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.

Very Short Notes on Johan Galtung: Examining Religious Based Violent Conflict

Comments on Johan Galtung, Peace, Research, Education, Action, (Copenhagen: Christian Eljers, 1975), I.1. & I.4., pp. 29-48, 109-134.


I fascinate Johan Galtung’s background both as a Mathematician and as a Norwich Lutheran Christian. As a mathematician he used to think with rigorous and logic arguments. On the other hand, his Christian understanding of Peace might arguably influenced the way he thought about Peace.

I would like to talk further on the issue of religious based violent conflict based on Johan Galtung’s book entitled Peace, Research, Education, Action (1975). Galtung mentioned two social cosmologies of violent conflict, “actor oriented” and “structure oriented” (p. 22). Question that came to my mind then: How does religion’s role as the root of violent conflict based on Galtung’s terminology of these ‘cosmologies’?  How should we categorise the actor oriented and structure oriented in religious based violent conflict? Since, religion had been engaged very deeply in societies’ life for centuries. On religious based violent conflict, there were groups of people who fight one each other (the actors) in which influenced by religious ideology (structure) that underlying their way of thinking and making decisions.

Galtung contends, “violence is present when human beings are being influence so that this actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations”. Religious fundamentalism makes people cannot think clearly due to arguably influenced by their problematic religious radical ideology (or theology). Mental realisation that mentioned by Galtung implied to fundamentalism in religions in which encumbered  people understanding of their religion. Thus, people cannot not think out of their radical understanding locus. People might be thinking that killing other people (from different religious belief) in the name of religion were rightful. Meanwhile, religion is believed could contribute positive ideas on peace in society.

On page 31, Galtung asserts, “past generations techniques of freeing individuals from internal conflict depended on religion conversion, whereas in contemporary societies psychotherapy is more frequently called for-if not for its present leaders, at least as a for its leaders, and if not for its present leaders, at least as a screening device for future leaders”. In my opinion, there were paradigm shift occurred on the way of seeing religion in modern society, especially in so called developed countries. Since the Enlightenment and Secularisation sprang in European continent in 17th century, religion has been arguably pushed into private area rather in public sphere. Therefore, religion’s role in freeing individual internal conflict in society in the past has been replaced by psychotherapy approach as argued by Galtung. This concept might bring major effects on seeing religion in personal and social relation. However, we should consider how is religion’s role in internal conflict of individuals and public life in the Global South? There might be some major differences. I leave this question open for further reflection. []