favor of the more constructivist path of envisioning the structural accommodation of difference. The move is stalled, however, by the evident fact that the alternative world order is premised upon a set of universal norms – including diversity, equity, justice, and tolerance – the validity of which is taken to be self-evident. Above all, it is assumed that the global order exists, or should be so constructed, to satisfy the needs of all humanity. p.166


In spite of a sensitivity to constraints that the present imposes upon realizing an imagined future – the impact of “deeper social forces” – Galtung distinguished between the viability of a utopia were it to be attained and its attainability. “Freedom”, he declared, is “insight into sufficiency, not … necessity.” Liberation lay in the very act of refusing the iron cage of the past and present. p.167


While intending to present a set of values combined with theories that might show how they can be realized, Galtung openly conceded that we cannot simply identify a set of values and steer a social structure toward a known goal. …. Galtung was now acknowledging that societies are inherently dynamic through the interchange of structure, agency and values; structurally induced change that cannot be directly attributed to conscious action intersects with conscious intervention premised upon certain social values. p.168


Three fundamental changes were central to Galtung’s utopia: a shift away from the capitalist mode of production; a shift away from “bigness and verticality”, from alpha to beta; and a downgrading of the territorial mode of social organization. His vision could be distinguished from comparable varieties of utopianism by a refusal, in the name of eclecticism, to offer too fixed an alternative vision. … Galtung drew upon a range of critical accounts, including Marxism, but his essentially descriptive approach was incapable of identifying a politics of social transformation, although he did sketch the outlines of some strategies of transition from the actual to the preferred worlds … p.170


Classical libalism acknowledged but could not resolve the tension between having and being, and to this can be added an ecological problem: “Having may stand in the way of having, there may be limits or ceilings to growth.” Against the liberal understanding of social justice as an “equality of having” realized through growth, Galtung posited an account of social justice as the independence of what one has from what one is, again a distinction deemed applicable to individuals, nations, and states. p.173


Galtung’s discussion of structurally generated goals in The True Worlds essentially reproduces, in condensed form, the main themes of much of his work since the introduction of the concept of structural violence and the structural theory of imperialism. p.174


A structural perspective highlights the goals (values) of equity and autonomy. … By considering interaction patterns further structure-oriented values could be identified. … What was needed were complex multilateral and horizontal interaction patterns that reflected the values of :solidarity” and “participation”… By combining these with “autonomy” and “equity”, a structurally derived, fourfold lexicon of values can be generated. p.174


Galtung’s vision of a preferred world order is expressed in terms of the four societal types that we looked at in Chapter 6. The image he had in mind was a “world that is a model 4 global community of model 4 societies (which in turn are a collection of model 3 communities). In other words, a world where equity and diversity are the basic rules, a world where exploitation and repression are effectively counteracted – and also a world that would find sufficient two levels of organization, the domestic and the global.” p.177


The escape clause from the tension between equity and diversity was provided in the form of a principle of unhindered movement for individuals between communities. Consequently, Galtung’s vision required the decisive abandonment of orthodox conceptions of sovereign statehood and citizenship, although he made no attempt to consider the complex ethical issues emerging out of the conflict between the right to leave and a right to enter, between the cosmopolitan principle of free movement of peoples and the communitarian defense of rights of membership of bounded communities. His preferred world would to all intents and purposes be borderless, apparently without refugees and consisting of numerous small societies. p.179


Finally there would need to be some globalization in the form of a “central world authority” designed to carry out the essential planning and administrative functions that would necessarily arise from the territorial and political reorganization envisaged. The institutionalization of the principle of the global commons as a basis for managing global resources … would be one such function; another would be the development of a policing capacity… Ideally, peacekeeping should henceforth reflect the guiding principles of social organization: It would have to be symmetric, equitable, and unconstrained by traditional concepts of regional and state inviolability. p.179


The only evidence cited in support of claims to viability was the existential capacity of small communities “down to the size of one family or one person” to survive. The assumption of isomorphism was stretched to the extreme in the absence of more substantive argument.

