Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung
Born (1930-10-24) 24 October 1930
Oslo, Norway
Fields Sociology, peace and conflict studies, Mathematics
Institutions Columbia University, University of Oslo, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Alma mater University of Oslo
Known for Principal founder of peace and conflict studies
Notable awards Right Livelihood Award (1987)

Johan Galtung (born 24 October 1930) is a Norwegian sociologist, mathematician, and the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies.[1]

He was the main founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo 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, and he is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, where he is the first Tun Mahathir Professor of Global Peace at the International Islamic University Malaysia.[2]

Galtung is known for contributions to sociology in the 1950s, political science in the 1960s, economics and history in the 1970s, macrohistory, anthropology, and theology in the 1980s. He has developed several influential theories, such as the distinction between positive and negative peace, structural violence, theories on conflict and conflict resolution, the concept of peacebuilding,[3] the structural theory of imperialism, and the theory of the United States as simultaneously a republic and an empire.[4] He has often been critical of western countries in their attitude to the Global South. Galtung has been a major intellectual figure of the New Left since the 1950s.[5] He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1987 and has received many other prizes and accolades.


Galtung was born in Oslo. He earned the cand. real. (PhD)[6] degree in mathematics at the University of Oslo in 1956, and a year later completed the mag. art. (PhD)[6] degree in sociology at the same university.[4] Galtung received the first of nine honorary doctorates in 1975.[7]

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.[8]

Upon receiving his 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.[9] In 1959, Galtung returned to Oslo, where he founded the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). He served as the institute's director until 1969, and saw the institute develop from a department within the Norwegian Institute of Social Research into an independent research institute with enabling funds from the Norwegian Ministry of Education.[10]

In 1964, Galtung led PRIO to establish the first academic journal devoted to Peace Studies: the Journal of Peace Research.[10] In the same year, he assisted in the founding of the International Peace Research Association.[11] 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.[10]

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.[12] He has also held visiting positions at other universities, including Santiago, Chile, the United Nations University in Geneva, and at Columbia, Princeton and the University of Hawaii.[13] 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".[12] Galtung is currently teaching courses in the Human Science Department at Saybrook University.[14]

In December 2010, Galtung gave a lecture entitled "Breaking the Cycle of Violent Conflict" at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series.

Galtung is a prolific researcher, having made contributions to many fields in sociology. He has published more than 1000 articles and over 100 books.[15] 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".[16] He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.[17]

In 2014 he was appointed as the first Tun Mahathir Professor of Global Peace at the International Islamic University Malaysia. The chair is supported by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation and is named for its founder and chairman, Malaysia's fourth prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. The aim of the chair is to "create greater awareness, promotion and advocacy of global peace including the protection of human rights and criminalization of war."[18]

Mediation for peace

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, to which the Norwegian authorities responded by sending him to prison, where he served six months.[9]

Because Galtung's academic research is clearly intended to promote peace, in 1957, after mediating in Charlottesville, his sociological work shifted toward more concrete and constructive peace mediation. In 1993, he co-founded TRANSCEND: A Peace Development Environment Network,[19][20] an organization for conflict transformation by peaceful means. There are four traditional but unsatisfactory ways in which conflicts between two parties are handled:

  1. A wins, B loses;
  2. B wins, A loses;
  3. the solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;
  4. a confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with.

Galtung 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 method also insists that basic human needs – such as survival, physical well-being, liberty, and identity – be respected.[21]

Major ideas

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.[22]

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.

He has also written many empirical and theoretical articles, dealing most frequently with issues of peace and conflict research. His work is distinguished by his unique perspective as well as the importance he attributes to innovation and interdisciplinarity.

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

Galtung is strongly associated with the following concepts:

He has also distinguished himself in public debates concerning, among other things, less-developed countries, defence issues, and the Norwegian EU debate. In 1987 he was given the Right Livelihood Award. He developed the TRANSCEND Method described above. 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".[16]

The US as a republic and empire

For Johan Galtung, the US is simultaneously a republic and an empire, a distinction he believes is highly relevant. The US is on one hand loved for its republican qualities, and on the other loathed by its enemies abroad for its perceived military aggressions. Its republican qualities include its work ethic and dynamism, productivity and creativity, the idea of freedom, or liberty, and a pioneering spirit. On the other hand, its military and political manipulation are censured for their aggressiveness, arrogance, violence, hypocrisy and self-righteousness, as well as the US public ignorance of other cultures and extreme materialism.[23]

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 has praised Fidel Castro 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.[24][25]

According to Galtung, the US empire causes "unbearable suffering and resentment" because the "exploiters/ killers/ dominators/ alienators, and those who support the US Empire because of perceived benefits" are engaging in "unequal, non-sustainable, exchange patterns". 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?.[26][27]

However, the decline of the US empire did not imply a decline of the US republic, and the "relief from the burden of Empire control and maintenance...could lead to a blossoming of the US Republic". Elaborating on the radio and television program Democracy Now, he stated that he loved the American republic and hated the American empire. He added that many Americans had thanked him for this statement on his lecture tours, because it helped them resolve the conflict between their love for their country and their displeasure with its foreign policy.[28]


Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Galtung has made several predictions of when the United States will no longer be a superpower, a stance that has attracted some controversy. In an article published in 2004, he lists 14 'contradictions' that would cause the 'decline and fall' of the US empire.[27] After the beginning of the Iraq War, he revised his prediction of the "downfall of the US-Empire", seeing it as more imminent.[29] 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 empire five years – although he admits that this estimate was set a bit arbitrarily. He now sets the date for the end of the American Empire at 2020, but not the American Republic. Like Great Britain, Russia and France, he says the American Republic will be better off without the Empire.

