A Collection of Articles on Structural Violence and its Impact on Peaceful Coexistence and Healthy Flourishing for ALL Life



Violence, Peace and Peace Research by Johan Galtung (1969)

“…violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations…

…Violence is here defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is…

…Thus, the potential level of realization is that which is possible with a given level of insight and resources. If insight and/or resources are monopolized by a group or class or are used for other purposes, then the actual level falls below the potential level, and violence is present in the system. In addition to these types of indirect violence there is also the direct violence where means of realization are not withheld, but directly destroyed…”






Cultural Violence by Johan Galtung (1990)


This article introduces a concept of `cultural violence’, and can be seen as a follow-up of the author’s introduction of the concept of `structural violence’ over 20 years ago (Galtung, 1969). `Cultural violence’ is defined here as any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form. Symbolic violence built into a culture does not kill or maim like direct violence or the violence built into the structure. However, it is used to legitimize either or both, as for instance in the theory of a Herrenvolk, or a superior race. The relations between direct, structural and cultural violence are explored, using a violence triangle and a violence strata image, with various types of casual flows. Examples of cultural violence are indicated, using a division of culture into religion and ideology, art and language, and empirical and formal science. The theory of cultural violence is then related to two basic points in Gandhism, the doctrines of unity of life and of unity of means and ends. Finally, the inclusion of culture as a major focus of peace research is seen not only as deepening the quest for peace, but also as a possible contribution to the as yet non-existent general discipline of `culturology’.


The Chosen and the Unchosen.png

“What did Gandhi himself have to say about these tricky problems, open as he was to exploring alternatives to both direct and structural violence? His answer was to reproduce, from his ecumenism, two axioms that in a sense summarize Gandhism: unity-of-life and unity-of-means-and-ends. The first follows from the second if it is assumed that no life, and particularly no human life, can be used as a means to an end. If the end is livelihood, then the means has to be life-enhancing.”

Structural Violence and Clinical Medicine by Paul E Farmer (2006)

Box 1. What Is Structural Violence?

Structural violence, a term coined by Johan Galtung and by liberation theologians during the 1960s, describes social structures—economic, political, legal, religious, and cultural—that stop individuals, groups, and societies from reaching their full potential [57]. In its general usage, the word violence often conveys a physical image; however, according to Galtung, it is the “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs or…the impairment of human life, which lowers the actual degree to which someone is able to meet their needs below that which would otherwise be possible” [58]. Structural violence is often embedded in longstanding “ubiquitous social structures, normalized by stable institutions and regular experience” [59]. Because they seem so ordinary in our ways of understanding the world, they appear almost invisible. Disparate access to resources, political power, education, health care, and legal standing are just a few examples. The idea of structural violence is linked very closely to social injustice and the social machinery of oppression [16].

Time to Regenerate: Ecosystems and Health Promotion by Colin D Butler and Sharon Friel (2006)


Figure 1. Labonté’s 1993 Description of a Holosphere of Healthy Communities, with Health at the Centre (Derived from [8]).

The interacting environmental spheres include a viable and sustainable natural environment and a sustainable economy.

Structural Violence as a Human Rights Violation by Kathleen Ho (2007)


Human rights literature up to this point has not adequately addressed what it means to have structural violations of human rights. This essay uses the theory of structural violence to illuminate how structural inequalities that systematically deny some people their basic human needs constitute a structural violation of human rights. In making this argument, structural violence theorists define violence as the avoidable disparity between the potential ability to fulfill basic needs and their actual fulfillment. The theory further locates the unequal share of power to decide over the distribution of resources as the pivotal causal factor of these avoidable structural inequalities. Recognizing that structural causes are responsible for constrained agency is pivotal in making the transition from structural violence to structural violations of human rights. It is the effect of structures on individual agency that results in this gap between potential and actual fulfillment of rights. This essay uses Thomas Pogge and Amartya Sen’s work on poverty to substantiate this claim that when agency is constrained to the extent that fundamental human needs cannot be attained, structural violence becomes a structural violation of human rights. Applying structural violence to the human rights discourse, there emerges a clear emphasis on the need for special protection of social and economic rights that have for too long been marginalized in favor of civil and political rights. Moreover, the right to development directly addresses concerns raised by the structural violence theory. Specifically, this right recognizes how the unequal distribution of power in global financial institutions and trade regimes results in global inequality and therefore insists on international assistance and cooperation to remedy this glaring injustice. Finally, Audrey Chapman’s ‘violations approach’ is examined as a possible alternative to the current monitoring mechanism for social and economic rights; however this approach falls short in holding the international community responsible for rights violations.

