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Let`s be Peace workers with idealism in our hearts and the realism of our brains, hand in hand.

The Habit of Passion

EDITORIAL, 2 Nov 2020

#665 | Prof. Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND

  1. What is passion to you? How would you define it from your experience?

A drive so strong that you have no choice, like the passion of love or the passion of idealism, a goal that has to be pursued, attained. The fire driving you on–locate it in the heart as is commonly done. But the love and idealism of the heat has to be tempered by the realism of the brain lest it becomes pathological.

In my case the goal–that came as some kind of revelation, a calling–was to help build the foundation of peace studies, both as theory and as concrete practice. That fire–for the goal of less violence-suffering, and more peace-fulfillment–has been burning and driving me on for more the 70 years, but my brain also informs me that I have to know exactly what world I live in. The idealism of the heart and the realism of the brain, hand in hand, so to speak.

  1. What were some big obstacles on the way to becoming the “father o peace studies”?

Very much inspired by health studies (my father was a physician) I wanted peace studies that were transnational, transdisciplinary and trans-level, spanning from the micro level of peace within and between persons, within society, between societies, to the mega level within the world. Ambitious. The first ambition ran against nationalism and regionalism: what politicians wanted was peace on their terms based on their ideas; what academics wanted was peace as conceived of by their own discipline, from psychology to international law and relations, by their knowledge; what the practitioners at all levels, psychoanalysts, political reformers, diplomats wanted was confirmation of their skills. I wanted to transcend all that while at the same time leaning how different nations and civilizations, states and regions approached peace, how different disciplines conceived of it including, indeed, history, philosophy, theology, and to draw on the skills developed at different levels. Nations, disciplines and professions are guarding their turfs jealously, uninterested in anything overarching.

What I had to do was to show that by drawing on the experiences of many nations, the insights of many disciplines and the skills of many professions, going beyond, transcending, we arrived at something much more than the sum of the parts, let alone than any single part.

  1. What makes you keep working?

You put it into the title: one factor is habit. The passion, the drive to understand better the causes and conditions of peace, and use that knowledge to develop skills that can be put it into practice, like for resolution of conflict, reconciliation after trauma, developing harmony through empathy and equity through cooperation for mutual and equal benefit.

My Peace Formula:


Work on all four, build equity, educate for harmony, reconcile trauma and resolve conflicts, and peace increases. Took some work to develop that one, and I am sure better formulas can be found. But after some 150 books and 150 conflict mediated I find it a good guide. If you want the opposite of all that, look at the USA-South Korea-North Korea triad for an example. If you want to know more, much more, have a look at–including our courses and books.

  1. What is a slump to you? How do you overcome it?

Schopenhauer once said that when anybody has a new idea the first reaction is ridicule, the second suspicion, the third somebody stands up, saying, “it has always been my conviction–“. He forgot the long sating silence, talking and writing for the dark hole in the universe. I have been through all of that and more but know this, not only from Schopenhauer too well to become depressed. I just continue my life on two tracks, research-writing-professor on one, mediator-conciliator-builder-education-practitioner on the other. Unrequited love is a fact of life, so is unrewarded passion. My experience is, give it some time, wait, not patience but perseverance. Keep going, life is not linear, there are ups and downs and ups again.

  1. Was passion always helpful, why or why not?

That flame in the heart that continues burning is always helpful, but only when tempered by the realism of the brain. To demand, even expect, that new ideas are embraced immediately, all over, is against all human experience. It is pathological. Keep in good health, love long and chances are you will get some positive feedback and learn from that and from the negative reactions to do better next time.

  1. You have to change a person to become more passionate, how?

I would inspire him-her to see what (s)he does in a greater perspective, as serving a generally shared ideal beyond our selves, like reducing human suffering, like serving as an example for others on how to live a meaningful life; sending sparks of inspiration like you yourself have been inspired by others who live and lived before you. In doing so you will also live on, in others–that life after death we so much are hoping for, but very concrete, in others, here, now and after. A Buddhist perspective on the after-life, after death.

