Political Disagreement and Conceptions of Violence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Reflecting on peace is intimately connected to how one conceptualizes violence. Moreover, thinking about violence is closely tied to how one conceives of socio-political life and the fundamental problems or threats that it faces. Political disagreement then, translates into disparate notions of violence and of peace. In light of this, some theorists, including Johan Galtung, advocate adoption of a singular, extended definition of violence that can accommodate this divide, paired with a corresponding two-part understanding of peace. In this paper, I argue there are reasons to be wary of this strategy, and to doubt the success of Galtung’s efforts. Specifically, I problematize the methods that obscure substantive disagreement concerning violence and that ultimately limit our ability to conceptualize forms of peace. I then demonstrate the depths such disagreement can reach and thus illustrate both the limitations of existing extended notions of violence (such as Galtung’s) as well as the correspondingly divergent ideals of peace. I end by sketching an alternative account of violence that aims to avoid these flaws and thus offer grounds for a novel understanding of peace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-747
JournalTijdschrift voor Filosofie
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Peace
  • Galtung
  • Violence
  • Hobbes
  • Gandhi
  • Coordination
  • Cooperation


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