Cultural Violence by Johan Galtung (1990)
© Journal of Peace Research. vol. 27. no. 3. 1990. pp. 291-305
College of Social Sciences, University of Hawaii, Manoa
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’.
*Presented as a lecture at the University of Melbourne Peace Studies Group, March 1989; at the summer Schools in Peace Studies at the University of Oslo and the University of Hawaii, July 1989; and at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, August 1989. I am indebted to discussants at all these places.
By ‘cultural violence’ we mean those aspects of culture, the symbolic sphere of our existence – exemplified by religion and ideology, language and art, empirical science and formal science (logic, mathematics) – that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence.1 Stars, crosses and crescents; flags, anthems and military parades; the ubiquitous portrait of the Leader; inflammatory speeches and posters all these come to mind. However, let us postpone the examples until section 4 and start with analysis. The features mentioned above are ‘aspects of culture’, not entire cultures. A person encouraging a potential killer, shouting ‘Killing is self-realization!’, may prove that the English language is capable of expressing such thoughts, but not that the English language as such is violent. Entire cultures can hardly be classified as violent; this is one reason for preferring the expression ‘Aspect A of culture C is an example of cultural violence’ to cultural stereotypes like ‘culture C is violent’.
On the other hand, cultures could be imagined and even encountered with not only one but a set of aspects so violent, extensive and diverse, spanning all cultural domains, that the step from talking about cases of cultural violence to violent cultures may be warranted. For that, a systematic research process is needed. This article is part of that process.
One place to start would be to clarity ‘cultural violence’ by searching for its negation. If the opposite of violence is peace, the subject matter of peace research/peace studies, then the opposite of cultural violence would be ‘cultural peace’, meaning aspects of a culture that serve to justify and legitimize direct peace and structural peace. If many and diverse aspects of that kind are found in a culture, we can refer to it as a ‘peace culture’. A major task of peace research, and the peace movement in general, is that never ending search for a peace culture – problematic, because of the temptation to institutionalize that culture, making it obligatory with the hope of internalizing it everywhere. And that would already be direct violence,2 imposing a culture.
Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel, right – or at least not wrong. Just as political science is about two problems – the use of power and the legitimation of the use of power – violence studies are about two problems: the use of violence and the legitimation of that use. The psychological mechanism would be internalization. 3
The study of cultural violence highlights the way in which the act of direct violence and the fact of structural violence are legitimized and thus rendered acceptable in society. One way cultural violence works is by changing the moral color of an act from red/wrong to green/right or at least to yellow/acceptable; an example being ‘murder on behalf of the country as right, on behalf of oneself wrong’. Another way is by making reality opaque, so that we do not see the violent act or fact, or at least not as violent. Obviously this is more easily done with some forms of violence than with others; an example being abortus provocatus. Hence, peace studies is in need of a violence typology, in much the same way as a pathology is among the prerequisites for health studies.
- A Typology of Direct and Structural Violence
I see violence as avoidable insults to basic human needs, and more generally to life, lowering the real level of needs satisfaction below what is potentially possible. Threats of violence are also violence. Combining the distinction between direct and structural violence with four classes of basic needs we get the typology of Table I. The four classes of basic needs – an outcome of extensive dialogs in many parts of the world (Galtung, 1980a) – are: survival needs (negation: death, mortality); well-being needs (negation: misery, morbidity); identity, meaning needs (negation: alienation); and freedom needs (negation: repression).
The result is eight types of violence with some subtypes, easily identified for direct violence but more complex for structural violence (see Table I). A first comment could be that Table I is anthropocentric. A fifth column could be added at the beginning for the rest of Nature, the sine qua non for human existence. ‘Ecological balance’ is probably the most frequently found term used for environment system maintenance. If this is not satisfied, the result is ecological degradation, breakdown, imbalance. Ecobalance corresponds to survival + well-being + freedom + identity for human basic maintenance. If not satisfied, the result is human degradation. The sum of all five, for all, will define ‘peace’.
But ‘ecological balance’ is a very broad category encompassing abiota (non-life) and biota (life) alike. Violence defined as insults to life would focus on biota, only indirectly on abiota. Moreover, there are difficult and important questions, such as ‘balance for whom?’ For human beings to reproduce themselves? At what level of economic activity and what numbers? Or, for the ‘environment’ (what an anthropocentric term!) to reproduce itself? All parts, equally, at what level, what numbers? Or for both?
Second, the mega-versions of the pale words used above for violence should also be contemplated. For ‘killing’ read extermination, holocaust, genocide. For ‘misery’ read silent holocaust. For ‘alienation’ read spiritual death. For ‘repression’ read gulag/KZ. For ‘ecological degradation’ read ecocide. For all of this together read ‘omnicide’. The words might sound like someone’s effort to be apocalyptic – were it not for the fact that the world has experienced all of this during the last 50 years alone, closely associated with the names of Hitler, Stalin and Reagan4 and Japanese militarism.5 In short, violence studies, an indispensable part of peace studies, may be a horror cabinet; but like pathology they reflect a reality to be known and understood.