Neoliberalism and the Commodification of Mental Health by  Luigi Esposito and Fernando M. Perez (2014)


This article contributes to the existing literature on neoliberalism as an ideological hegemonic project by addressing how the image of social reality it advances normalizes the medicalization of human life. Because success, virtue, and happiness in a neoliberal market society are often associated with material wealth, prestige, and “coming out on top,” it follows that normalcy itself is typically conceived along these reified objectives. Acquiring services and/or products that might aid people to meet these results is thus viewed as benevolent and perhaps even indispensable in the pursuit of a fulfilling and productive life. What this also suggests is that integration, mental health, and human well-being become largely functions of consumerism. We address how an emphasis on medicalization, particularly the use of psychotropic drugs, can be traced to the psychopharmacological revolution of the mid-twentieth century and its obsession with situating illness within the individual. We then address how this obsession with medicalization and the tendency to treat “mental illness” as a problem within the individual continues to be supported within the prevailing neoliberal logic that downplays the social realm, treats individuals as self-contained agents, and pathologizes thoughts and behaviors that deviate from what the market defines as functional, productive, or desirable.

For Liberation or Exploitation: Reviving the human needs debate by Michael English (2010)

One of the tasks of peace and conflict studies in an age of globalization becomes illuminating the false needs buried within the antagonisms of hyper-capitalism. Galtung’s (1969) insights on structural violence surely brought this to the forefront, but in the time since his highly influential work was published the human centered aims of the field have been replaced by a normative vision of conflict resolution as one that supports the nation-state system and corporate democracy.”

Social Philosophy and Oncology by Giorgio Baruchello and  Elísabet Hjörleifsdóttir (2014)


In this essay, we first summarise John McMurtry’s Life-Value Onto-Axiology and then present his oncological explanatory model of socio-economic affairs in three simple analytical steps, which simplify its articulate exposition in chapters 1, 4 and 5 of his 2013 book, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure. Second, we offer some reflections on the implications that standard oncological analysis as such possesses vis-à-vis the cancer’s possible curative therapies, examples of which are discussed in chapters 5 and 6 of the book, whose concluding sections have absorbed, deepened and expanded the epilogue of the first edition of 1999, in which the unravelling of global finance had been forecast in detail ten years before its eventual happening.

In nuce, McMurtry re-grounds the understanding of economic phenomena in their deeper life functions, rather than in the money-exchange surfaceto which they have been reduced by standard economics. Instead, with life-value economics:

(1) life demand is the driver,

(2) life goods are the means of welfare and

(3) the economy is the rational organization of factors to achieve equilibrium between life needs and goods. (CSC2013, pp. 182183; emphasis in the original)

McMurtry assumes that human beings are in primis biological, socio-cultural and political creatures. So conceived, the economic sphere of society must be subordinated at all times to these beingsattendant functions. When the economic sphere fails to do so or even takes on a life of its own, it starts behaving like a cancer in a biological creature, cells multiplying uncontrollably without any reaction from their natural killers, spreading into other cells and other organs, harming them, causing distress, illness and, if not treated, ultimately killing the biological creature. As a consequence, McMurtry calls for a true paradigm shiftin economics, showing how the original yet marginal environmental economics is still very far from re-grounding the understanding of economic phenomena in the life-capital baseline (CSC:2013, pp. 42 and 195210).”

Introduction to Functional Medicine By David S. Jones, MD, and Sheila Quinn (2016)

The most important precept to remember about Functional Medicine is that restoring balance—in the patient’s environmental inputs and in the body’s fundamental physiological processes—is the key to restoring health.”





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