Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung (born October 24, 1930, in Oslo, Norway) is a Norwegian sociologist and a principal founder of the discipline of Peace and conflict studies.

Academic career

Galtung earned the "candidatus realium" degree in mathematics at the University of Oslo in 1956. A year later he completed the "Magister artium" degree in sociology at the same university (the magister artium degree is considered approximately equal to the PhD degree, although formally lower than Norwegian doctoral degrees, which are considered higher than the PhD degree). Galtung received the first of seven honorary doctorates in 1975. [ [ Johan Galtung's Curriculum Vitae] ]

Upon receiving his "Magister artium" 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. [ [ Life of Johan Galtung (in Danish)] ] In 1959, Galtung returned to Oslo, where he founded the International Peace Research Institute (PRIO). He served as the institute's director until 1969, and saw the institute develop from a department within the "Institutt for samfunnsforskning" into an independent research institute with enabling funds from the Norwegian Ministry of Education. [ [ PRIO biography for Johan Galtung] ] In 1964, Galtung led PRIO to establish the first academic journal devoted to Peace Studies: the "Journal of Peace Research". [ [ PRIO biography for Johan Galtung] ] In the same year, he assisted in the founding of the International Peace Research Association. [ [ History of the IPRA] ] 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. [ [ PRIO biography for Johan Galtung] ] He then served as the director general of the International University Centre in Dubrovnik, also serving as the president of the World Future Studies Federation. [(E. Boulding 1982: 323)] He has also held visiting positions at other universities, including Santiago in Chile, United Nations University in Geneva, and at Columbia, Princeton and the University of Hawaii. [ [ "Dagens Nyheter" 2003-01-15.] ] He has served at so many universities that he has "probably taught more students on more campuses around the world than any other contemporary sociologist." [(E. Boulding 1982: 323)]

Galtung is an amazingly prolific researcher, having made contributions to many fields in sociology. He has published more than 1000 articles and over 100 books. [ Some of the books even read by others. [ TRANSCEND biography on Johan Galtung] ] 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". [(K. Boulding 1977: 75)]

Activist for peace

Galtung experienced World War II in German-occupied Norway, and as a 12 year old saw his own father arrested by the Nazis. By 1951 he was already a committed peace activist, 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, to which the Norwegian authorities responded by sending him to prison, where he served six months. [ [ Life of Johan Galtung (in Danish)] ]

While Galtung's academic research is clearly intended to promote peace, he has shifted toward more explicit peace activism as he has grown older. In 1993, he helped found [ TRANSCEND] - an activist organization for conflict transformation by peaceful means. [ [ details on founding of TRANSCEND] ] There are four traditional but unsatisfactory ways in which conflicts between two parties are handled:
#A wins, B loses;
#B wins, A loses;
#the solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;
#a confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with.Galtung's TRANSCEND method tries to break with these four unsatisfactory ways of handling a conflict by finding a "fifth way," where both A and B feel that they win. The TRANSCEND method also insists that basic human rights – such as survival, physical well-being, liberty, and identity – be respected. [ [ The "fifth way"] ]

Galtung himself has employed the TRANSCEND method while serving as a negotiator in a number of international conflicts. He views his role as that of helping the parties clarify their objectives, and working to come up with solutions that meet the objectives of all parties. When the parties meet at the negotiating table, he presents them with concrete proposals that are intended to give both sides the sense that they are winners. As a success of his method, he points to his work in the 1995 negotiations between Ecuador and Peru. The two countries had fought three wars since 1941 over an uninhabited and resource-poor border region. Galtung proposed converting the area to a bi-national park, and both sides found this an acceptable solution. [ [ The "fifth way"] ]

Galtung's major ideas

Galtung's theoretical work speaks of four levels at which conflict can emerge: conflicts internal to a person or between persons; conflicts between races, sexes, generations, or classes; conflicts between states; and conflicts between civilizations or multi-state regions, such as the Cold War. [ [ The "fifth way"] ]

Galtung several positions of trust in international research councils and has been an advisor to several international organisations. Since 2004 he is member of the Advisory Council of the Committee for a Democratic UN.

He has also written large numbers of empirical and theoretical articles, especially treating with issues of peace and conflict research. His works are engraved with his special ability of expression and his strong will of innovation and interdisciplinarity.

