Johan Galtung
Johan Galtung - Trento.JPG
Galtung in 2012
Born (1930-10-24) 24 October 1930 (age 92)
Oslo, Norway
Alma materUniversity of Oslo
Known forPrincipal founder of peace and conflict studies
AwardsRight Livelihood Award (1987)
Scientific career
FieldsSociology, peace and conflict studies
InstitutionsColumbia University, University of Oslo, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Founder and Director of Peace Research Institute Oslo
In office
Succeeded byAsbjørn Eide

Johan Vincent Galtung (born 24 October 1930) is a Norwegian sociologist who is the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies.[1] He was the main founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in 1959 and served as its first director until 1970. He also established the Journal of Peace Research in 1964.

In 1969, he was appointed to the world's first chair in peace and conflict studies, at the University of Oslo. He resigned his Oslo professorship in 1977 and has since held professorships at several other universities; from 1993 to 2000 he taught as Distinguished Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Hawaii. He was the Tun Mahathir Professor of Global Peace at the International Islamic University Malaysia until 2015.[2]


Galtung speaking at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City in September 2012.
Galtung speaking at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City in September 2012.

Galtung was born in Oslo. He earned the cand. real.[3] degree in mathematics at the University of Oslo in 1956, and a year later completed the mag. art. (PhD)[3] degree in sociology at the same university.[4] Galtung received the first of thirteen honorary doctorates in 1975.[5]

Galtung's father and paternal grandfather were both physicians. The Galtung name has its origins in Hordaland, where his paternal grandfather was born. Nevertheless, his mother, Helga Holmboe, was born in central Norway, in Trøndelag, while his father was born in Østfold, in the south. Galtung has been married twice, and has two children by his first wife Ingrid Eide, Harald Galtung and Andreas Galtung, and two by his second wife Fumiko Nishimura, Irene Galtung and Fredrik Galtung.[6]

Galtung experienced World War II in German-occupied Norway, and as a 12-year-old saw his father arrested by the Nazis. By 1951, he was already a committed peace mediator, and elected to do 18 months of social service in place of his obligatory military service. After 12 months, Galtung insisted that the remainder of his social service be spent in activities relevant to peace.[7]


Upon receiving his mag. art. degree, Galtung moved to Columbia University, in New York City, where he taught for five semesters as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology.[7] In 1959, Galtung returned to Oslo, where he founded the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). He was the institute's director until 1969.[8]

In 1964, Galtung led PRIO to establish the first academic journal devoted to Peace Studies: the Journal of Peace Research.[8] In the same year, he assisted in the founding of the International Peace Research Association.[9] In 1969, he left PRIO for a position as professor of peace and conflict research at the University of Oslo, a position he held until 1978.[8]

He was the director general of the International University Centre in Dubrovnik and helped to found and lead the World Future Studies Federation.[10][11] He has held visiting positions at other universities, including Santiago, Chile, the United Nations University in Geneva, and at Columbia, Princeton and the University of Hawaii.[12] In 2014, he was appointed as the first Tun Mahathir Professor of Global Peace at the International Islamic University Malaysia.[13]

Economist and fellow peace researcher Kenneth Boulding has said of Galtung that his "output is so large and so varied that it is hard to believe that it comes from a human".[14] He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.[15]

In 1993, he co-founded TRANSCEND: A Peace Development Environment Network.[16][17] In 1987, he was given the Right Livelihood Award.

Work and views

Conflict Triangle

In Galtung's 1969 paper, "Violence, Peace and Peace Research,"[18] he presents his theory of the Conflict Triangle, a framework used in the study of peace and conflict, with the purpose of defining the three key elements of violence that form this "triangle." The theory is based on the principle that peace must be defined by widely accepted social goals, and that any state of peace is characterized by the absence of violence. When a conflict has features of all three areas of violence, the result is a more consolidated, static state of violence in a social system, which may include a conflict or a nation-state, whereas the absence of these three typologies of violence results in peace.

