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Professionalization in peace research

Johan Galtung


By Johan Galtung

• Keynote, International Peace Research Association (IPRA), Calgary 1/7/2006.



On professionalization in general

Generally, the sociology of professions identifies three characteristics of a profession:

[1] There is a range of SKILLS with which a range of professionals will handle a range of problems for a range of clients, with proven competence. The clients have an idea of what to expect from the professional, and the professional of what to expect from a client.

[2] There is a professional CODE OF CONDUCT, defining the relation of a professional to the clients, other professionals and others. The code of conduct may be supported by an oath.

[3] There is a pattern of ACCOUNTABILITY of the professional to the clients, to other professionals, and to others. Professionalization of peace work moves us beyond peace research and studies, both indispensable for skills.

The purpose of peace research is to produce intersubjectively communicable and verifiable KNOWLEDGE according to the general rules of research.

Thus, research is incompatible with secrecy, as research has to take place in public space. And one purpose of peace studies is the communication of the findings of peace research, in line with general rules for education, another public space activity.

The free access of the rest of society to what happens is of the essence. As peace workers are not planning to hurt or harm, in other words to exercise violence, s/he has nothing to conceal.

In the following a person exercising the peace profession will be referred to as “peace worker”, like “social worker”, or “peace professional” like “health professional”.

Others may find “peace specialist” more dignified. “Manager” must be avoided as active participation of the clients, those seeking professional advice, is of the essence. “Facilitator” is much better.

Government realism versus peace movement idealism: tertium datur?

To understand better where peace research may be heading, let me juxtapose governments and one special non-government, the peace movement.

The governments of the state system of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia in a eurocentric view of history were successors to feudal lords, kings, emperors. They entered violence-war-peace with ULTIMA RATIO REGIS, the King’s last argument, the gun, with frequent use; to he who has a hammer the world looks like a waiting nail.

But that also holds for the negation of the government, the peace movement: to he who has a mouth the world looks like an attentive ear.

REALISM as a doctrine is based on the “ultima” above, force, not persuasion from basic principles, nor bargaining offering incentives, nor decision-making by authoritative bodies. A derivative of this thesis would be that the final word belongs to whoever has superior force, the big sticks of the big powers. In the present world Anglo- America; a peace proposal unacceptable to them is not “realistic”. The supreme goal of the realist will be security, meaning low probability of being hurt/harmed by the violence of any Other. The underlying philosophy is that Evil exists, ready to turn violent for violence’s own sake, and that the only counter-measure is sufficient strength to deter and/or crush Evil; thereby producing security.

IDEALISM AS A DOCTRINE is based on persuasion from basic principles, particularly principles held to be universally valid, even self-evident. Such principles tend to be of the ought- rather than the is-variety, like the sacredness of (human) life, meaning (human) life should be considered sacred. But what if Other does not share that noble view? Or, “in a war there are only losers”.

But what if winning can be defined as losing least? An endless debate, with strong statements about human nature. Words, words, words.

Let us try to present the two positions along some dimensions, in no way claiming that the juxtaposition is complete, nor that there is not a solid range of variation. What we are looking for is, of course, a way of bridging the gap, even contradiction bolstered by solid hatred on both sides, and the use of violence, or nonviolence.



1. For more on this and most of the topics mentioned in this paper see the author’s Transcend and Transform, London, Boulder CO: Pluto, Paradigm Press, 2004; published in many translations.

2. See Johan Galtung: “Conflict Transformation By Peaceful Means” in Charles Webel and Johan Galtung, eds., Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies, London: Routledge, forthcoming.


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