  1. If you could go back in life to any period, when and why?

Any one period, but I just find life ever better, not something that has peaked, but better and deeper with more knowledge and skills, more experience, maybe more wisdom. I live here and now: there is no way forward or backward to happiness, happiness is the way.

  1. Are you a successful person? Do you feel proud of yourself?

Success is measured by the track record. When I look at books I have written and conflict I have mediated; there are prizes I have been awarded for that work. There are successes and failures, successes that may turn into failures and failures that may turn into successes. Mixed, yin/yang; such is reality. But I am competing with myself, not with others. And of one thing I am proud: improvement. I bless my long life giving me that chance, partly due to good health, and partly by not retiring, meaning getting tired again and again and again.

  1. A has passion but lacks potential, B has potential but lacks passion, whom would you chose?

Both. I think I can inspire passion (6 above) and help develop potential. For peace A and B are needed.

  1. How to have and maintain passion?

That flame, like the flame of love needs some mutuality, needs some fuel to be maintained, some reciprocity from reality in the direction of the idealism of your passion. If there is none, you may be on the wrong track, maybe our heart has not listened enough to your brain. Some positive feedback is needed to sustain the passion, like fuel the flame. But many lose their idealism when he themselves are comfortable settled because their ideals were only a cloak for egocentric ambitions. Be on watch against that.

  1. Have you been “truly moved by your own efforts”?

No doubt about it. I make some proposals high up and low down, for deep conflicts, and suddenly, there they are, realized, picked up by people with the political power to put them into practice. Feedback indeed, from my ideals via reality back to me and my ideals.

  1. Do you have any special habits which prove your passion?

Yes, one: perseverance. I never give up; come back to “hopeless” conflicts keeping my optimism tempered by realism. I do not succumb to pessimism. Pessimism is cheap, for the less gifted, meaning with fewer gifts, passion being among them.

  1. Currently what matters most to you and why?

To find some solutions to the conflicts that inflict most suffering on humanity, like hyper-capitalism vs. common people dying of hunger and curable diseases, or conflict rooted in multi-nation states and multi-state nations. Given my age three problems stand out: how the horrors of the shoa could have been avoided, how Israel as a state with Jewish characteristics could become sustainable and acceptable to the neighbors, how to struggle against anti-Semitism be that anti-Jewish or anti-Arab or anti- any nation for that matter instead of the concrete issues. And, in general, to build a solution-orientation, not going on with the old victory-orientation, in conflict.

  1. If you were to summarize your life into one sentence, what would that be and why?

He lived his life on two tracks, peace theory and peace practice; as life moved on, the two tracks came closer and coalesced into one.

  1. You wanted to befriend a person, what would you share of your life?

All of the above.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. He was awarded among others the 1987 Right Livelihood Award, known as the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize. Galtung has mediated in over 150 conflicts in more than 150 countries, and written more than 170 books on peace and related issues, 96 as the sole author. More than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. His book, Transcend and Transform, was translated to 25 languages. He has published more than 1700 articles and book chapters and over 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at

Tags: Inspirational, Johan Galtung

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 Nov 2020.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: The Habit of Passion, is included. Thank you.

EDITORIAL, 2 Nov 2020

#665 | Prof. Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

From the TMS editor: Johan Galtung, my mentor, friend, well-wisher, guide, a great inspirer, just turned 90 years old; he is semi-retired now. I present a text he wrote some time ago and I found in my archives; practical wisdom, optimism, proaction, higher thinking. With my deepest respect and gratitude to Johan for our friendship of 35-years–of uninterrupted learning from my part. –– Antonio C. S. Rosa *****************************