Then some comments on the content of the Table as it stands. The first category of violence, killing, is clear enough, as is maiming. Added together they constitute ‘casualties’, used in assessing the magnitude of a war. But ‘war’ is only one particular form of orchestrated violence, usually with at least one actor, a government. How narrow it is to see peace as the opposite of war, and limit peace studies to war avoidance studies, and more particularly avoidance of big wars or super-wars (defined as wars between big powers or superpowers), and even more particularly to the limitation, abolition or control of super-weapons. Important inter connections among types of violence are left out, particularly the way in which one type of violence may be reduced or controlled at the expense of increase or maintenance of another. Like ‘side-effects’ in health studies, they are very important and easily over looked. Peace research should avoid that mistake.6
Included under maiming is also the insult to human needs brought about by siege/blockade (classical term) and sanctions (modern term). To some, this is ‘non violence’, since direct and immediate killing is avoided. To the victims, however, it may mean slow but intentional killing through malnutrition and lack of medical attention, hitting the weakest first, the children, the elderly, the poor, the women. By making the causal chain longer the actor avoids having to face the violence directly. He even ‘gives the victims a chance’, usually to submit, meaning loss of freedom and identity instead of loss of life and limbs, trading the last two for the first two types of direct violence. But the mechanism is the threat to the livelihood brought about by siege/boycott/sanctions. The Gandhian type of economic boycott combined refusal to buy British textiles with the collecting of funds for the merchants, in order not to confuse the issue by threatening their livelihood.
The category of ‘alienation’ can be defined in terms of socialization, meaning the internalization of culture. There is a double aspect: to be desocialized away from own culture and to be resocialized into another culture – like the prohibition and imposition of languages. The one does not presuppose the other. But they often come together in the category of second class citizenship, where the subjected group (not necessarily a ‘minority’) is forced to express dominant culture and not its own, at least not in public space. The problem is, of course, that any socialization of a child – in the family, at school, by society at large – is also forced, a kind of brainwashing, giving the child no choice. Consequently, we might arrive at the conclusion (not that far-fetched) that nonviolent socialization is to give the child a choice, e.g. by offering him/her more than one cultural idiom.
The category of ‘repression’ has a similar double definition: the ‘freedom from’ and the ‘freedom to’ of the International Bill of Human Rights,7 with historical and cultural limitations (Galtung, 1988a). Two categories have been added explicitly because of their significance as concomitants of other types of violence: detention, meaning locking people in (prisons, concentration camps), and expulsion, meaning locking people out (banishing them abroad or to distant parts of the country).
To discuss the categories of structural violence we need an image of a violent structure, and a vocabulary, a discourse, in order to identify the aspects and see how they relate to the needs categories. The archetypal violent structure, in my view, has exploitation as a center-piece. This simply means that some, the topdogs, get much more (here measured in needs currency) out of the interaction in the structure than others, the underdogs (Galtung, 1978, parts 1-111). There is ‘unequal exchange’, a euphemism. The underdogs may in fact be so disadvantaged that they die (starve, waste away from diseases) from it: exploitation A. Or they may be left in a permanent, unwanted state of misery, usually including malnutrition and illness: exploitation B. The way people die differs: in the Third World, from diarrhea and immunity deficiencies; in the ‘developed’ countries, avoidably and prematurely, from cardio-vascular diseases and malignant tumors. All of this happens within complex structures and at the end of long, highly ramified causal chains and cycles.
A violent structure leaves marks not only on the human body but also on the mind and the spirit. The next four terms can be seen as parts of exploitation or as reinforcing components in the structure. They function by impeding consciousness formation and mobilization, two conditions for effective struggle against exploitation. Penetration, implanting the topdog inside the underdog so to speak, combined with segmentation , giving the underdog only a very partial view of what goes on, will do the first job. And marginalization, keeping the underdogs on the outside, combined with fragmentation, keeping the underdogs away from each other, will do the second job. However, these four should also be seen as structural violence in their own right, and more particularly as variation on the general theme of structurally built-in repression. They have all been operating in gender contexts – even if women do not always have higher mortality and morbidity rates but in fact may have higher life expectancy than men, provided they survive gender-specific abortion, infanticide and the first years of childhood. In short, exploitation and repression go hand in hand, as violence: but they are not identical.
How about violence against nature? There is the direct violence of slashing, burning, etc., as in a war. The structural form of such violence would be more insidious, not intended to destroy nature but nevertheless doing so: the pollution and depletion associated with modern industry, leading to dying forests, ozone holes, global warming, and so on. What happens is transformation of nature through industrial activity, leaving non-degradable residues and depleting non-renewable resources, combined with a world-encompassing commercialization that makes the consequences non-visible to the perpetrators.8 Two powerful structures at work, indeed, legitimized by economic growth. The buzzword ‘sustainable economic growth’ may prove to be yet another form of cultural violence.
- Relating Three Types of Violence
With these comments ‘violence’ is defined in extension by the types given in Table I, using direct and structural violence as overarching categories or ‘super-types’. ‘Cultural violence’ can now be added as the third super-type and put in the third corner of a (vicious) violence triangle as an image. When the triangle is stood on its ‘direct’ and ‘structural violence’ feet, the image invoked is cultural violence as the legitimizer of both. Standing the triangle on its ‘direct violence’ head yields the image of structural and cultural sources of direct violence. Of course, the triangle always remains a triangle – but the image produced is different, and all six positions (three pointing downward, three upward) invoke somewhat different stories, all worth telling.
Despite the symmetries there is a basic difference in the time relation of the three concepts of violence. Direct violence is an event; structural violence is a process with ups and downs; cultural violence is an invariant, a ‘permanence’ (Galtung, 1977, ch. 9), remaining essentially the same for long periods, given the slow transformations of basic culture. Put in the useful terms of the French Annales school in history: ‘evenementielle, conjoncturelle, la tongue duree.’ The three forms of violence enter time differently, somewhat like the difference in earthquake theory between the earthquake as an event, the movement of the tectonic plates as a process and the fault line as a more permanent condition.