Structural Violence

Structural Violence, also referred to as social injustice, is defined as injustice and inequality built into the structure of society, resulting in unequal power and, subsequently, imbalanced life chances. There is no requirement for a clear actor to be defined as committing the violence, rather it is embedded within the institutions of the society, where the power to decide the distribution of resources is uneven. Rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs. Structural violence is increased in situations where low income individuals also suffer in the rank dimensions of education, health, and power. This is due to an overall consolidation of factors in the social structure, resulting in a high correlation between social class and disempowerment. Structural violence can be recognized through its relative stability, having been built into the social structure. This can make structural violence difficult to ascertain, despite its often vast consequences. This concept has been applied in a large number of cases, some of the most notable are listed below.

Akhil Gupta argued in 2012[19] that structural violence has been the key influence in the nature and distribution of extreme suffering in India, driven by the Indian state in its alleged corruption, overly bureaucratic standards of governance used to exclude the middle and working classes from the political system through a system of politicized poverty.

Jacklyn Cock's 1989 paper[20] in the Review of African Political Economy applied Galtung's theory of structural violence, analysing the role of militarized society under the apartheid regime of South Africa in the development of patriarchal values that is a form of structural violence against women. Cock found that tacit misdirection of women in society by its leadership focused their energies toward the direct and indirect incorporation of the patriarchal regime in order to maintain the status quo.

Mats Utas claimed[21] that even those youth in Liberia indirectly unaffected by direct violence in the civil war of 1989-1996 suffered from structural violence in the form of association with different blocs, leading to poverty, joblessness and marginalisation effects.

Cultural Violence

Cultural violence is defined as any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimise violence in its direct or structural form. Unlike direct and structural violence, then, cultural violence is a foundational principle for extended conflict. The existence of prevailing or prominent social norms make direct and structural violence seem natural or at least acceptable, and serves to explain how prominent beliefs can become so embedded in a given culture that they function as absolute and inevitable and are reproduced uncritically across generations. Galtung expanded on the concept of cultural violence in a 1990 paper[22] also published in the Journal of Peace Research. This concept has been applied in a limited number of cases, with most occurring after Galtung's follow up paper in 1990,[22] some of the most notable of which are listed below.

In Ed Husain's 2007 book[23] The Islamist, seminal extremist literature such as Sayyid Qutb's Milestones is highlighted as being particularly influential on many young Muslims in terms of defining their identity and life goals, in which the book embodies the principles outlined whereby there is a cultural imperative for violence built into the societal values or cultural values of Islam through such extremist literature.

Gregory Phillips argues in his 2003 book, Addictions and Healing in Aboriginal Country,[24] that resistance to the Western medical sphere driven by previous atrocities committed against the Aboriginal community has led to a fierce resistance effort against modern medicine, addiction treatment and perhaps fuels a desire to seek out drugs and illicit substances as a starting point of addiction. Wide scale suspicion against medical practitioners and government representatives has become engendered in the Aboriginal community.

In Enduring Violence: Ladina Women's Lives in Guatemala,[25] the 2011 book by Cecilia Menjívar, it is argued that the preexisting cultural conditions of mediania, or half and half, agriculture led to women facing large scale cultural violence due to high rents, low returns and high required investment with additionally harsh conditions due to the conflict in Guatemala. Given the patriarchal culture of Guatemala, any earnings would go to the partner of the working woman, leaving a large poverty gap enshrined in the demographic diversity of the country.

Direct Violence

Direct Violence is characterised as having an actor that commits the violence, and is thus able to be traced back to persons as actors. Direct violence shows less stability, given it is subject to the preference sets of individuals, and thus is more easily recognised. Direct violence is the most visible, occurring physically or verbally, and the victim and the offender can be clearly identified. Direct violence is highly interdependent with structural and cultural violence: cultural and structural violence causes direct violence which on the other hand reinforces the former ones. This concept has been applied in a large number of cases, some of which are listed below.

