Should We Seek the Grand Theory of Peace?

Debate on Grand Theory

“Should we seek a grand theory of peace?” becomes a prominent question. Shin Chiba on his article “Is grand theory possible today?” has briefly and thoughtfully reviewed historical debates among thinkers and scholars on the “grand theory” in human sciences since the 1950s.[1] With his expertise in Peace Studies, Chiba pointed out that the seeking of Grand theory of peace was based on the world situation today where people more concerned about the absence of peace, security and kyosei (Japanese word which closely means “conviviality”, living and working together for the common good). Chiba argued, “[t]herefore, we believe that the question about the desirability of grand theory has by no means been resolved. In this view, the present age is strongly marked by an up-swelling of people’s great need and aspiration for peace, security and kyosei. Therefore, to form a grand theory of comprehensive Peace Studies is to attempt to meet these strong aspirations.”[2]


Shin Chiba

Professor Shin Chiba, the Department of Politics and International Studies at International Christian University, Tokyo


The concept of ‘grand theory’ itself has became a matter of debate among scholars, thinkers or philosophers in late modern era. ‘Grand theory’ seemingly intertwined with historicism, positivism and modernity ‘spirit’. ‘Grand theory’ or ‘grand narrative’ was pursued by scholars before post-structuralism and post-modernism came to table of discussion in human sciences. Then, any effort of human search of a ‘grand narrative’ or ‘grand theory’ have been put into skepticism. On the other hand, post-modernism then also received reaction and criticism from later scholars. As Chiba mentioned, Hal Foster suggests two approaches to understanding and evaluating the postmodern situation, namely postmodernism of reaction and postmodernism of resistance.

Postmodernist seems expressed powerlessness and meaningless of human life and society. Chiba wrote, “numbers of poststructuralist and postmodernist share a common view point that contemporary human beings are faced with an abyss of meaninglessness in their lives and society. This fundamental premise seems to be in direct conflict with any theoretical attempt to work out a grand theory today.”[3]

The Return of Grand Theory

Later on Quentin Skinner, began way to put grand theory into important point in human sciences. As Chiba wrote Skinner’s argumentation on his book The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences, “[t]here is a certain enigmatic feature of Skinner’s argument for the return of grand theory. This enigma consists in his effort to maintain that the intellectual genealogy that he regarded as critical of grand theory (i.e., certain elements of post-modernism, post-structuralism and deconstructivism) also turned out to be a theoretical catalyst for offering new bases and perspectives for grand theory.”[4] In line to this Chiba asserted, “[b]ecause these thinkers destroyed the grand remains of some types of undergrounded metaphysics, they helped create new ground where this knowledge and theory could flourish – and where this knowledge and theory could be employed as “weapons” (Heidegger) and “tools” (Wittgenstein).” Grand theory could exist in a new form as a grand theory of “in spite of”. Fallibility of any knowledge should be regarded as the methodological point of departure in forming any grand theory. Theory is always in searching of something and moving toward to a certain destination. Theory is a vision. Thus a viable grand theory is expected to respond crises of the world today. Grand theory covers (grand) scope and (grand) vision of human being in search of peace, security and kyosei.

Toward the grand theory of Peace

kyosei canon

Ryuichi Yamaoka proposed the grand theory of peace as, “… can therefore be understood as an attempt to depict a vision of casting about for a vocabulary that might help our construction of peace. It should be unending quest because the very idea of peace is fiercely contestable meaning”.[5] Yamaoka related grand theory of peace unto tradition of peace which bridges the past and future and truly living because they continue a ‘not-yet-completed’ narrative. Grand theory of peace is become a tradition that keep alive in pursuit for peace.

On the other hand, Lester Edwin J. Ruiz saw the grand theory of peace as a “cultures of peace”.[6] Ruiz mentioned that grand theorizing on peace go hand in hand with the need for the further realization of peace, security and kyosei. Ruiz argued, “[w]hat is becoming clear to me is that the assertion of the desirability or normative character of “grand theorizing” on peace – including my own formulation of theorizing as cartography – is always accompanied by a fundamental subterranean epistemological temptation to “represent” the world as an act of a “subject of history”.”[7] Ruiz mentioned about mondialization as world formation and cartography as a mapping for location positionalities of critique become question, not epistemology but of (ontological) worldliness. Grand theorizing on peace becomes necessary strategy for the survival of the world.