This leads to a violence strata image (complementing the triangle image) of the phenomenology of violence, useful as a paradigm generating a wide variety of hypotheses. At the bottom is the steady flow through time of cultural violence, a substratum from which the other two can derive their nutrients. In the next stratum the rhythms of structural violence are located. Patterns of exploitation are building up, wearing out, or torn down, with the protective accompaniment of penetration-segmentation preventing consciousness formation, and fragmentation-marginalization preventing organization against exploitation and repression. And at the top, visible to the unguided eye and to barefoot empiricism, is the stratum of direct violence with the whole record of direct cruelty perpetrated by human beings against each other and against other forms of life and nature in general.
Generally, a causal flow from cultural via structural to direct violence can be identified. The culture preaches, teaches, admonishes, eggs on, and dulls us into seeing exploitation and/or repression as normal and natural, or into not seeing them (particularly not exploitation) at all. Then come the eruptions, the efforts to use direct violence to get out of the structural iron cage (Weber, 1971), and counter-violence to keep the cage intact. Ordinary, regular criminal activity is partly an effort by the underdog to ‘get out’, to redistribute wealth, get even, get revenge (‘blue-collar crime’), or by somebody to remain or become a topdog, sucking the structure for what it is worth (‘white-collar crime’). Both direct and structural violence create needs-deficits. When this happens suddenly we can talk of trauma. When it happens to a group, a collectivity, we have the collective trauma that can sediment into the collective subconscious and become raw material for major historical processes and events. The underlying assumption is simple: ‘violence breeds violence’. Violence is needs-deprivation; needs-deprivation is serious; one reaction is direct violence. But that is not the only reaction. There could also be a feeling of hopelessness, a deprivation/frustration syndrome that shows up on the inside as self-directed aggression and on the outside as apathy and withdrawal. Given a choice between a boiling, violent and a freezing, apathetic society as reaction to massive needs-deprivation, topdogs tend to prefer the latter. They prefer ‘governability’ to ‘trouble, anarchy’. They love ‘stability’. Indeed, a major form of cultural violence indulged in by ruling elites is to blame the victim of structural violence who throws the first stone, not in a glasshouse but to get out of the iron cage, stamping him as ‘aggressor’. The category of structural violence should make such cultural violence transparent.
However, the violence strata image does not define the only causal chain in the violence triangle. There are linkages and causal flows in all six directions, and cycles connecting all three may start at any point. This is a good reason why the triangle may sometimes be a better image than the three tier stratum model. Africans are captured, forced across the Atlantic to work as slaves; millions are killed in the process – in Africa, on board, in the Americas. This massive direct violence over centuries seeps down and sediments as massive structural violence, with whites as the master topdogs and blacks as the slave underdogs, producing and reproducing massive cultural violence with racist ideas everywhere. After some time, direct violence is forgotten, slavery is forgotten, and only two labels show up, pale enough for college textbooks: ‘discrimination’ for massive structural violence and ‘prejudice’ for massive cultural violence. Sanitation of language: itself cultural violence.
The vicious violence cycle can also start in the structural violence corner. Social differentiation slowly takes on vertical characteristics with increasingly unequal exchange, and these social facts would then be in search of social acts for their maintenance, and cultural violence for their justification – to generalize ‘materialist’ (meaning structural) Marxist theory. Or, the vicious cycle could start in combined direct and structural violence, with one group treating another group so badly that they feel a need for justification and eagerly accept any cultural rationale handed to them. More than one thousand years ago Nordic Vikings attacked, cheated and killed Russians. Might that not be a good enough reason for formulating the idea that Russians are dangerous, wild, primitive – meaning that one day they may come back and do the same to us as we did to them?9 Even to the point that when Germany attacked Norway in April 1940, the official conclusion became that the Russians are dangerous because they may one day do the same. And here we see the surprise attack trauma.
Could there be still a deeper stratum, human nature, with genetically transmitted dispositions or at least predispositions for aggression (direct violence) and domination (structural violence)? The human potential for direct and structural violence is certainly there – as is the potential for direct and structural peace. In my view, however, the most important argument against a biological determinism that postulates a drive in human nature for aggression and dominance, comparable to drives for food and sex, is the high level of variability in aggressiveness and dominance. We find people seeking food and sex under (almost) all external circumstances. But aggression and dominance exhibit tremendous variation, depending on the context, including the structural and cultural conditions. Of course, the drive may still be there, only not strong enough to assert itself under all circumstances. In that case, the concern of the peace researcher would be to know those circumstances, and to explore how to remove or modify them. Here my hypothesis would be that the two terms ‘structure’ and ‘culture’ can accommodate this exploration very comfortably.
Let us reap an important harvest from this taxonomic exercise: we can use it to clarify the concept of militarization as a process, and militarism as the ideology accompanying that process. Obviously, one aspect is a general inclination toward direct violence in the form of real or threatened military action, whether provoked or not, whether to settle conflict or initiate it. This inclination brings in its wake the production and deployment of the appropriate hardware and software. However, it would be superficial to study militarization only in terms of past military activity records, and present production and deployment patterns;10 this would lead to facile conclusions in terms of personnel, budget and arms control only. Good weeding presupposes getting at the roots, in this case at the structural and cultural roots, as suggested by the three-strata paradigm. Concretely, this means identifying structural and cultural aspects that would tend to reproduce the readiness for military action, production and deployment. This would include mobbing of young boys at school, primogeniture,11 unemployment and exploitation in general. Further, the use of military production and deployment to stimulate economic growth and economic distribution; heavily nationalist, racist and sexist ideologies,12 and so on. The combination of building military teaching and exercise components into high school and university curricula and structure,13 and disseminating militarism as culture, should merit particular attention. Yet structure and culture are usually not included in ‘arms control’ studies, both being highly sensitive areas. Those taboos have to be broken.