A 2011 paper[26] by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) demonstrated the widespread nature of child marriage in South Asia. The ICRW highlighted marriage before the age of 18 as a fundamental human rights violation, one that leads to early childbearing, with significantly higher maternal mortality and morbidity rates as well as higher infant mortality rates amongst women. The paper most directly presented evidence to show that child brides are at heightened risk of violence in the home.

In Matthew Chandler's 2009 paper[27] on so-called "non-violent" techniques utilised by Hezbollah still include forms of Direct Violence, most notably the threat of violence toward Fouad Siniora's allies after his 2008 order to dismantle the Hezbollah telecommunications network in 2008, which led to the freezing of the order. Further, Hezbollah are argued to have used their operation of social services, in lieu of government operations, as a ransom for support as well as rewarding their fighters with guaranteed healthcare and support for their families. Chandler argues this is due to opposition within the group to harming Lebanese civilians, who they view as "their own", or exacerbating conflict through civil war.

In 2005, Steven Wright made the case[28] for Peacekeeping efforts to be regarded as violence due to increasing use of techniques such as pre-interrogation treatment, and the use of non-lethal weapons such as tear gas for crowd dispersal and plastic bullets, which he terms "torture-lite", being increasingly common in peacekeeping manuals across a number of nation-states and supranational organisations.

Reinforcing Factors

Galtung focuses a section of the paper on the means of direct and structural violence, in particular, developing groups of factors that may be included as types of such forms and methods of maintaining and reinforcing the mechanisms of such violence. In terms of reinforcing factors, Galtung identifies six key areas:

Linear Ranking Order
Systems in which there is an open and complete ranking of actors leaves no doubt as to the actor who is ranked more highly, and is thus a mechanism of structural violence due to the reinforcement of an existing power dynamic.
Acyclical Interaction Pattern
Systems in which all actors are connected via a one-way ‘correct’ path of interaction, where outcomes are structurally dependent on using this system in the intended way of its design. This makes structural systems stable, as change can only be achieved through this consolidated power-seeking and power-retaining system.
Rank-Centrality Correlation
Within the social system, actors that are higher ranked are more central within the system itself, reinforcing their importance to the status quo as well as their incentives to maintain it.
(4) System Congruence
Social systems are made up of similar components, allowing those who are ranked highly and are successful at mobilising one system shifting from a comparative advantage within one system to an absolute advantage over all systems of desired operation.
Rank Concordance
Actors that are ranked highly within one metric, such as income, are also ranked highly on other metrics such as education and health. This congruence is also present in actors ranked low within these metrics, and serves to limit mobility within the social system.
Interlevel High Rank Coupling
Collaboration amongst the highest ranks results in the system being defined in such a way that benefits the most powerful actors, usually through a sub optimally ranked representative (not the highest ranked actor), which limits allegations of system consolidation by the most powerful.

Beyond Galtung's initial paper and thesis, scholars have applied the Conflict Triangle to a broad array of conflicts, struggles and occupations since 1969, and retroactively.

Criticism of the model

Galtung's Conflict Triangle and Peace Research paper are widely cited as the foundational pieces of theory[29] within peace and conflict studies. However, they are not without criticism. Galtung uses very broad definitions of violence, conflict and peace, and applies the terms of mean both direct and indirect, negative and positive, and violence in which one cannot distinguish actors or victims, which serves to limit the direct application of the model itself.

Galtung uses a positivist approach,[30] in that he assumes that every rational tenet of the theory can be verified, serving to reject social processes beyond relationships and actions. This approach enforces a paradigm of clear-cut, currently testable propositions as the ‘whole’ of the system, and thus is often deemed reductionist. Galtung also wields an explicit normative orientation in the paper, in which there is a weighting toward evaluative statements that may show bias or simply opinion, or indeed a trend toward the institutions and concepts of peace in the West, which may serve to limit the applicability of the model more widely.


Galtung first conceptualized peacebuilding by calling for systems that would create sustainable peace. The peacebuilding structures needed to address the root causes of conflict and support local capacity for peace management and conflict resolution.[31] Galtung has held several significant positions in international research councils and has been an advisor to several international organisations. Since 2004, he has been a member of the Advisory Council of the Committee for a Democratic UN.

