This paper is a theoretical discussion of the definitions and dimensions of the terms ‘peace’ and ‘violence’ in the field of peace research. If peace is used to largely mean the ‘absence of violence,’ then it is crucial to understand the many facets of violence. The author rejects the narrow view of violence as the intentional harm done by an actor to someone else. Rather, he notes that violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realisations are below their potential realisations. Therefore, violence is defined as the ‘cause of the difference between the potential and the actual,’ with six distinctions creating a typology of violence.
Based on these dimensions of violence, the idea of peace is expanded to include negative and positive aspects. Negative peace is defined as the absence of personal violence, while positive peace is defined as the absence of structural violence. These enriched concepts of violence and peace deepen understanding in peace research and peace action by giving a more complete picture of a context.
- The discussion of the idea of peace should start with three simple principles: the term ‘peace’ shall be used for social goals at least verbally agreed to by many, if not necessarily by most; these social goals may be complex and difficult, but not impossible, to attain; the statement ‘peace is absence of violence’ shall be retained as valid.
- There are many more types of violence than just the physical harm which an actor can cause to others. Peace research must include all types of violence: physical and psychological; personal (direct) and structural (indirect); intended and unintended; manifest (observable) and latent.
- Influence can be used in both negative and positive approaches ways. Even a positive use of influence can be used as a structural form of violence if it effectively prevents someone(s) from realising their potential.
- Personal and structural violence are often related. Manifest structural violence often presupposes latent personal violence. When the structure is threatened, those who benefit from structural violence will try to preserve the status quo that protects their interests.
- Peace is not only a matter of control and reduction of the overt use of violence, but also vertical development. This means that peace theory is not only connected with conflict theory, but equally with development theory.