For Johan Galtung, “grand theory” covers the concept of mediation, conciliation, harmony, cooperation, joint project (cooperation and joint project can be seen on structural peace perspective which consist reciprocity, integration, holism and inclusion) and the concept of community of nation. Galtung contended the grand theory of peace with religious and cultural concepts, such as Dukka and Sukka, ummah in Islam, and “I-culture” in Ubuntu tribes in Africa (I am in you, you are in me, we are in each other). Then, Galtung proposed “mini-theory of peace” by using Cartesian quadrant as follows:

  1. Positive peace as in quadrant I
  2. Direct violence as in quadrant III
  3. Structural violence, disharmony in all quadrant
  4. Negative peace is everything that is not in quadrant III.[8]

Galtung asserted kyosei as kyo = together and sei = to live. Kyosei could has meaning as living together like convivenca in Spanish. Inside kyosei there is mutual benefit in symbiosis of society, a peaceful coexistence of traditions and cultural values, conversation, commonality model (ecological sustainability and social equality), and toleration model. Galtung underlined kyosei as tolerance plus conversation plus commonality that move on to ever higher levels away from anti-biosis, disharmony and violence.[9] Galtung also gave emphasis on human security and national security and common security issues. “We, I, you and thou” are one. []



[1]Shin Chiba, “Is grand theory possible today?” in Yorichiro Murakami (Eds), A Grand Design for Peace and Reconciliation: Achieving Kyosei in East Asia, (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2008).

[2]Shin Chiba, Is grand theory possible today?, p. 15.

[3]Shin Chiba, Is grand theory possible today?, p. 20.

[4]Shin Chiba, Is grand theory possible today?, p. 22.

[5]Ryuichi Yamaoka, In search of a grand theory agaisnt the current skepticism, in Yorichiro Murakami (Eds), A Grand Design for Peace and Reconciliation: Achieving Kyosei in East Asia, (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2008), p.41.

[6] Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, After grand theory: musings on dialogue, diversity, and world formation, in Yorichiro Murakami (Eds), A Grand Design for Peace and Reconciliation: Achieving Kyosei in East Asia, (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2008), p. 56.

[7] Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, After grand theory: musings on dialogue, diversity, and world formation, p. 60.

[8] Johan Galtung, Toward a grand theory of negative and positive peace: peace, security and conviviality, in Yorichiro Murakami (Eds), A Grand Design for Peace and Reconciliation: Achieving Kyosei in East Asia, (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2008), p. 100.

[9] Johan Galtung, Toward a grand theory of negative and positive peace: peace, security and conviviality, p. 105.


Comments on M.K. Gandhi’s “Non-Violent Resistance”


Reading Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Non-Violent Resistance echoes an interesting example of the contribution of religion on promoting peace and non-violent movement. In the last several years, world community has been shocked by 9/11 tragedy in U.S. Since then, religion has been under the spotlight of international eyes. Religions were suspected as the root of violence, such as terrorism. Terror actions were very easily associated to religion. Thus, issues on violence based on religion has raised in public discussion sphere.

On the other hand, long before this Gandhi has sounded that religious values could also contribute promoting peace, non-violent movement and social justice. Gandhi as an Indian charismatic leader at the dawn of 20th century, has brought many changes on Indian struggle against British colonialism. Gandhi fought in political, philosophical and religious ‘ways’. As he graduated from a law school in England, Gandhi fought in politics by his law and political knowledge. Gandhi also became a religious leader for Indian people who also appreciated and embraced Hindu religion. Gandhi received two predicates at the same time, both as a political leader and religious leader. He is revered as the father of Indian Nation. These factors has made him became a heroic and charismatic leader in India at that time, although in later discussion there were some controversies over him. Thing that caught my attention is Gandhi’s ‘strategy’ emphasising symbiosis values of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam religion on peace, non-violence, love and social justice (p. 111). He extracted these values and ideas as the root of his actions. He learned Christianity to offend Englishman on how to practice the true Christian value that full of compassion, love and justice to others. And he learned Buddhism and Islam to embrace his fellows Buddhist and Muslim in Indian society to struggle together as one nation. This demonstrates that religions could cooperate to promote and support peace, love and social justice.

Gandhi dug deeply the meaning of peace from his philosophy and religious believe. For him, reactive action without deep understanding will remain in vain for a struggle against colonialism. There should be a deeper understanding, therefore people could have strong persistency on non-violent resistance. That is why Gandhi planted “Satyagaha principle that also could have meaning as ‘devotion to the truth’. If it is a devotion, accordingly it would be a lifetime struggle on achieving peace and justice.

Other thing that I fascinate Gandhi is his way to conduct dialogue with the British colonialist representation in India, in this case on the Examination by Lord Hunter (pp. 19-29). Gandhi has shown his persistence on non-violent resistance. Dialogue or negotiation to the oppressor has been an effective strategy to show the oppressor what human right, equality, justice and truth should be. Peace that meant by Gandhi has its reference to the appreciation of human dignity. On the contrary, arbitrary actions shown by British colonialist to the people of India irritated him and encouraged him to speak up non-violently.

And how does Gandhi`s Satyagraha speak for today`s context? It will be a very long discussion. But one more point that I learn from Gandhi is his non-violent resistance and his systematic political strategy to organize Indian people to insist the truth, peace and justice that he began from his philosophy and religious foundation. []


Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand, Non-Violent Resistance, (New York: Schocken Books, 1951).