Peace Magazine: Johan Galtung Obituary

Peace Magazine

Johan Galtung Obituary

• published May 18, 2024 • last edit May 30, 2024

Johan Galtung, often called ‘The father of Peace Studies’, died on February 17th
2024 at the age of 93. Born in Norway, he was a vibrant personality, humorous and stunningly multi-lingual. At the age of 24 he was jailed for six months as a conscientious objector. In jail he wrote his first book, Gandhi’s Political Ethics, together with his mentor, Arne Naess (who is seen as the father of the deep ecology movement – what a partnership!)

Moving from his studies in mathematics and sociology, Johan insisted that peace was worthy of academic study as a discipline. He developed his concepts in this area, and published an extraordinary 170 books. His concepts in creative conflict transformation, structural violence, deep cultural underpinnings of conflict and peace have been very influential. He founded the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (1959), the world’s first academic research center focused on peace studies, as well as the Journal of Peace Research (1964). He has inspired the founding of Peace Studies programs all over the world, including the center at McMaster University, with which he established a relationship. He has extended the application of peace and reconciliation into peace education of the young, business practice, economics, journalism and economic development.

Galtung often wrote in partnership with others, including several Canadians: Globalising God was written with Graeme MacQueen in 2008, Peace Business with Jack Santa Barbara (and Fred Dubee) in 2009 and Reconciliation with myself (and Diane Perlman) in 2012. His fundamental text, Transcend and Transform (2004) has been translated into 25 languages.

Some of the fundamentals of Galtung’s approach include a searching conflict analysis, probing the goals of each side and the subterranean structural and cultural undergirding of a conflict. His standard for judging goals was that of basic human needs, which he listed as survival, wellbeing, freedom and identity.

Particularly characteristic was his emphasis on imagination and creativity. This is the ‘transcendence’ in Galtung’s writings – the solution that goes beyond compromise and creates a new reality of greater rewards to both parties. He commented that stasis in a conflict is often attributed to ‘lack of political will’ or ‘lack of mutual trust’, but, he said, What is missing is almost always good ideas.

Gandhian nonviolence was at the core of his ideas. His definition of violence was insult to basic needs. From this is derived his thoughts on structural violence, seeing violence as not only deprivation of survival, but also deprivation of wellbeing, freedom or identity.

Galtung wrote about all phases of conflict and violence – violence prevention (conflict prevention being impossible and undesirable), conflict transformation, peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Fitting last words in this obituary are Johan’s own…
I am reborn in my children,
I am reborn in the products of my work,
I am reborn in the memory I leave behind,
I am reborn in the inspiration I try to give to other human beings.

Farewell, Johan. Your inspiration has been abundant and fruitful. We remain
deeply grateful.

Published in Peace Magazine Vol.40, No.2 Apr-Jun 2024
Archival link:
V40n2 issue cover
Peace Mag masthead

About Peace Magazine

Jan-Mar 2022 issue :

Apr-Jun 2022 issue :

Jul-Sep 2022 issue :

Oct-Dec 2022 issue :

Jan-Mar 2023 issue :

Apr-Jun 2023 issue :

Jul-Sep 2023 issue :

Jan-Mar 2024 issue :

Apr-Jun 2024 issue :

Jul-Aug 2024 issue :

Peace Magazine cover images :

Peace Magazine articles, 1985-2023 :

The Peace Calendar, 1983-1984 :

Project Save the World

Peace Mag's weekday videos and podcasts

Contact page / About Peace Mag :

Privacy, copyright, and reprints :

Policies for contributors and subscribers :

Terms and Conditions :

Guidelines for editing :

Advertising ratecard :

Email the office at :

198 methods of nonviolent action by Gene Sharp :

Disarmament Campaigns archive :

Link to other peace and disarmament websites :

Follow Peace Magazine on Facebook : Follow Peace Magazine on Twitter