Galtung's structural view added the idea that certain structures, both in the international system and in the community, can be either violent or nonviolent, and that changing such structures was a fundamental task for peace research. Nonviolence under this rubric expands beyond Gene Sharp's original conception, as Sharp himself did in his study of social power and political freedom, (1980) to include not only group actions, but also the social, economic and political structures within which they occur. For example, the international system, which prior to Galtung's theory had been viewed by most peace researchers as a positive contribution to peace, was the focus of intense criticism from peace researchers after the theory was published in 1969. Previously it had been seen as evidence of increased cooperation between states, but after 1969 it was redefined as an oppressive, violent, macro structure that caused the deaths of millions of people per year through the starvation and inequalities it caused. For example, even though there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, millions die from starvation every year because of the structure of the international economic system. A nonviolent international (or domestic) economic system would ensure that no one would starve as long as there was enough food in the world (or country) to feed them.
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Schmidt, in his critical Marxist analysis, "Politics and Peace Research," (1968) argued that value positive concepts of peace were doomed to failure within peace research, because it would not be possible for peace researchers to achieve a consensus on what constituted a positive view of peace. He put forward the view that peace researchers could only agree on what they were against--for example war, starvation, and poverty. Schmidt's article was arguably the main stimulus to Galtung's 1969 rejoinder, in which he redefined Quincy Wright's concept "positive peace" to mean the absence of "structural violence"--harmful social, political and economic structures that are responsible for avoidable human deaths through preventable starvation or treatable illness. Galtung's positive peace concept --the absence of structural violence, like his negative peace concept --the absence of war, did not include an inner or spiritual dimension. Peace of both sorts took place in the outer world and positive peace was a function of human social structures.