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Peace and Violence: Theory and Concepts

This solution covers Johan Galtung's theory of peace and violence and introduces key concepts such as negative and positive peace, types of violence (direct,indirect, cultural and structural). This would be useful for students of peace and conflict, war and peace, and potentially for peace education and conflict theory courses.

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The theory of peace has undergone changes since 1964 and Galtung's views on peace and violence have changed to a broadened focus on the causes and effects of violence and peace. Galtung's original 1964 position was generally accepted though not without challenges. The main challenges came from critical social theorists who somehow did not agree with the whole peace project. Between 1964-1971 Galtung published many theoretical papers based on his structural theory, along themes such as aggression (1964), institutionalised conflict resolution (1965), non-violence (1965), integration (1968), violence, peace and peace research (1969), structural and direct violence (1971), and, imperialism (1971). One prominent idea that comes out of these papers is that an adequate understanding of violence is required in order to understand and define peace. So, Galtung moved away from the actor-oriented explanation of peace and violence to structure-oriented explanation where the central idea was that violence exists because of the structure and the actors merely carry out that violence. Galtung (1969) defines violence as being "present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realisations are below their potential realisation" (p. 168). This definition is much wider than violence as being merely somatic or direct and includes structural violence. This extended definition of violence leads to an extended definition of peace, where peace is not merely and absence of direct violence (negative peace) but also absence of structural violence (positive peace) (Figure 1 see attachment 1). Structural violence stems from violence in the structure of society, rather than the actor-generated personal and direct violence.

By relating violence to the structure of society, Galtung created a connection between peace, conflict and development research. The notion of structural violence is also relevant in conflict theory and development research because its social justice connotations. Galtung goes even further to state that since personal and direct violence are often built into the social structure, it is much better to focus on the bigger picture revealed by structural violence as this would reveal the causes and effects of violence and conditions for peace. Following from here, the purpose of peace research is to create conditions for promoting both types of peace.

Hakan Wiberg (1981) traced the evolution of the notions of negative and positive peace and is of the view that Galtung expanded the concept of positive peace to include structural violence in his1969 (Galtung, 1969) paper, after Schmid's (1968) article which maintained that much of peace research is based on negative peace in line with the needs of the power holders and that positive peace is devoid of concrete content. Therefore, peace research serves the purpose of the powerful. Schmid's line of argument is still prevalent today in some writings, such as Gur-Ze-ev (2001) who believe that the entire project of peace education is doomed to ...

Solution Summary

In this solution, the word peace is the central focus. It is often stated that, the word peace is very often used and abused and that since it lacks an agreeable definition and difficult to conceptualise, it is unreal and utopian. The word peace conjures images of harmony and bliss in psychological, social and political sense. These images seem to conflict with the reality of a chaotic and non-harmonious world. The field of peace research is an attempt to reach towards a world which is peaceful or at least free of violence. Peace Research carries a normative value of striving towards peace, not only in international relations but also in domestic politics.