- Examples of Cultural Violence
We turn now to the listing of six cultural domains mentioned in the introduction – religion and ideology, language and art, empirical and formal science – giving one or two examples of cultural violence from each domain. The logic of the scheme is simple: identify the cultural element and show how it can, empirically or potentially, be used to legitimize direct or structural violence.
In all religions there is somewhere the sacred, das Heilige; let us call it ‘god’. A basic distinction can be made between a transcendental God outside us and an immanent god inside us, maybe also inside all life.14 The Judaism of the Torah, founded almost 4000 years ago, envisaged God as a male deity residing outside planet Earth. A catastrophic idea; a clear case of transcendentalism as a metaphor from which many consequences follow, taken over by the other Semitic or occidental religions, Christianity and Islam. With god outside us, as God, even ‘above’ (‘Our Father, who art in Heaven’) it is not inevitable but indeed likely that some people will be seen as closer to that God than others, even as ‘higher’. Moreover, in the general occidental tradition of not only dualism but Manichaeism, with sharp dichotomies between good and evil, there would also have to be something like an evil Satan corresponding to the good God, for reasons of symmetry. Again transcendental and immanent representations are possible, with God and Satan possessing or at least choosing their own; or with god or satan – not to mention god and satan – being inside us. All combinations are found in all occidental religions. But the focus here is on the hard version, belief in a transcendental God and a transcendental Satan.
Whom does God choose? Would it not be reasonable to assume that He chooses those most in His image, leaving it to Satan to take the others, as indicated in Table II? This would give us a double dichotomy with God, the Chosen Ones (by God), The Unchosen Ones (by God, chosen by Satan) and Satan; the chosen heading for salvation and closeness to God in Heaven, the unchosen for damnation and closeness to Satan in Hell. However, Heaven and Hell can also be reproduced on earth, as a foretaste or indication of the afterlife. Misery/luxury can be seen as preparations for Hell/Heaven – and social class as the finger of God.
An immanent concept of god as residing inside us would make any such dichotomy an act against god. With a transcendental God, however, this all becomes meaningful. The first three choices listed in Table II are found as early as Genesis. The last one is more typical of the New Testament with its focus on right belief, not just on right deeds. The other two are found a scattered references to slaves, and to rendering unto the Lord what is of the Lord and unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. The upper classes referred to as being closer to God have actually traditionally been three: Clergy, for the obvious reason that they possessed special insight in how to communicate with God; Aristocracy, particularly the rex gratia dei, and Capitalists, if they are successful. The lower classes and the poor were also chosen, even as the first to enter Paradise (the Sermon on the Mount), but only in the after-life. The six together constitute a hard Judaism-Christianity-Islam which can be softened by giving up some positions and turned into softer Islam, softer Christianity and softer Judaism by adopting a more immanent concept of god (sufism, Francis of Assisi, Spinoza).
The consequences in the right-hand column of Table II could also follow from premises other than a theology of chosenness; the table only postulates contributing, sufficient causes.
For a contemporary example consider the policies of Israel with regard to the Palestinians. The Chosen People even have a Promised Land, the Eretz Yisrael. They behave as one would expect, translating chosenness, a vicious type of cultural violence, into all eight types of direct and structural violence listed in Table I. There is killing; maiming, material deprivation by denying West Bank inhabitants what is needed for livelihood; there is desocialization within the theocratic state of Israel with second class citizenship to non-Jews; there is detention, individual expulsion and perennial threat of massive expulsion. There is exploitation, at least as exploitation B.
The four structural concomitants of exploitation are all well developed: efforts to make the ‘Palestinians see themselves as born underdogs, at most heading for second class citizenship by ‘getting used to it’; giving them small segments of economic activity; keeping them outside Jewish society both within and outside the Green Line, and dealing with Palestinians in a divide et impera mode (as in the Camp David process), never as one people. There is neither massive extermination nor massive exploitation A of the sort found in many Third World countries under the debt burden, which above all hits children. The violence is more evenly distributed over the whole repertory of eight types. To some, who set their sights low, defined by Hitlerite or Stalinist extermination and Reaganite exploitation A, this means that no mass violence is going on, thus proving how humane the Israelis are. Such perspectives are also examples of cultural violence, indicative of how moral standards have become in this century.15
With the decline, and perhaps death, not only of the transcendental but also the immanent god through secularization, we could expect successors to religion in the form of political ideologies, and to God in the form of the modern state, to exhibit some of the same character traits. Religion and God may be dead -but not the much more basic idea of sharp and value-loaded dichotomies. The lines may no longer be drawn between God, the Chosen, the Unchosen and Satan. Modernity would reject God and Satan but might demand a distinction between Chosen and Unchosen; let us call them Self and Other. Archetype: nationalism, with State as God’s successor.
A steep gradient is then constructed, inflating, even exalting, the value of Self; deflating, even debasing, the value of Other. At that point, structural violence can start operating. It will tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: people become debased by being exploited, and they are exploited because they are seen as debased, dehumanized. When Other is not only dehumanized but has been successfully converted into an ‘it’, deprived of humanhood, the stage is set for any type of direct violence,16 which is then blamed on the victim. This is then rein forced by the category of the ‘dangerous it’, the ‘vermin’, or ‘bacteria’ (as Hitler described the Jews); the ‘class enemy’ (as Stalin described the ‘kulaks’); the ‘mad dog’ (as Reagan described Qadhafi); the ‘cranky criminals’ (as Washington experts describe ‘terrorists’). Extermination becomes a psychologically possible duty. The SS guards become heroes to be celebrated for their devotion to duty.