Galtung has made predictions which have failed to materialize. For example, City Journal claims that in 1953, Galtung predicted that the Soviet Union's economy would soon overtake the West.[30]


Criticism by Bruce Bawer and Barbara Kay

During the course of his career, some of Galtung statements and views have drawn criticism, most notably 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 in City Journal magazine and a subsequent article in February 2009 by Barbara Kay in the National Post criticised some of Galtung's statements. Both authors criticized Galtung's opinion that while Communist China was "repressive in a certain liberal sense", Mao Zedong was "endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood" because China showed that "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." The authors also criticized Galtung's opposition to Hungarian resistance against the Soviet invasion in 1956 and his description in 1974 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov as "persecuted elite personages".[24][25]

Statements on Israeli influence on U.S. politics

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" largely control the US 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 that although not justified, antisemitism in post–World War I Germany was a predictable consequence of German Jews holding influential positions.[31] As a result of such statements, in May 2012 TRANSCEND International, an organisation co-founded by Galtung, released a statement attempting to clarify his opinions.[32] 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."[33] Galtung himself has vehemently repudiated the above attacks as "smearing and libel" in a published statement[34] and a public lecture at the end of the year 2012.[35]

Selected works

Galtung has published more than a thousand articles and over a hundred books.[15][36]

Selected awards and recognitions


  1. John D. Brewer, Peace processes: a sociological approach, p. 7, Polity Press, 2010
  3. "Peacebuilding and The United Nations - United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office". 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  4. 1 2 "Johan Galtung", Norsk Biografisk Leksikon
  5. Egil Børre Johnsen, Trond Berg Eriksen, Norsk litteraturhistorie 1920–1995, p. 293, Universitetsforlaget, 1998, ISBN 9788200127529
  6. 1 2 "CV_Galtung". Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  7. "Global University Network News". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  8. Genealogical data for Johan Galtung
  9. 1 2 Life of Johan Galtung (in Danish)
  10. 1 2 3 PRIO biography for Johan Galtung
  11. History of the IPRA
  12. 1 2 (E. Boulding 1982: 323)
  13. Dagens Nyheter 2003-01-15.
  15. 1 2 TRANSCEND biography on Johan Galtung
  16. 1 2 (K. Boulding 1977: 75)
  17. "Gruppe 7: Samfunnsfag (herunder sosiologi, statsvitenskap og økonomi)" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
  20. "Interview - Johan Galtung". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  21. PEACEBUILDING & THE UNITED NATIONS Peacebuilding Support Office, United Nations
  22. Article by Dr Zeki Ergas "Out of Sync with the world: Some Thoughts on the Coming Decline and Fall of the American Empire".
  23. 1 2 The Peace Racket by Bruce Bawer, City Journal, Summer 2007.
  24. 1 2 Barbarians within the gate by Barbara Kay, National Post, February 18, 2009.
  25. Prof. J. Galtung: 'US empire will fall by 2020' on YouTube Russia Today.
  26. 1 2 On the Coming Decline and Fall of the US Empire by Johan Galtung, Transnational Foundation and Peace and Research (TFF), January 28, 2004.
  27. Galtung on Democracy Now, 2010
  28. Amerikas imperium går under innen 2020 Adressa September 23, 2004.
  29. Bawer, Bruce. 2007. "The Peace Racket". City Journal. Summer 2007..
  30. Aderet, Ofer (30 April 2012). "Pioneer of global peace studies hints at link between Norway massacre and Mossad". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  31. "TRANSCEND International's Statement Concerning the Label of anti-Semitism Against Johan Galtung". TRANSCEND International. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  32. Weinthal, Benjamin (August 9, 2012). "Swiss group suspends 'anti-Semitic' Norway scholar". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  33. "STELLUNGNAHME/035: Professor Galtung zu den Vorwürfen des Antisemitismus (Johan Galtung)". Schattenblick. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  34. "Grenzach-Wyhlen: Zwei Vorträge mit Johan Galtung | SÜDKURIER Online". SÜDKURIER Online. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  35. "Pioneer of Global Peace Studies Turns Out to be an Antisemite". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  36. "Johan Galtung's Publications 1948-2010" (PDF). Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  38. "Jamnalal Bajaj Awards Archive". Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.


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