A modicum of realism was restored in the recognition that the principle threats to viability lay in the various forms of violence. Galtung referred briefly to debates about the origins of violence in human social orders …, in particular the claim that dominance (structural violence) and aggression (direct violence) are the products of indelible biological or psychological human instincts. Such arguments were seen to reflect a Western, actor-oriented, social cosmology and were rejected by him on the grounds that whereas some human instincts – such as the search for food, shelter and procreation – were independent of historical and social context, the instinct for aggression was not. pp.180-1


… Galtung was resistant to the notion that a definitive historical agent could or should be identified. When all was said and done, this amounted to a rejection of the class politics of the orthodox Left. Although Galtung did himself subdivide humanity into two broad groups – the oppressed and nonoppressed, or exploiters and exploited – his argument also secreted an overriding ethical cosmopolitanism. His depiction of “overdevelopment” painted us all as victims, actual or potential, of the general phenomenon of “maldevelopment.” The principal weapon against the center-periphery structural formations that were the ultimate cause of violent maldevelopment was the doctrine of self-reliance. This carried a large, perhaps an impossible, burden in Galtung’s exploration of an alternative politics. Self-reliance was a general principle of social action and the bedrock of an alternative practice; it was the fundamental principle of peace politics. p.185


Galtung resorted ultimately to the restating of a comprehensive set of human needs that could be translated into world goals. True to the requirements of constructivism, this value set was used to criticize the present world order and judge proposals for an alternative world order, one example of which was offered up for scrutiny. But just as the constructivist model of science elided a defense of adopted values, so too did The True Worlds. A value set was posited, the present world was critically described (but not explained), and a blue-print of a preferred world was offered. Absent was the philosophical cement that might bind the disparate elements. The True Worlds did not provide a compelling argument in defense of its normative foundations, offering little to persuade the skeptical reader. In this respect, it reads as a strangely disengaged text. p.186


Nonetheless, the various silences and inadequacies of Galtung’s sweeping vision do not undermine the undoubted saliency of many of the concerns he expresses. The True Worlds espoused an antipolitics of decency that was to resonate with currents of dissident thought that threaded through the momentous revolts against oppression in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s, only to fade with the onset of Westernization. … Galtung’s prescience is reflected in the now burgeoning literature on alternative paths to global and regional security that is reflective of the internal and external challenges to the state as the primary form of social organization and provider of security and welfare in the post-Cold War era.

Galtung was certainly not alone in daring to suppose that we are approaching, or should be seriously considering, the “end of sovereignty”; … p.187


The True Worlds was only a stopping point on a still continuing journey. In his more recent work Galtung turns to the cultural realm in his explorations of the sources of violence and the prospects for peace. In so doing, he shifts his peace research even further away from its original positivist certitude and toward what we might now describe as a postmodern ambiguity laced, paradoxically perhaps, with a greater sensitivity to the question of values and ethics. The key to this combination is Buddhism. p.188


8. Peace as Nirvana

In Galtung’s eyes, the West is shifting from expansion to “postmodern” contraction. It is an exhausted, deeply troubled civilization: “vertical, individualist, expansionist, exploitative on the world level, demoralized, full of contradictions.” An adequate explanation of the cyclical fortunes of the West requires an investigation of its underlying “social cosmology”. By this is meant the “vast, ephemeral and deep” states or processes – what Galtung sometimes calls the “deep ideology”, civilizational program, or “social grammar” – of a specific civilization. The cosmology of a civilization may not be apparent at the surface level characterized by facts and artifacts and where the gloss of difference within and between societies may mask underlying invariances. Social cosmology cannot be simply comprehended in Cartesian terms as the realm of the ideal, distinct from the material; it is embedded partly in “the deep structures of the material, human and non-human organization of the societies in that civilization” and partly in “the deep ideology, the world maps, Weltanschauungen, cosmovisiones, of that civilization. … Social cosmology is to a civilization as “the psychological construct of a personality” is to a human being. Within a cosmology lies a civilizationally specific understanding “of the final goal, the ultimate telos of humankind.” The social cosmology of a civilization can appear as natural, so normal as to be unquestioned and possibly even unknown as such to the inhabitants of a civilization. p.192


… it can be said that Galtung is exploring an exclusionary, totalizing metanarrative of the West that threads through all realms of social thought and practice to cement together an apparent cacophony of voices. It is this dominant voice that secretes definitive accounts of intellectual and social practice. p.193