“Gandhi’s Political Ethics” was Johan Galtung’s first academic book, co-published with his tutor and friend, Professor Arne Naess in 1955. During the three years after the publication of Gandhi’s Political Ethics, Galtung worked – among other things – on finalising the conceptual framework for what in 1959 became the world’s first academic institute with “peace” in its name, the International Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). In 1964 he founded the Journal of Peace Research. From the beginning, Galtung has been dedicated to identifying the necessary and sufficient causes for peace and equity. This was the successful outcome of the internalization of Gandhian Ethics by the mind of a scientist. It is for this early pioneering achievement that Johan Galtung is internationally referred to as “the father of peace studies”. Today, a little over 50 years after Johan Galtung launched peace studies as an acdemic field of inquiry, it is estimated that over 500 academic programmes at universities all over the world offer courses in this domain. Johan Galtung’s recent account of 60 memorable and useful lessons learned from that period of his work can be read in “Launching Peace Studies The First PRIO Years”published in 2010 by TRANSCEND University Press Popular.

All of Galtung’s ancestors for several generations were medical doctors and nurses. When he was born in Oslo on 24 October 1930, a friend of the family said, “A physician has been born”. In some way, Galtung is indeed a doctor, but his patients are not individuals, but whole societies with their pathologies. Adopting the terminology of medicine, he has developed diagnosis (what is the source of suffering), prognosis (what is likely to happen without intervention) and therapy (what can be done to reduce violence and suffering) for conflicts around the world. Recently he added “therapy of the past”, or counterfactual history: how could violence have been prevented if different courses of action had been taken at a given point in the past? In 1956 he got his PhD in mathematics, and in 1957 in sociology. Galtung has contributed original research and insights to many areas of intellectual inquiry, including peace studies, peaceful conflict transformation, reconciliation, education, international relations, non-offensive defense, human rights, basic needs, development strategies, a life-sustaining economy, macro-history, the theory of civilizations, federalism, globalization, communications, deep culture, peace and religions, social science methodology, sociology, ecology, and future studies. He has so far published over 150 books and over 1500 essays, articles and papers in scholarly and popular journals, translated into over 30 languages. 2010 saw the publication of book number 151 by Johan Galtung, “A Theory of Conflict: Overcoming Direct Violence” which is book number 8 of a decalogue showcasing the scope of Johan Galtung’s practice-indicative theoretical insights. Indeed, above all, Galtung has not only developed theories, but also put them into practice. From his father, a surgeon, he learned that discussing medical problems without helping people who suffer is immoral.

Leaving behind the safety of mono-disciplinary social science, Galtung, became assistant professor for mathematical sociology at Columbia University in New York at age 27, being younger than many of his students. His mentors were the master methodologist Paul Lazarsfeld and the master theoretician Robert Merton. They offered him tenure, but he preferred to return to Oslo where he founded PRIO, the first of dozens of peace institutes that he has helped found throughout the world. He went on to acquire multiple scientific perspectives from which to understand and explain better the various facets of peace. Since that first teaching assignment, he has taught thousands of students in many universities and institutes around the world, and inspired them to dedicate their lives to peace. In the 1960s, Johan Galtung began studying peace from a sociological, political science and international relations perspective. In the 1970s came the time to deepen his inquiries on the conditions, forms and effects of peace with the conceptual instruments of the study of religions, economics and pedagogy. In the 1980s, Johan Galtung explored the methodologies of historians and helped define macrohistory as an approach providing better insights into major historic trends. One of his papers is entitled, “On the last 2500 years in Western history and some remarks on the coming 500”. In the decade before the millennium, Galtung focused on Jungian and Freudian psychological readings of conflict and peace as well as on anthropological and civilizational determinants of conflict, violence and peace. The culmination of his research in this domain is to be published under the title “A Theory of Civilization: Overcoming Cultural Violence” early 2012.

