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.


Security, Security Studies and the Logic of Securitisation

Security and Security Studies




Security studies mainly focuses on how society dealing with threats that have potentials endangering lives and livelihoods. Some threats can be traced back from the beginning of its occurrence as a risk. The risk can actualise itself into a kind of problem in society. A set of problems, then, can escalate into crisis. At this level, society may perceive this situation as a threat for their society or individual lives in which serious attention and concern are needed to mitigate it. In line to this understanding, Fierke argues that, “security is typically about survival and about an existential threat to a particular object. The problem of security arises from an emergency condition which establishes the right to use whatever means are necessary to block a threatening development” (Fierke, 2007). Thus, Security studies is a set of studies that dealing with the measures to prevent any possibility of threat and efforts to eliminate the danger of threat since the very beginning of its development.

On the other hand, the Copenhagen School asserts that security is as a Speech act. Security as a Speech act means that it is the product of claims that made by certain party, usually the government or authority that determine particular risk as a threat for the society and by mentioning something as security, it is already a kind of act. As contended by Waever, “by saying it [security] something is done (as in betting, giving a promise). By uttering ‘security’, a state-representative moves a particular development into a specific area, and thereby claims a special right to use whatever means are necessary to block it” (Waever, 1995). This viewpoint portrays the ‘power’ of security in which when the authority claims something as a security issue than the authority can employ any measure necessary to block it.

The object where the security refers to or the referent object is also important topic in security studies. According to Peoples and Vaughan-Williams, referent object means the entity that is taken as the focus for analysis in security studies (e.g. the state, the human, the ecosystem); or put differently, ‘that which is to be secured’ (Peoples & Vaughan-Williams, 2014). In short, it can be understood as ‘what thing needs to be securitised.’ There are many debates over what is actually considered as the referent abject of security, or on debate over whether particular thing should be securitised or not.

The so-called, “Traditional Security Studies” perceived state as the main referent object of security. And security measurement responding threat to the state is by using military actions. However, nowadays there are also debates on the broadening of referent object of security, such as human (Human Security), economy (Economic Security), resource (Resource Security) and so forth. The broadening meaning of the referent objects of security closely links to the idea of securitisation (the process where particular issue somehow is categorised as a security issue).


According to Peoples and Vaughan-Williams, securitisation means “shifting an issue out of realm of ‘normal’ political debate into the realm of emergency politics by presenting it as an existential threat” (Peoples &Vaughan-Williams, 2014). Securitisation requires degree of certain issue that is originally considered as the non-political issue, before it is politicised. When certain issue is already politicised, then the next step would be to securitise this. As Peoples and Vaughan-Williams shows this process in a simple chart below:

Non-politicised  ->  Politicised -> Securitised

(Peoples & Vaughan-Williams, 2014)

However, Fierke suggests that, any issue is can be applied of securitisation if it is capable to be intensified at the degree whereby it is presented and accepted as an ‘existential threat’ (Fierke, 2007). When particular issue or problem has its potentiality as an existential threat, then it would be easier to be securitised. The question over ‘who does securitise?’ also needs to be considered. In most cases, the state ‘normally’ does the securitisation.

From the idea of securitisation, the broadening referent objects of security emerged. There are more issues, thus, can be securitised. As Biswas maintains that, as proposed by the Copenhagen School, whereby broadening of security beyond traditional military issues by incorporating also economic, societal, environment, resources and energy security as mentioned above (Biswas, 2011). Moreover, in the globalised world context, the threats and security issues are more interconnected and interdependence.

Peoples and Vaughan-Williams, furthermore, propose the prospect for ‘de-securitisation’ is some securitisation theory variants. ‘De-securitisation’ is perceived as process of moving an issue out of the realm of security and considered it back into the realm of non-political deliberation (Peoples &Vaughan-Williams, 2014).



Biswas, Niloy Ranjan. (2011). “Is the Environment a Security Threat? Environmental Security beyond Securitization”. International Affairs Review. Vol XX. No. 1: Winter 2011. Web.

Fierke, Karin M. (2007). Critical Approach to International Security. London: Polity.

Peoples, Columba and Nick Vaughan-Williams. (2014). Critical Security Studies: An Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wæver, Ole. (1995). “Securitization and Desecuritization”, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz (ed.) On Security, pp. 46-86. New York: Columbia University Press.