Using the six dimensions of Table II, we can easily see how the chosen ones can remain chosen without any transcendental god. Thus, only human beings are seen as capable of self-reflection; men are stronger/more logical than women; certain nations are modern/carriers of civilization and the historical process more than others; whites are more intelligent/logical than non-whites; in modern ‘equal opportunity’ society the best are at the top and hence entitled to power and privilege. And certain tenets of belief in modernization, development, progress are seen as apodictic; not to believe in them reflects badly on the non-believer, not on the belief.
All of these ideas have been and still are strong in Western culture, although the faith in male, Western, white innate superiority has now been badly shaken by the struggles for liberation by women, non-Western peoples (such as the Japanese economic success over the West), and colored people inside Western societies. The United States, the most Christian nation on earth, has served as a major battleground, inside and outside, for these struggles. Reducing US cultural violence becomes particularly important precisely because that country sets the tone for others.
These three assumptions – all based on ascribed distinctions, gender, race and nation already given at birth – are hard to maintain in an achievement-oriented society. But if modern society is a meritocracy, then to deny power and privilege to those on the top is to deny merit itself. To deny a minimum of ‘modern orientation’ is to open the field to any belief, including denying power and privilege for the meritorious and a strict border between human life and other forms of life. In short, residual chosenness will stay on for a while as speciesism, ‘classism’ and ‘meritism’, regardless of the status of God and Satan.
The ideology of nationalism, rooted in the figure of Chosen People and justified through religion or ideology, should be seen in conjunction with the ideology of the state, statism. Article 9 in the postwar Japanese Peace Constitution, that short-lived effort to make some cultural peace, stipulated that ‘The right of belligerence of the [Japan] state will not be recognized’. Evidently Japan had forfeited that right – whereas others, presumably the victors, exited from the war with the right intact, maybe even enhanced.
Where did that right of belligerence come from? There are feudal origins, a direct carry-over from the prerogative of the rex gratia dei to have an ultimo ratio regis. The state can then be seen as an organization needed by the Prince to exact enough taxes (and, after 1793, conscripts) to pay for increasingly expensive armies and navies. The state was created to maintain the military rather than vice versa, as Krippendorff (1985) maintains. But the state can also be seen as one of the successors to God, inheriting the right to destroy life (execution), if not the right to create it. Many also see the state as having the right to control the creation of life, exerting authority superior to that of the pregnant woman.
Combine nationalism with steep Self Other gradients, and statism with the right, even the duty to exercise ultimate power, and we get the ugly ideology of the nation state, another catastrophic idea. Killing in war is now done in the name of the ‘nation’, comprising all citizens with some shared ethnicity. The new idea of democracy can be accommodated with transition formulas such as voxpopuli, vox dei. Execution is also done in the name of ‘the people of the state X’; but like war has to be ordered by the State. Much of the pro-life sentiment against abortion is probably rooted in a feeling that abortion on the decision of the mother erodes the power monopoly of the state over life. If anti-abortion sentiment were really rooted in a sense of sacredness of the fetus (homo res sacra hominibus), then the pro-life people would also tend to be pacifists; they would be against the death penalty, and be outraged at the high mortality levels of blacks in the USA and others around the world. Of course, the priority for choice rather than life is another type of cultural violence, based on a denial of fetal life as human, making the fetus an ‘it’.17 Combine the ideology of the nation-state with a theologically based Chosen People complex and the stage is set for disaster. Israel (Yahweh), Iran (Allah), Japan (Amaterasu-okami), South Africa (a Dutch ‘reformed’ God), the United States (the Judeo-Christian Yahweh-God) are relatively clear cases; capable of anything in a crisis. Nazi Germany (the Nazi Odin/Wotan-God) was in the same category. The Soviet Union under Gorbachev – who sees himself as the successor to Lenin after 61 years of stagnation – is probably still laboring under its calling as a Chosen People, chosen by History (capital h) as the first nation-state to enter Socialism. And France has the same superiority complex – only that any idea of being chosen by somebody would indicate that there is something above France, an intolerable idea. France chose herself, un peuple elu, mais par lui-meme, exemplified by the archetypal act when Napoleon was to be crowned by the Pope in 1804. He took the crown from his hands and crowned himself.
Certain languages – those with a Latin base such as Italian, Spanish, French (and modern English), but not those with a Germanic base such as German and Norwegian – make women invisible by using the same word for the male gender as for the entire human species. The important movement for nonsexist writing (Miller & Smith, 1988) is a good example of deliberate cultural transformation away from cultural violence. The task must have looked impossible when some courageous women got started, and yet it is already bearing fruit.
Then there are more subtle aspects of language where the violence is less clear, more implicit. A comparison of basic features of Indo-European languages with Chinese and Japanese (Galtung & Nishimura, 1983) brings out certain space and time rigidities imposed by the lndo-European languages; a corresponding rigidity in the logical structure with strong emphasis on the possibility of arriving at valid inferences (hence the Western pride in being so ‘logical’); a tendency to distinguish linguistically between essence and apparition, leaving room for the immortality of the essence, and by implication for the legitimacy of destroying what is only the apparition. However, this is deep culture, the deeper layers of that bottom stratum in the violence triangle. The relations to direct and structural violence become much more tenuous.
Let me make just one point, important for the present emergence of a European Union as the successor to the European Community of 1967 (Galtung, 1989c, ch. 2). How does Europe understand itself? The story tied to the ‘Europa’ of Greek mythology is not very helpful. The understanding of Europe as the negation of the non-European environment carries us much further. And that environment at the time of the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period was the gigantic Ottoman Empire to the east and the south, reaching the walls of Vienna (1683), conquering Syria and Egypt (1517), vassalizing Tripolitania, Tunisia and Algeria after wards, leaving only the Sultanate of Fez and Morocco with the small Spanish Habsburg enclaves, two of them still there. The only non-Oriental (meaning Arab, Muslim) environment was Russia, poor, vast in space and time. Sleeping, but giant (Larsen, 1988, pp. 21, 23).
