ISBN: 978-1-5261-6896-2

Louise Olsson & Nils Petter Gleditsch


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The continuing attention to understanding peace as a substantive phenomenon originates in Johan Galtung’s observation in 1969 that a lack of armed violence is but one of its elements. But what does peace mean beyond the absence of war? This book starts from the argument that ‘both conflict and peace are better understood as relationships, where violent conflict can be transformed’ (p. 6). For instance, this allows us to identify if a lack of violence signifies that parties have broken all contact or if they have entered a more peaceful relationship. Based on this, the editors formulate a relational peace concept which consists of three components: behavioral interaction, subjective attitudes to each other, and the idea of the relationship. Three forms of peaceful behavioral interaction are deliberation, non-domination, and cooperation. The key elements of peaceful subjective attitudes are mutual recognition and trust. Finally, peaceful actors’ ideas or beliefs can be classified as fellowship or friendship. This conceptualization allows for war and peace to coexist within a territory, since 'relational peace can exist among some actors while violent conflict is occurring between other actors at the same time’ (p. 222). This framework forms the basis for case studies of Russia, Cambodia, South Africa, Cyprus, Myanmar, the Philippines, Colombia, and Sri Lanka, contending that it offers a tool for understanding the forming of peace and the evaluation of peace processes as an alternative to relying on peace agreements or the number of casualties. The authors deserve credit for an ambitious effort, although the challenge of capturing the concept of peace remains as demanding as ever, 55 years after Galtung’s groundbreaking observation.