The Positive Peace Index is charlatanism

By Johan Galtung

PPI pretends to be an index of positive peace/peaceful society. But is more like an index of “positive for business environment”; by the Institute for Economics & Peace, more economics than peace.

To explore this, imagine we want an index of health. Obviously, we need criteria of health to know what we are talking about, like:

For negative health: absence of illness from the outside–contagion- shocks–and structural from the inside–cardiovascular-tumors-mental.
For positive health: balance in body-mind-spirit and socially; a sense of wellness being alive using body-mind-spirit at work, and in love.
Then, the indicators, the index, the forefinger pointing the way: preventive health, protection–distance–inoculation-quarantine, of the body with clothes-housing; avoiding fire and shocks (not falling for elderly!); adequate sewage-personal hygiene-nutrition-exercise; curative health for acute and chronic diseases.

However, we also need an index of illness to know what we are up against, defined as inability to work, to love, morbidity.

And all of this for individuals, aggregated to groups in society, for states, for groups of states (regions), for the world; per capita.

Then, the correlates, factors that “have something to do with it” but the relation is problematic. Take number of dentists. A criterion of health is caries-free teeth; dentists manage that. Nevertheless, so does personal hygiene-brushing teeth-adequate nutrition. Stone Age people had, like animals, good teeth: adequate nutrition. Dentists can help; but increase dentists per capita and we have a typical correlate that may even be counter-productive: “I do not take care of my health because dentists-physicians will take care of me”. Is that health?

Of indicators, we expect “the more the better”–up to a point. Not necessarily linear, could be exponential, then flatten out. But correlates are often A-shaped: productive, then counter-productive.

Over to peace

We need an index of what we are up against: for direct violence a War Participation Index and for indirect, structural violence an Inequality Index; for states, for regions, for the world. But Gini Coefficient for inequality is a mathematical artifact; top/bottom ratios in acquisitive power; maybe top 1%/bottom 99%, are more indicative.

Moreover, we need peace criteria, definitions. The distinction between negative and positive peace that I introduced in 1958 was inspired by Marie Jahoda’s distinction between negative and positive mental health, a forerunner for positive psychology. That does not imply any monopoly on the definition. Yet, knowledge of the field, rejecting or building, is indispensable for good science. Thus, when Japan marketed alliance with USA as “positive peace”, I was called upon to explain, and it was changed to “collective security”; more honest, more indicative.

We need criteria of peace to know what we are talking about, for

negative peace: absence/low level direct and structural violence so that basic needs of humans and nature-diversity-symbiosis-are met;

positive peace: presence of cooperation-equity, harmony-empathy across faultlines: gender-generation-race-class-nature-provinces/regions.
Violence means something bad in relation; negative peace means nothing bad; positive peace, something good is flowing. Peace is a relation between parties; health is a balance inside individuals.

Then, indicators. For positive peace: cooperation with equity and harmony, sharing sorrow and joy, through empathy. For negative peace equity to reduce inequality, removal of causes of war and direct violence by conciling traumas–the wounds from past violence–and transforming conflicts as source of present and future violence.

Peace formula: Equity X Empathy / Trauma X Conflict.

Very similar to a

Health formula: Balance body-mind-spirit X Social / Chronic X Acute illness

Increase the positive; decrease the negative, reduce illness/violence.

Peace is to Violence what Health is to Illness.

Enters the Institute for Economics and Peace

Their definitions:

Negative peace: “absence of violence or fear of violence”. Ignoring structural violence means that societies-regions-worlds so repressive that violence is not needed can be seen as peaceful.
Positive peace: “attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies-for human potential to flourish”. Such attributes can contribute, but positive peace is a positive relation. Focus on humans is good, but focus on nature is missing. Unacceptable.

Then their “indicators”: 8 “pillars”, 3 in each, 24.

And here my comments:

1. Well-functioning governance. The point is not general government effectiveness, rule of law, and political culture, but whether they serve peaceful relations within and between societies.

2. Sound business environment. The point is not whether business is easy to establish or run but whether board-CEO-managers-employees-customers relations serve equal benefits within and between societies.

3. Equitable distribution of resources. The point is not whether life expectancy is high or low, but equal across the faultlines. Equitable distribution is a criterion (tautology!); Gini an artificial measure. And not only how few live below $2 a day but, say, above $2,000 a day.

4. Acceptance of the rights of others. Cooperation of identity groups within a society is a criterion (tautology!). The point is not rights and freedoms but their use to reduce violence and to increase negative and positive peace. Not women development, but relations men-women.

5. Good relations with neighbors. The point is not number of visitors (tourism) but whether it increases empathy. If regional integration is based on equality within and with other regions, it is a criterion. But regions are not enough; long distance arms and trade serve direct and structural violence all over the world. Globalize human rights!

6. Free flow of information. The point is not press and journalist freedom, but peace journalism identifying conflicts and solutions; not only mobile phones but positive communication across faultlines.

7. High levels of human capital. Humans are not inputs like capital; their fulfillment is a criterion. The point is not many in high school but equality across faultlines; not youth development but relations youth-middle-aged-old; not amount of science, but science for peace.

8. Low level of corruption. Corruption for private benefit is theft, a crime; corruption could also be for the benefit of others. Complex.

The 24 are not indicators of peace but criteria, or irrelevant; hence charlatanism.

But all 24 serve business one way or other. PBI, Positive Business Index, would be an honest, indicative name.

Originally published by Transcend Media Service here.

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