Europe thus had to understand herself as the negation of the enemy to the south and the southeast. Thus developed the metaphor of ‘oriental despotism’, still very prominent in the European mind, to come to grips with the ‘environment’. Typical of the ‘oriental despot’ was callousness and arbitrariness. Like the European Prince he killed: but he ruled by his own whim, not by law. Sexually he enjoyed an access (the harem) his European colleagues could only approximate by sneaking out at night to violate peasant girls. So did Muslims not constrained by Christian monogamy. In France a school of painting emerged in the 19th century representing oriental despotism in a setting of sex and/or violence. Henri Regnault’s Execution With out Process and Eugene Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapal are good examples. Hegel, copied by Marx, also saw oriental despotism and oriental (or Asian) mode of production as negative, homogeneous, stagnant.
It belongs to this syndrome that the non-Arab part of the semicircle around Europe, Russia, also had to be seen in terms of oriental despotism. That ‘despotism’ could fit the tsars as a description is perhaps less objectionable – but ‘oriental?’ The figure has probably influenced the European image of Russia and the Soviet Union for centuries, and still does, as intended slurs on either.
4.5 Empirical Science
One example of cultural violence would be neoclassical economic doctrine, understand ing itself as the science of economic activity. Strongly influenced by the Adam Smith tra dition, neoclassical economics now studies empirically the system prescribed by its own doctrines, and finds its own self-fulfilling prophecies often confirmed in empirical reality. One part of neoclassical dogma or ‘conventional wisdom’ is trade theory based on ‘comparative advantages’, originally postulated by David Ricardo, developed further by Heckscher and Ohlin and by Jan Tinbergen. This is the doctrine that prescribes that each country should enter the world market with those products for which that country has a comparative advantage in terms of production factors.
In practice this means that countries well endowed with raw materials and unskilled labor are to extract raw materials, while those well endowed with capital and technology, skilled labor and scientists, are to process them. And thus it was that Portugal gave up its textile industry and became a mediocre wine producer, whereas England got the stimulus, the challenge needed to develop her industrial capacity still further. The consequences of this doctrine in the form of today’s vertical division of labor in the world are visible for most people to see. Structural violence everywhere (Galtung, 1971, l988b): among countries and within countries.
Thus, the doctrine of comparative advantages serves as a justification for a rough division of the world in terms of the degree of processing which countries impart to their export products. Since this is roughly proportionate to the amount of challenge they receive in the production process, the principle of comparative advantages sentences countries to stay where the production-factor profile has landed them, for geographical and historical reasons. Of course, there is no law, legal or empirical, to the effect that countries cannot do something to improve their production profile – a basic point made by the Japanese economist Kaname Aka matsu.18 But to do so is not easy when there are immediate gains to be made by not changing the status quo, for those who own the raw materials/commodities. And thus it is that the ‘law’ of comparative advantages legitimizes a structurally intolerable status quo. In short, this ‘law’ is a piece of cultural violence buried in the very core of economics.
4.6 Formal Science
But surely this cannot be said of mathematics? This is not so obvious. If mathematics is viewed as a formal game with one basic rule, that a theorem T and its negation –T cannot both be valid, then there may be violent consequences. Even when mathematical logic explores polyvalent logic, the tool used is bivalent logic with its strict line between valid and invalid; tertium non datur. And it is easily seen that it has to be that way, inference being the mortar of the mathematical edifice, with modus ponens and modus tollens being the key procedures. No inference can be made with ambiguous truth values for the antecedents or the inference (Galtung, 1988c, ch. 4, esp. section 4.4).
This means that mathematics disciplines us into a particular mode of thought highly compatible with black-white thinking and polarization in personal, social and world spaces. The either-or character of mathematical thought makes it an exciting game: but as a model for a highly dialectic human, social and world reality it is far from adequate. And adequatio is the basic requirement for culture, symbolic space, if it is to guide us in visioning a less violent potential reality.
We return to the problem of the transition from cultural violence to violent culture. As mentioned in section 1 above, such global judgements could be arrived at by identifying an extensive and diverse number of cultural aspects, in religious and ideological thought, in language and art, in empirical and formal science; all of them serving to justify violence. However, there is also another approach: to explore the substratum of the culture for its ‘deep culture(s)’, of which there may be several.19 We would be looking at the roots of the roots, so to speak: the cultural genetic code that generates cultural elements and reproduces itself through them. That this becomes very speculative is not so problematic; it is in the nature of science to postulate deeper layers, spelling out implications, testing the hard core of the theory around the ragged edges.
The cosmology concept is designed to harbor that substratum of deeper assumptions about reality,20 defining what is normal and natural. Assumptions at this level of depth in the collective subconscious are not easily unearthed, not to mention uprooted. And yet, it is at this level that occidental culture shows so many violent features that the whole culture starts looking violent. There is chosenness, there are strong center-periphery gradients. There is the urgency, the apocalypse now! syndrome precluding the slow, patient building and enactment of structural and direct peace. There is atomistic, dichotomous thought with deductive chains counteracting the unity-of-means and-ends. There is arrogance toward nature counteracting the unity-of-life. There is a strong tendency to individualize and rank human beings, breaking up the unity-of man. And there is a transcendental, absolute God with awesome successors. The whole culture possesses a tremendous potential for violence that can be expressed at the more manifest cultural level and then be used to justify the unjustifiable. That there is also peace in the Occident, sometimes even emanating from the Occident, is something of a miracle, possibly due to the softer strands.