… Galtung sees the anticipation of impending crisis as part of Western social cosmology itself. It reflects a “dramatic,” cyclical conception of time with at least seven elements: paradise-fall-darkness-enlightenment-progress-crisi-catharsis. It is, he has recently suggested, a Christian conception of time that post-Enlightenment linearity obscures but does not eliminate. Notions of progress are always connected with a sense of impending crisis or apocalypse, and the source of threats to peace is seen to emanate invariably from outside of a peaceful center. Galtung reads the constant reproduction of an essential dualism – good within, evil without – into such notions as “the triumph of the Lord,” the just war, “the glory of the nation,” the conquest of nature, the threat of the barbarian, and so on. But the evil outside is also detected within the West in the form of peripheral ideologies and religions, such as Islam, Marxism, and Judaism, which are perceived as threats to the dominant cosmology and exhibit different cycles of expansion and contraction. p.201


For Galtung, the irreducible cosmology of the West can be grasped through the theistic metaphor of the angst-ridden individual struggling to achieve redemption and eternal salvation by the grace of an omnipotent Creator. This would explain the definitive occidental preoccupation with converting the generalized “other” to the right state of mind and social order. Put differently, it is the basis upon which the Occident is deemed to be a civilizational form that engenders violence and, in its expansionary mode, a violent civilization. p.201


Galtung’s more recent work is distinctive because of its focus on things cultural but also because that focus has produced an uncharacteristic reticence to move very far down the prescriptive path. Gone are the days of constructing blueprints of preferred world orders or presenting of definitive syntheses of the best features of all ideologies and epistemologies, of which The True Worlds was exemplary. Equally, the foundational authority of a taxonomy of needs appears also to be crumbling. It is now presented as a means for constructing images of human beings that are more likely to engender human-centered social theory and practice and for providing an inner circle of concretized values around which theoretical explorations of such things as development, social structures, and culture can revolve. The key word is dialogue – between epistemologies, cultures, and civilizations. It is a loaded term; given that the category of cultural violence presupposes a critique of prevailing civilizational forms and cultural discourses, the purpose of such dialogue is equally necessarily political. “Dialogue,” writes Galtung, “is not neutral, not above or below politics, it is politics.” As with all of the categories in Galtungian peace research, the status of dialogue remains ambiguously poised between the analytical, the normative, and the political. … Here we see the apparent abandonment of objectivity on the part of the researcher although, to confuse matters, at around the same time Galtung was revivifying an earlier image of peace researcher as paraphysician, guided by some form of Hippocratic oath, neither servant nor aloof expert and beholden to none, be they the peace movement or the establishment. p.203


Buddhism’s interpretation of the “great unity of sentient life” blurs the dualisms of subject-object, reality-consciousness, and creator-created that are characteristic of occidental thought. There is nothing corresponding to “ A Prime Mover, some lever or button that can be pressed or pushed starting a chain of processes.” Reality and identity are in a perpetual process of becoming: “The world is ebbing and flowing, not a rigid structure of global architectonics – but precisely a process based on diversity in symbiotic interaction.” Such an understanding requires the abandoning of a search for the contradiction-free pure social system, a set of unequivocal first principles, or final articles of faith.

The implications for Galtung’s peace research are dramatic. There is no certitude of successful mastery of reality, no blueprint that can capture reality in all its dynamic complexity. Instead, peace research and peace action become a constant striving, a series of “many small but coordinated efforts along several dimensions at the same time, starting in all kinds of corners of material and spiritual reality remembering that the system will hit back in a complex web of interrelations.” Buddhism’s dynamic holism engenders a focus on process over structure. The very organization of Buddhist thought is more conducive to speech and action that “could lead to higher levels of world peace, social development, human enlightenment and nature balance.” Against this Galtung acknowledges that the Buddhist outlook can engender calm fatalism and retreat. The Occident and peace research may well need Buddhism, but they can offer it something in return. p.213