The above paragraph shows how the breadth and depth of Galtung’s contributions to theoretical models elucidating social phenomena related to conflict and peace came about. For academics trained in journalism and in media schools all over the world, Galtung & Ruge’s “News Values Theory” enumerates systematically the fundamental criteria according to which events make headlines. Several of Galtung’s trademark tripartite concepts (i.e the attitude , behaviour , contradiction triangle, the distinction between direct, structural and cultural violence or the classification of peace strategies into “peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding”) are known and used in International Relations, Peace Studies and Development Studies and have become official UN lingo. Equally essential and more complex are his “Rank Concordance and Rank Disequilibrium Theory”, his timeless “Structural Theory of Imperialism” and his fascinating “Theory of Synergizing and Synchronizing Contradictions”, which enabled him to publish about the impending fall of the Soviet Empire ten years in advance in 1980. This theory, informed by insights into daoism, is at the core of his case study “The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What?” In this book, Johan Galtung predicts the decline and fall of the U.S Empire by 2020 (click for video), possibly followed by a blossoming of the US Republic once it has shaken off the albatross of empire, a prediction he made public for the first time in the year 2000.

Unsurprisingly, this massive theoretical insight into the dynamics of conflict formations led to the creation of TRANSCEND International, a global network for Peace, Development and Environment dedicated to bringing about a more equitable and less violent world through conflict transformation and mediation. Founded by Johan Galtung and his wife Fumiko Nishimura in 1993, TRANSCEND International currently connects over 500 invited mediators, peace workers, peace researchers, journalists, teachers, authors, artists, professors and students based in over 80 countries on 6 continents. It rests on four pillars: Dissemination (Peace Journalism), Action (Conflict Mediation), Research, and Education (DARE). Johan Galtung has himself been invited to mediate for TRANSCEND International in roughly 150 conflicts around the world. The TRANSCEND method, which he has developed in over 50 years of research and practice, consists of three main steps:

(1) Dialogue with all conflict parties (both direct and indirect) separately, explore their goals and fears and earn their confidence. (2) Distinguish between legitimate goals, which affirm human needs, and illegitimate goals that violate human needs. Whatever we demand from other parties, we must be willing to grant to others. For example, self-determination is a legitimate goal, ruling over others is not. (3) Bridge the gap between all legitimate but seemingly contradictory goals through solutions that embody creativity, empathy and nonviolence, building a new reality.

Galtung remains a regularly invited expert in conflict situations at all levels, all over the world. Notable cases include the peace agreement between Ecuador and Peru, in which he helped end a series of wars over a disputed border territory by suggesting to make it into a “binational zone with a natural park”. Another recent case he helped resolve was the dispute between Denmark and the Muslim world over the cartoons depicting Mohammed in a degrading manner, and the Danish prime minister’s refusal to have a dialogue about how to balance the right to free expression with the right not to be insulted. For additional examples, see “50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives” ranging from “A” for Afghanistan to “Z” for Zimbabwe – in which Johan Galtung outlines concrete solutions for 100 conflicts in the chronological order in which he was invited to work on them.

Now, 18 years after the creation of TRANSCEND International, the Galtung-Institut has been created in order to:

(1) Systematically make available, impart and expand the entirety of Johan Galtung’s findings in light of ongoing dialogues on peace and international politics. (2) Carry out on site activities in cooperation with the TRANSCEND Peace University (whose Founder and current Rector is Johan Galtung) by offering tutorials, courses and specialisations with a particular focus on conflict theory, solution-oriented conflict analysis, mediation, and peace journalism. (3) Organise public lectures with internationally acclaimed intellectuals and peace researchers on issues ranging from non violent geopolitics to nonviolent education in primary schools and conflict literacy. (4) Issue research papers and policy advice based on the Diagnosis-Prognosis-Therapy method of conflict analysis developed by Johan Galtung.

Galtung has been a frequent consultant to governments, companies and to the United Nations and its family of organizations. His relentless dedication to peace since he published Gandhi’s Political Ethics has been recognized with thirteen honorary doctorates and professorships and an alternative Nobel Prize. He has generated a unique conceptual toolkit for empirical, critical and constructive inquiry into the subject of peace. The fundamental purpose of the Galtung-Institut goes beyond the transfer of the theoretical, methodological and practical skills developed by Johan Galtung and others in over 50 years of progress in peace research and practice. The overall goal of the G.I. is indeed to continue contributing to the further development of peace theory and peace praxeology in the interest of a desperately needed reduction of human and environmental suffering.

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