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

Academic career

Galtung was born in Oslomarker. He earned the cand.real. degree in mathematics at the University of Oslomarker in 1956. A year later he completed the 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.

Upon receiving his degree, Galtung moved to Columbia University, in New York Citymarker, where he taught for five semesters as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. 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 Norwegian Institute of Social Research into an independent research institute with enabling funds from the Norwegian Ministry of Education.In 1964, Galtung led PRIO to establish the first academic journal devoted to Peace Studies: the Journal of Peace Research. In the same year, he assisted in the founding of the International Peace Research Association.In 1969 he left PRIO for a position as professor of peace and conflict research at the University of Oslomarker, a position he held until 1978. He then served as the director general of the International University Centre in Dubrovnikmarker, also serving as the president of the World Future Studies Federation. He has also held visiting positions at other universities, including Santiago, Chilemarker, the United Nations University in Genevamarker, and at Columbia, Princetonmarker and the University of Hawaii. 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."

Galtung is a prolific researcher, having made contributions to many fields in sociology. He has published more than 1000 articles and over 100 books. 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".

He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Mediation 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 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.

While Galtung's academic research is clearly intended to promote peace, he has shifted toward more concrete and constructive peace mediation as he has grown older. In 1993, he co-founded TRANSCEND - A Peace, Development and Environment Network, 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'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 needs – such as survival, physical well-being, liberty, and identity – be respected.

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.

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.

Galtung has held 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 any 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 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 includes 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 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.

Galtung has advised Hawaiian sovereignty groups seeking to end what they see as a foreign occupation by the United States, and claims to have participated as mediator in over 40 armed conflicts all over the world, e.g., in Sri Lankamarker, Afghanistanmarker, the Caucasian area, and Ecuadormarker.


During the 1970s Galtung predicted the downfall of the Soviet Unionmarker in 1990, with an error (in the event) of less than a year. Since the fall of the Soviet Union he has made several predictions of when the USA will 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 US-Empire" seeing it as more imminent. He claims the U.S. 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 U.S. empire five years - although he also says 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 Britian, 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, in 1953 he predicted that the Soviet Unionmarker's economy would soon overtake the West.

Criticism and Controversy

Conservatives have criticized many of Galtung's statements and views. In a 2007 article in the City Journal magazine and a subsequent article in February 2009 by Barbara Kay in the National Post, a number of criticisms were made of Galtung and Peace Studies. However, she did not source her quotations. Specific allegations included:

  • His opposition to Hungarian resistance against the Soviet invasion in 1956.
  • His praise in 1972 for Fidel Castro’s Cuba for “break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip”
  • His statement in 1973 that “our time’s grotesque reality” is the West’s “structural fascism.”
  • His description in 1973 of the United Statesmarker and Western Europe as “rich, Western, Christian countries” that make war to secure materials and markets: “Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it’s spread in this way to other countries it’s called imperialism.”
  • His description in 1974 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov as “persecuted elite personages”;
  • His description of the United Statesmarker as a “killer country” that is guilty of “neo-fascist state terrorism” and his prediction that it will soon follow Britain “into the graveyard of empires.”
  • His comparison of the U. S. to Nazi Germany for bombing Kosovo during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
  • His statement that while 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.”
  • Two articles have alleged that he has suggested that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for America’s arrogant view of itself as “a model for everyone else.” However, neither article provided any sources, e.g. to the claim that the peace mediator Galtung thinks the annihilation of Washington, D. C. would be a "fair punishment". In fact, Galtung has called the September 11 attacks "criminal political violence".

Views on the "US Empire"

For Johan Galtung, America is simultaneously a republic and an empire. That distinction is of utmost relevance. America is loved (A:) for its republican qualities and loathed among its victims abroad for (B:) its militaristic transgressions.

"Among the former (A:), Galtung mentions: its work ethic and dynamism, productivity and creativity, the idea of freedom, or liberty, and a pioneering spirit; while in the latter (B:), he includes: its aggressiveness, arrogance and violence, hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and ignorance of other cultures and extreme materialism."

In an article published in 2004 in Galtung predicted that the "US Empire" will "decline and fall" by 2020." A complex hypothesis he has developed into a prognosis expanded on in his 2009 book titled The Fall of the US Empire - and Then What? Successors, Regionalization or Globalization? US Fascism or US Blossoming?

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." However, Galtung added that the decline of the "US Empire" does not imply a fall and decline of the "US Republic" and that the "relief from the burden of Empire control and maintenance...could lead to a blossoming of the US Republic." In the Article, Galtung lists fourteen 'contradictions' that, he believes, in the next fifteen years, in 2020, will cause the 'decline and fall' of the American empire.


Galtung's father and paternal grandfather were both physicians. The Galtung name has its origins in Hordalandmarker, where his paternal grandfather was born. Nevertheless, his mother, Helga Holmboe, was born in central Norway, in Trøndelag, while his father was born in Østfoldmarker, 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, including Fredrik Galtung, the co-founder and chief executive of Tiri.

Selected books

  • 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 for which he won the Brage Prize)
  • 50 Years: 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives, (2008)
  • Democracy - Peace - Development (2008)with Paul Scott
  • 50 Years: 25 Intellectual Landscapes Explore(2008)
  • Globalizing God: Religion, Spirituality and Peace (2008)with Graeme MacQueen



  • 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

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