The problem is that this type of thinking easily leads to a sense of hopelessness. Changing the cultural genetic code looks at least as difficult as changing the biological genetic code. Moreover, even if it were possible, ‘cultural engineering’ might be a form of violence as problematic as genetic engineering is proving. Should it be left to ‘chance’ – meaning to those with power and privilege?21 This is a very difficult and important field for future peace research.
- Gandhi and Cultural Violence
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. But how do we understand ‘unity’? A reasonable interpretation, using the ideas developed in the preceding sections, would be in terms of closeness, against separation. In our mental universe all forms of life, particularly human life, should enjoy closeness and not be kept apart by steep Self-Other gradients that drive wedges in social space. Any justification derived from the hard core of a culture, e.g. a calling as a Chosen People, would be rejected when it conflicted with this even higher, even ‘harder’ axiom.
We can understand unity-of-means-and ends as bringing other mental elements, such as acts, and facts brought about by acts, close together. They should not be kept separate by long causal chains that drive wedges in social time. To initiate long social sequences leading to take-off or revolution, investing in industry or the industrial proletariat, is not good enough. The means must be good in themselves, not in terms of distant goals, way down the road – as witnessed by the millions sacrificed on the altars of industrialism in the name of ‘growth/capitalism’ and ‘revolution/socialism’. Justification derived from empirical confirmation, ‘it works’, is rejected when it conflicts with this even higher, even ‘harder’ axiom.
Any Self-Other gradient can be used to justify violence against those lower down on the scale of worthiness; any causal chain can be used to justify the use of violent means to obtain non-violent ends. Gandhi would be as skeptical of Marxist ideas of revolution and hard work, of sacrificing a generation or two for presumed bliss the day after tomorrow, as he would of liberal/conservative ideas of hard work and entrepreneurship, of sacrificing a social class or two for the bliss of the upper classes even today.
The conclusion drawn by Gandhi from these two axioms was respect for the sacredness of all life (hence vegetarianism) and acceptance of the precept ‘take care of the means and the ends will take care of them selves’. Thus the unity-of-life doctrine is very different from a doctrine of ‘ecological balance’, since it means enhancing all life, not just human life; and all human life, not just the categories chosen by some (to Gandhi, distorted or misunderstood) religion or ideology. And the unity-of-means and-ends would lead to a doctrine of synchrony, calling for work on all issues simultaneously22 rather than the diachrony of one big step that is assumed to trigger the force motrice. Archetype: the Buddhist wheel where elements of thought, speech and action tend to be at the same level of priority, not a Christian pyramid with more focus on some than others (e.g. faith vs. deeds) (Galtung, 1988, ch. 1.1, esp. pp. 25f.).
Violence can start at any corner in the direct structural-cultural violence triangle and is easily transmitted to the other corners. With the violent structure institutionalized and the violent culture internalized, direct violence also tends to become institutionalized, repetitive, ritualistic, like a vendetta. This triangular syndrome of violence should then be contrasted in the mind with a triangular syndrome of peace in which cultural peace engenders structural peace, with symbiotic, equitable relations among diverse partners, and direct peace with acts of cooperation, friendliness and love. It could be a virtuous rather than vicious triangle, also self-reinforcing. This virtuous triangle would be obtained by working on all three corners at the same time, not assuming that basic change in one will automatically lead to changes in the other two.
But does this inclusion of culture not broaden the agenda for peace studies considerably? Of course it does. Why should peace studies be narrower than, for instance, health studies (medical science)? Is peace easier than health, less complex? And how about biology, the study of life; physics, the study of matter; chemistry, the study of the composition of matter; mathematics, the study of abstract form – all of these are fairly broad. Why should peace studies be more modest? Why draw borderlines at all in a field so terribly important in its consequences, and also so attractive to the inquisitive mind? If culture is relevant to violence and peace, and surely it is, then only the dogmatic mind will exclude it from explorations as penetrating and tenacious as the countless studies devoted to the many aspects of direct and structural violence. The only thing that is new is that the field opens for new areas of competence, such as the humanities, history of ideas, philosophy, theology. In other words, an invitation to new disciplines to join the quest for peace, and to established researchers in the field to retool – a little.
In so doing, maybe peace research could even make some contribution to founding a major scientific enterprise still conspicuously absent from the pantheon of academic pursuits, the science of human culture, ‘culturology’. Today the field is divided between ‘humanities’ for ‘higher’ civilizations and cultural anthropology for ‘lower’ ones; with philosophy, history of ideas and theology filling in some pieces. Concepts like ‘cultural violence’ span all of that, just as ‘structural violence’ spans the whole spectrum of social sciences. Peace research has too much to learn, so much to take, to receive. Perhaps we shall also in due time have some contributions to make: in the spirit of diversity, symbiosis and equity.
- Thus, ‘cultural violence’ follows in the footsteps of the concept of ‘structural violence’, introduced in this journal over 20 years ago (Galtung, 1969). For a recent very constructive critique and effort to de velop the idea further see Roth (1988). A similar concept is introduced in Saner (1982).