Galtung is strongly associated with the following concepts:

Criticism of the United States

In 1973, Galtung criticised the "structural fascism" of the US and other Western countries that make war to secure materials and markets, stating: "Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it's spread in this way to other countries it's called imperialism", and praised Fidel Castro's Cuba in 1972 for "break[ing] free of imperialism's iron grip". Galtung has stated that the US is a "killer country" guilty of "neo-fascist state terrorism" and compared the US to Nazi Germany for bombing Kosovo during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.[32][33]

In an article published in 2004, Galtung predicted that the US empire will "decline and fall" by 2020. He expanded on this hypothesis in his 2009 book titled The Fall of the US Empire - and Then What? Successors, Regionalization or Globalization? US Fascism or US Blossoming?.[34][35]

Views on Communist regimes

During his career, Galtung statements and views have drawn criticism including his criticism of Western countries during and after the Cold War and what his critics perceived as a positive attitude to the Soviet Union, Cuba and Communist China. A 2007 article by Bruce Bawer published by the City Journal magazine[32] and a subsequent article in February 2009 by Barbara Kay in the National Post[33] criticised Galtung's opinion of China during the rule of Mao Zedong. China, according to Galtung, was "repressive in a certain liberal sense", but he insisted "the whole theory about what an 'open society' is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of 'democracy'—and it will take a long time before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects."[32] Calling Galtung a "lifelong enemy of freedom", Bawer said Galtung discouraged Hungarian resistance against the Soviet invasion in 1956, and criticized his description in 1974 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov as "persecuted elite personages".[32]

Views on Jews and Israel

Galtung has recommended that people should read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated antisemitic text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination.[36] In defending his claims that Jews control American media companies, Galtung cited an article published by National Vanguard, a neo-Nazi organization.[36] Galtung's rhetoric has been criticized by Terje Emberland, a historian at the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities in Oslo, and Øystein Sørensen, a University of Oslo historian known for his scholarship on conspiracy theories.[36] Asked by NRK about his controversial remarks, Galtung reiterated his recommendation that people should read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[36] Galtung rejects that he is anti-Semitic.[36]

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz accused Galtung in May 2012 of antisemitism for (1) suggesting the possibility of a link between the 2011 Norway attacks and Israel's intelligence agency Mossad; (2) maintaining that "six Jewish companies" control 96% of world media; (3) identifying what he contends are ironic similarities between the banking firm Goldman Sachs and the conspiratorial antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; and (4) theorizing, although not justified, antisemitism in post–World War I Germany was a predictable consequence of German Jews holding influential positions.[37] As a result of such statements, TRANSCEND International, an organisation co-founded by Galtung, released a statement in May 2012 attempting to clarify his opinions.[38] On August 8, 2012, the World Peace Academy in Basel, Switzerland announced it was suspending Galtung from its organization, citing what it posited were his "reckless and offensive statements to questions that are specifically sensitive for Jews."[39] Galtung said the claims were "smearing and libel",[40][41]

Selected awards and recognitions

Selected works

Galtung has published more than a thousand articles and over a hundred books.[44]