In Galtung’s account of the constitutive assumptions of the dominant Western social cosmology, we might hear the echoes of various postmodern resistances to exclusionary intellectual practices. Yet, Galtung’s analysis of cosmology is itself a large exercise in definitive essentialism premised upon a core dualism of Occident and Orient, even when belatedly moderated by the admission that it risks reductionism. The critique of the Occident and the depiction of the oriental other are both marked by the forcing of description and analysis into a limited set of reifying categories justified in terms of the apparent suggestiveness of the exercise. … The usage of the categories of culture, civilization, and cosmology tends to suffer from a superficiality, and at times a crassness, that belies the analytical significance of a focus on “deep” civilizational codes. p.218


At this historical juncture, the appeal of the diffuse concept of nirvana as a metaphor for positive peace is understandable. It enables the retention of moral and practical purpose, without requiring the identification of some definitive end point that can be authoritatively known. The gentle spiral of Mahayana optimism replaces the certitude of the upward-pointing occidental arrow of progress. Once again, Galtung’s peace research adjusts to fit with a shifting intellectual milieu, if never quite to accord with it. p.220


9. Conclusion

Finding a pigeonhole for Galtung is not easy, and his writings consistently suggest that this is how he likes it. This could be interpreted as a sign of healthy eclecticism, but a less generous reading would detect an evasiveness the price of which is a lack of substance – a philosophical glue holding the pieces together. I have argued throughout that the origins of this inadequacy lay in the making of Galtungian peace research within the positivist scientific tradition. In the spirit of the classical exponents of “positive philosophy” (according to Marcuse, itself a contradiction in adjecto) he refused to bury his peace research in metaphysics or contemporary ideological debate yet proclaimed the redemptive power of scientific knowledge. The shadow of classical positivism was plain to see in Galtung’s application of a technocratic mind-set to the search for a moral and political condition called peace. In so doing he adopted a form of discourse that was incapable of articulating its own normative commitment and could only assert the rightness of seeking global peace on the basis of observable cooperation and integration between discrete human collectivities. In fact, there was little attempt to substantiate even this claim, although it must be said that at the same time sections of the international relations scholarly community were endeavoring to do just that. What Galtung did was to tap into that growing sense of increasing global interdependence and proclaim the empirical extension of community across the boundaries of states as indicative of a potential condition of positive peace, … p.223


What then of the later work produced after the impact of the radical critique – the second phase of Galtungian peace research? Were the two central problems of an inadequately articulated and hardly defended normative perspective or the lack of a theory of global social and political change resolved? On the surface, it certainly appeared as if Galtung had accepted the criticisms of his scientism. Utilizing a mixture of Gandhian ethics and structuralist terminology, he went on to develop a distinctly more critical account of the existing world order that was first signaled in the revision of the concepts of violence and peace. The introduction of the concept of structural violence was destructive of the earlier apolitical emphasis on the symmetry of conflict and decisively recast the peace researcher in the role of the defender of the oppressed, no matter who they were. His language revealed a shift in focus away from the problem of direct conflict and its starkest manifestation – thermonuclear war – toward the general problem of social injustice on a global scale. The problems of peace and development became inseparably intertwined. p.227


More sobering still is the Buddhist-inspired acknowledgment that the search for peace is a difficult and perpetual process. This is not to say that the third stage is entirely distinctive from the first two. The approach is still avowedly holistic, only now the totality of humankind is expressed more in the spiritually suffused language of Buddhism than in the mechanical atonality of systems-theoretic functionalism or the crudities of a marxian-styled structuralism.

The most significant contribution of the third phase of Galtung’s peace research, then, is the provision – if not the complete explication – of a moral-philosophic dimension. From an initial rejection of peace philosophy, Galtung arrived at a point where he needs to appeal for peace research to open up to the influences of “the humanities, history of ideas, philosophy and theology.” p.234


Such eclecticism is further underscored in the third phase by the combination – strange at first sight – of an overt spiritualism with a return to the more orthodox issues of defense and security, albeit in the guise of defensive defense and transarmament. p.234


If the range of themes found within Galtung’s work can be contained within the rubric of peace research, then all contemporary critical writing on the global dimensions of social life warrants inclusion. A distinctive province of peace research becomes difficult, perhaps impossible, to discern. The label peace research now indicates little more than an imprecise normative orientation the content of which is continually contested. p.237







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