- There have been many efforts to create the ‘new man’ (and woman?). In the West each new branch of Christianity is an effort, so is humanism, so is socialism. But any inculcation in others of any single culture is in itself an act of direct violence (meaning intended by the actor), usually implying desocialization from one culture and resocialization into another -including the very first socialization of the young (defenseless) child. However, if culture is a conditio sine qua non for a human being, we are born with none (only predispositions), and inculcation is an act of violence, then we are faced with the basic problem of education: is ‘educate’ a transitive or intransitive verb? Of course it is both, related hermeneutically. Peaceful education, including socialization would probably imply exposure to multiple cultures and then a dialogue, as argued below. Neither Christianity nor humanism is good at this; in fact, we still do not know how to do it. It should be noted that to impose a culture on somebody, whether done directly or structurally, is not what is meant here by cultural violence. Cultural aspects legitimizing that imposition, however, for instance because the culture is ‘higher’ (monotheistic, modern, scientific, etc.), would be violence built into that culture, in other words, cultural violence. ‘Empirical or potential legitimation of violence’ is the key to cultural violence.
- We then schematically divide control mechanisms into internal and external, positive and negative: identifying ‘internal, both positive and negative’ as good and bad conscience respectively; external positive as reward and external negative as punishment. ‘Internalization’ is conscience deeply rooted in the person system, ‘institutionalization’ is punishment/reward deeply rooted in the social system. Both serve to make the act come forth ‘naturally, normally, voluntarily’. This piece of elementary social science may serve to locate cultural and structural violence centrally in general social science theory construction.
- For an attempt to compare the three systems (not just Hitlerism and Stalinism, as is now very common under glasnost’ revisionism), see Galtung (1984).
- There are strong similarities built around shinto themes of chosenness. For an analysis see Ienaga (1978), particularly p. 154 for the concept of hakko ichiu (the eight corners of the world under one roof ).
- The easy approach is to dump all ‘side-effects’ at the doorsteps of some other disciplines demanding that they shall clean it up conceptually, theoretically, and in practice – as economists are wont to do.
- A document consisting of the Universal Declaration of 1948, the two Convenants of 1966 and an Optional Protocol. The Bill has not yet attained the standing it deserves, among other reasons because of US failure to ratify the Convenants.
- Hence it is at this level environmental degradation has to be counteracted, through de-industrializing and de-commercializing processes, not by converting one type of pollution or depletion to another through patchwork approaches to this major global problem.
- Rather. it is almost incredible how peaceful that border high up in the North has been between such a small and such a big country, supposed by some to be eager to fill any ‘power vacuum’.
- This, of course, is the general approach taken by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in the SIPRI Yearbook and other publications; very useful as documentation at the surface level, but it does not deepen the understanding sufficiently for any real counter-measures to be imagined and enacted.
- These factors are very often held to be important in explaining Japanese aggressiveness, e.g. by Ben edict (1972). Ienaga (1978) also quotes these factors.
- When the tram passed the Imperial Castle in Tokyo, passengers used to stand up and bow toward the Emperor. And the shinto Yasukuni shrine is still a major center of the national and nationalist constructions in Japan. After his party’s defeat in the 23 July 1989 elections, the new LDP Prime Minister, Kaifu, did not visit the shrine on the anniversary of the capitulation 15 August 1945, well knowing that the winds were blowing more from the left.
- Nowhere have I seen a clearer example of such deep integration of the military into the university as with the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in the USA, which even permits the military to buy students with scholarships and to give classes filled with militarist propaganda.
- Another theological distinction of equal importance is whether we are born with original sin (as some Christians would claim), original blessing (as others would claim), both (a Hindu-Buddhist karmaist position?) or neither (an atheist position). The combination transcendental God/original sin has tremendous implications for controlling people, as Luther understood well.
- For more details, see Galtung (1989a, ch. 3; 1989b). For an excellent study of the theme of chosenness, see Weber (1971).
- This is a major theme of a fascinating and scary dystopian novel (Atwood, 1987). I am indebted to Carolyn DiPalma for this reference.
- My own position, not very original, is this: the fetus is life, hence sacred. Everything possible should be done to avoid a situation where life is destroyed, wilfully or not. After all alternatives have been exhausted, the decision belongs to those who created that life, generally a woman and a man, with veto power to the woman and right of consultation to the man.
- His basic point is simply this: use all surplus value accumulated to improve the factors of production, not for luxury consumption by the owners of the factors of production, to get out of the trap. Simple and wise, this is what Japan did, but hardly what Japan today would like to see too many others do.
- An important poststructuralist position: digging deep, below the surface, is not a transition from multiplicity to simplicity. ‘Deep occidental culture’, for instance, is not unambiguous. I would, for instance, argue that Christianity can be understood only in terms of at least two readings, a hard reading (more transcendental, original-sin oriented) and a soft reading (immanent, original-blessing oriented). Others see a more complex variety of deep cultures. The step from one to two is a necessary condition.
- Cosmology is then defined, roughly, as ‘the deep cultural assumptions of a civilization, including the general assumptions underlying the deep structures; defining the normal and natural’.
- When does the culture, particularly the deep culture, have sufficient plasticity (Scholem) for the culture to be moulded, reshaped? In times of crises? After a deep trauma has been inflicted, including the trauma of inflicting deep traumas on others? We know little except that these are crucial questions.
- Look at Gandhi’s life: The political agenda he took on was staggering –swaraj; the exploration of satya graha and sarvodaya; the uplift of the Indians in South Africa, the harijans in India, the women; and the communal struggle between Hindus and Muslims. At no point did Gandhi say: I will concentrate on one of these, and the rest will follow.
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lenaga, Saburo, 1978. The Pacific War: 1931-1945. New York: Random House.
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JOHAN GALTUNG, born 1930, dr.hc.mult; founder of PRIO and Journal of Peace Research and Editor (1964-75). Currently Olof Palme Professor in Stockholm and Professor of Peace and Cooperation Research at the Universitiit Witten-Herdecke. His works in peace studies include Essays in Peace Research , vols. I-VI (Ejlers, 1975-88).
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