In the late 1960s, peace studies scholar Johan Galtung introduced the idea of “structural violence.” He argued that behind every incident of “direct violence” (both physical and emotional), you will find certain social structures that support and/or justify the direct violence.
In the early 1990s, Galtung began speaking about an even deeper form of violence that he referred to as “cultural violence.” Galtung defined cultural violence as anything in our culture—art, music, religion, symbols, science, and so on—that makes direct or structural violence feel right or that legitimizes the use of violence against other human beings through dehumanization.
Galtung introduced a diagram that shows the symbiotic relationship between these three forms of violence.
Galtung argued that to truly transform conflict, peacebuilders had to attack not just direct violence or even the structural violence that undergirds it. They had to go deeper—to the culture that both justifies and supports the ongoing direct violence. Sustainable peace, he argued, depends on establishing peace at the cultural level—that is, at the level of how we see others.
The trouble is, it has proven difficult to figure out a replicable way to deal with issues at the cultural level. With Outside-Inside-Out strategy, Arbinger provides a roadmap for transforming both culture and structure. Focusing on what we refer to as ‘outside triangles’ helps us concentrate on others’ humanity in ways that engender senses of helpfulness toward them. This is change at the cultural level—in how we see. We then modify what we do—our inside triangle efforts—to help operationalize structures that promote seeing others as people. Outside triangle thinking produces highly collaborative cultures that create improved performance and results. In the conflict space, the “result” that this work produces is an increase in peace—not just on the surface, but at a level that is deep enough to be sustained.
While most people tackle conflict at the direct or structural levels, Arbinger attacks the problem at its root—at the level of how we see, which is to say, at the level of what Galtung called culture. Solving conflict at this level promotes sustainable transformation in individuals, families, organizations and communities.
Is your organization interested in taking tackling conflict at its root? Call us at 801-447-9244 or email us.