See also


  1. ^ John D. Brewer, Peace processes: a sociological approach, p. 7, Polity Press, 2010
  2. ^ "Public Lecture: "Seeking Peace from Resolving Conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar and Sri Lanka" by Prof. Dr. Johan Galtung". Archived from the original on 2015-06-03. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  3. ^ a b "CV_Galtung". Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  4. ^ "Johan Galtung", Norsk Biografisk Leksikon
  5. ^ "Johan Galtung". Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  6. ^ "Genealogical data for Johan Galtung". Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
  7. ^ a b Life of Johan Galtung (in Danish)
  8. ^ a b c "PRIO biography for Johan Galtung". Archived from the original on 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  9. ^ History of the IPRA Archived 2011-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ (E. Boulding 1982: 323)
  11. ^ Andersson, Jenny (2018). The future of the world: Futurology, futurists, and the struggle for the post-Cold War imagination. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198814337.
  12. ^ "Dagens Nyheter 2003-01-15". Archived from the original on 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  14. ^ (K. Boulding 1977: 75)
  15. ^ "Gruppe 7: Samfunnsfag (herunder sosiologi, statsvitenskap og økonomi)" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Interview - Johan Galtung". 27 May 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  18. ^ Galtung, Johan (1969). "Violence, Peace and Peace Research". Journal of Peace Research. 6 (3): 167–191. doi:10.1177/002234336900600301. S2CID 143440399.
  19. ^ Gupta, Akhil (2012). Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence and Poverty in India. Duke University Press.
  20. ^ Cock, Jacklyn (1989). "Keeping the Fires Burning: Militarization and the Politics of Gender in South Africa". Review of African Political Economy. 16 (45–46): 50–64. doi:10.1080/03056248908703825. hdl:10539/8529.
  21. ^ Utas, Mats (2003). "Sweet Battlefields: Youth and the Liberian Civil War". Uppsala University Dissertations in Cultural Anthropology.
  22. ^ a b Galtung, Johan (1990). "Cultural Violence". Journal of Peace Research. 27 (3): 291–305. doi:10.1177/0022343390027003005. S2CID 220989188.
  23. ^ Husain, Ed (2007). The Islamist. Penguin.
  24. ^ Philips, Gregory (2003). Addictions and Healing in Aboriginal Country.
  25. ^ Menjívar, Cecilia (2011). Enduring Violence.
  26. ^ Malhotra, Anju. "Solutions to End Child Marriage" (PDF). ICRW.
  27. ^ Chandler, Matthew (2009). "When armed combatants employ nonviolent action: A case study of Hezbollah". ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. ProQuest 304844175.
  28. ^ Wright, Steven (2005). "Violent Peacekeeping: The Rise and Rise of Repressive Techniques and Technologies" (PDF). Politics and Ethics Review. 1: 60–69. doi:10.1177/1743453X0500100106. S2CID 219960032.
  29. ^ Brewer, John D. (2010). Peace processes: a Sociological Approach. Polity Press.
  30. ^ Lawler, Peter (1995). A Question of Values: Johan Galtung's Peace Research. Lynne Rienner.
  31. ^ PEACEBUILDING & THE UNITED NATIONS Peacebuilding Support Office, United Nations
  32. ^ a b c d Bawer, Bruce (Summer 2007). "The Peace Racket". City Journal. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  33. ^ a b Barbarians within the gate by Barbara Kay, National Post, February 18, 2009.[dead link]
  34. ^ Prof. J. Galtung: 'US empire will fall by 2020' on YouTube Russia Today.
  35. ^ On the Coming Decline and Fall of the US Empire by Johan Galtung, Transnational Foundation and Peace and Research (TFF), January 28, 2004.
  36. ^ a b c d e Zondag, Martin H. W. (2012-04-24). "– En trist sorti for Galtung". NRK (in Norwegian Bokmål).
  37. ^ Aderet, Ofer (30 April 2012). "Pioneer of global peace studies hints at link between Norway massacre and Mossad". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  38. ^ "TRANSCEND International's Statement Concerning the Label of anti-Semitism Against Johan Galtung". TRANSCEND International. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  39. ^ Weinthal, Benjamin (August 9, 2012). "Swiss group suspends 'anti-Semitic' Norway scholar". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on August 12, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  40. ^ "STELLUNGNAHME/035: Professor Galtung zu den Vorwürfen des Antisemitismus (Johan Galtung)". Schattenblick. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  41. ^ "Grenzach-Wyhlen: Zwei Vorträge mit Johan Galtung". Südkurier. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  42. ^ "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden".
  43. ^ "Jamnalal Bajaj Awards Archive". Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.
  44. ^ TRANSCEND biography on Johan Galtung
  45. ^ "Johan Galtung's Publications 1948-2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 September 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2012.