Although peace research as a professional institution has lost some of its earlier appeal, the end of the Cold War did not cause any particular identity crisis within the field. Quite the contrary, peace research co- contributed to the end of the Cold War via Gorbachev's 'new thinking'. In a world plagued by unnecessary violence, both actual and potential, peace research as an emancipatory conception can readily reorientate to the study of issues relevant in the post-Cold War era. Furthermore, there is plenty of potential to develop the methodological framework from where Galtung and others left off. The article discusses the challenge that critical theories pose for the ontology and epistemology of peace research, and argues that the task of peace research should be related to transformations from politics to violence and vice versa. Informed by critical realism and a pluralistic, republican notion of politics, this argument proposes a direction for both peace research and political praxis. Both should be consistent with realist ontology of open systems and history; with epistemological relativism appropriate for 'heterodoxical' discourses; and with critical peace theories concerning violence-prone social processes such as mystification, reification and enemy-construction.