He is also one of the authors of an influential account of news values, the factors which determine coverage given to a given topic in the news media. Galtung also originated the concept of Peace Journalism, increasingly influential in communications and media studies.

Galtung is frequently referenced in regard to concepts he introduced, or at least is commonly associated with:
*Structural violence - widely defined as the systematic ways in which a given regime prevents individuals from achieving their full potential. Institutionalized racism and sexism are examples of this.
*Negative vs. Positive Peace - introduced the concept that peace may be more than just the absence of overt violent conflict (negative peace), and include a range of relationships up to a state where nations (or any groupings in conflict) might have collaborative and supportive relationships (positive peace).

He has also distinguished himself in public debates, among others problems concerning the developing countries, matters of defence and in the Norwegian EU-debate. In 1987 he was given the Right Livelihood Award. He developed the Transcend Method. Today, however, Galtung is by most commentators not considered a serious voice in the political debate in Norway.

In over 40 conflicts all over the world he has allegedly participated as mediator, such as in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Caucasian area, and Ecuador, although this is not confirmed by independent sources. He has also advised Hawaiian sovereignty groups seeking to end what they see as a foreign occupation by the United States.


During the 1970s, he predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1990 with a precision of less than a year. [ "Bushs akilleshäl är ekonomin"] "Dagens Nyheter" 2003-01-15. "1980 höll han ett numera berömt föredrag om Sovjetunionens kommande kollaps. De flesta skrattade åt honom, amerikanska forskare högre än deras ryska kolleger. Galtung gav Sovjetimperiet tio år till, inte mer."] Since the fall of the Soviet union, he has made several predictions of when the USA is to no longer be a functioning superpower - a practice that has created some controversy. After the beginning of the Iraq War, he revised his prediction of the "downfall of the USA", seeing it as more imminent. [ [ Amerikas imperium går under innen 2020] "Adressa" September 23, 2004.] He claims the US will go through a phase as a fascist dictatorship on its path down, and that the Patriot Act is a symptom of this. He claims the election of George W. Bush cost the US five years - although he also says this estimate is a bit arbitrarily set.

Galtung has also made a number of other predictions, however they have failed to materialize. For example, in 1953 he predicted that the Soviet Union's economy would soon overtake the West. [ [ Bawer, Bruce. 2007. "The Peace Racket". "City Journal". Summer 2007.] .]


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 extreme south. Galtung has been married twice, and has two children by his first wife Ingrid Eide, and two by his second wife Fumiko Nishimura. [ [ Genealogical data for Johan Galtung] ]

elected books

"A more complete list can be found in [ Johan Galtung's Curriculum Vitae] "

*Gandhi's political ethics (1955) (with philosopher Arne Næss)
*Theory and Methods of Social Research (1967)
*Members of Two Worlds (1971)
*Peace, violence and imperialism (1974)
*Peace Research – Education – Action (1975)
*A Shaping Nightmare (1983)
*Europe in the Making (1989)
*Global Glasnost: Toward a New World Information and Communication Order? (1992) (With R. C. Vincent)
*Peace By Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (1996)
*Johan without land (2000) (Autobiography)



*Bawer, Bruce. 2007. "The Peace Racket". "City Journal". Summer 2007. [ Link] .

*Boulding, Elise. 1982. "Review: Social Science--For What?: Festschrift for Johan Galtung." "Contemporary Sociology". 11(3):323-324. [ JSTOR Stable URL]

*Boulding, Kenneth E. 1977. "Twelve Friendly Quarrels with Johan Galtung." "Journal of Peace Research". 14(1):75-86. [ JSTOR Stable URL]

External links

* [ TRANSCEND - A Peace and Development Network for Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means]
* [ Short biography (2005-01-26)]
* [ University of Oslo]
* [ International Peace Research Institute]
* [ TRANSCEND Peace University]
* [ The Education of a Peacemaker] Interview with Johan Galtung
* [ Violence, War, and Their Impact: On Visible and Invisible Effects of Violence] by Johan Galtung
* [,1,3640201.story "Los Angeles Times" September 2, 2007 shorter version of "Peace Racket" article in "City Journal"] by Bruce Bawer
* [ Galtung's criticism of Ahtisaari Proposal] , 11 May 2007

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