Commonly known as “the father of peace-and-conflict studies,” Johan Galtung was born in Oslo, Norway on October 24, 1930 and as a 12-year-old saw his own father arrested by the Nazis. By 1951 he had become a pacifist who invariably counseled against any government standing up militarily to a foreign aggressor; he opposed Hungarian resistance against the Soviet invasion in 1956. Galtung’s antipathy for capitalism was evidenced during that era as well, when he predicted, in 1953, that the Soviet Union’s economy would soon surpass that of the West.
Galtung earned a degree in mathematics at the University of Oslo in 1956, and a sociology degree at the same institution the following year. He then emigrated to New York City, where he spent five semesters as an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University. In 1959 Galtung returned to Oslo, where he founded the International Peace Research Institute – Oslo (PRIO), where he would serve for a decade as its director. In 1964, Galtung and PRIO established the Journal of Peace Research, the first academic periodical devoted to that discipline. That same year, Galtung helped establish the International Peace Research Association. In 1969 he left PRIO to become a professor of peace-and-conflict research at the University of Oslo, a position he held until 1978.
Galtung visited China during the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong and concluded that the people there were largely happy because they were, for the most part, “nice and smiling.” He stated that while China was “repressive in a certain liberal sense,” Mao himself was “endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood.” China, Galtung said, demonstrated that “the whole theory about what an ‘open society’ is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of ‘democracy.’” But “it will take a long time,” he lamented, “before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects.”
In 1972 Galtung praised Fidel Castro’s Cuba for “break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip.” The following year, he declared that the “structural fascism” of the West was “our time’s grotesque reality.” Also in 1973, he characterized the United States and Western Europe as “rich, Western, Christian countries” that historically had waged war in order to secure their control over natural resources and foreign markets. “Such an economic system is called capitalism,” said Galtung, “and when it’s spread in this way to other countries it’s called imperialism.”
After leaving the University of Oslo in 1978, Galtung served stints as director general of the International University Centre in Dubrovnik, and president of the World Future Studies Federation. He would go on to hold additional academic posts at Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Santiago (Chile), and the United Nations University in Geneva. He also has published more than 1,000 articles and over 100 books.
In 1993 Galtung co-founded an organization known as “Transcend International – A Peace, Development and Environment Network,” whose mission is “to bring about a more peaceful world by using action, education/training, dissemination and research to handle conflicts with empathy, nonviolence and creativity.”
Galtung contends that “the United States is extremely unskilled in solving conflicts” because it “divides the world into two, the good and the bad,” and it has a “mindset” that “calls for some kind of armageddon, some kind of final battle” to be fought against its purportedly evil adversaries. When the U.S. bombed Kosovo in 1999, Galtung likened America to Nazi Germany. On other occasions, he has described the United States as a “killer country” that is guilty of “neo-fascist state terrorism,” and he has predicted that America will soon follow Great Britain “into the graveyard of empires.”
According to Galtung, American foreign policies cause “unbearable suffering and resentment” around the world because the “exploiters/ killers/ dominators/ alienators, and those who support the U.S. Empire because of perceived benefits” are engaging in “unequal, non-sustainable, exchange patterns.” In 2004 Galtung predicted that the United States would cease to be a functioning superpower by the year 2020. He asserted, moreover, that the country would go through a phase as a fascist dictatorship during its downward spiral, and that the Patriot Act was a symptom of that fascism.
In an effort to punish the United States for its international transgressions, Galtung has called for a “civil society boycott of U.S. consumer products (like colas, burgers and gasoline), capital goods (like Boeing aircraft for travel when there are alternatives, Boeing being a major death factory), and financial goods (dollars, stocks, bonds).”
Galtung’s contempt for the United States pervades also his sentiments toward America’s close ally Israel. He has accused both countries of practicing “state terrorism.” In 2008 he condemned “the U.S. and Israel” for “sharing the bad karma of being built on stolen land [and] pushing the inhabitants into bantustans or worse.”