Sociologist as “father of peace studies”

While roughly 400 universities around the world have Peace Studies programs, I don’t know much about how the field started. Therefore, I was intrigued to see that the “father” of this field is a sociologist:

Internationally known as the “father of peace studies”, Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung broke new ground in 1959 when he established the Peace Research Institute Oslo. In the past half century, Galtung has published over 150 books, including “The Fall of the U.S. Empire – And Then What?” and mediated in over 150 conflicts between states and nations.

Here is more of Galtung’s story:

In 1940, when Johan Galtung was a young boy of nine, his homeland, Norway, was suddenly invaded and occupied by the Germans. His father, August Galtung, the deputy mayor of Oslo, was placed in a concentration camp by the Nazis.

“I was influenced by the violent madness that afflicted Norway in general and our own small family in particular during World War II. I wanted to find out how all that horror might have been averted; how to change the destiny of all of Europe.”…

Instead of becoming a doctor [like his father and grandfather] fighting the diseases of the human body, however, Johan Galtung became a doctor studying the diseases of war and violence that afflict the human race. He was a pioneer and a trailblazer. When he started his work, there were no “peace researchers” and there was no such field as “peace studies.”…

He is famous as the originator of the concept of “structural violence.” Structural violence is violence caused by the way society is structured, which gives rise to discrimination, oppression, poverty, starvation, exploitation and the violation of human rights. We can see examples of this at all levels, whether within the family or within the international community. There is also what Galtung terms “cultural violence,” the acceptance and legitimization of violence as a necessary or inevitable aspect of human society. Only when these broader types of violence are eliminated can we achieve a positive, active form of peace.

How come I’ve never heard of this sociologist? I realize that peace studies is often a separate department or program but this seems notable.

I’m not surprised that the first few programs began in Europe, a continent that had witnessed hundreds of years of religious and international wars, two major world wars that led to the deaths of tens of millions and vast destruction, and was on the front lines of the Cold War when the first program was founded. Would it seem right if an American or American school had the first peace program given the cultural stereotypes of American aggression, bellicosity, and violence?

Could the downturn in violence, both on an international level and more local level, be at least partly attributable to such academic programs? Studying a phenomenon is important but what causal impact have peace studies programs had on the occurrence of peace and violence?

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