A Structural Theory of Aggression (1964)

Prof Johan Galtung

1. Introduction

This theoretical essay is concerned with the conditions of aggression. We shall define aggression somewhat vaguely as ‘drives towards change, even against the will of others’.2 The extreme forms of this phenomenon are crimes, including homicide, between individuals; revolutions, including elimination, between groups; and wars, including genocide, between nations. These forms make aggression negative and problematic, a cause of concern and prevention. But one can also turn the coin and look at the other face: aggression as the driving force in history, as the motivational energy that moves mountains. However, we shall be mainly concerned with aggression in its extreme forms where it becomes a drive to hurt and harm others because they stand in the way of one’s own self-assertion, and not look at the good causes this may serve in the aggressors’ own minds. Aggression in this sense is pervasive, important and catastrophic, with modern technology as a multiplier. It should be studied at its roots, at the very points from which it emerges.

The postwar period has seen relatively little research into this problem of origin, and much research into how to control aggression, for instance the tremendous effort that has gone into arms control and disarmament research. It is as if the apocalyptic display of aggression during World War II has had a paralyzing effect. But at the slogan level we find two of the United Nations’ specialized agencies sometimes making use of rather simplistic theories of aggression. For UNESCO, war starts ‘in the minds of men’ and for FAO, ‘in the empty barrel’. The former theory has found no support in contemporary psychology if the word ‘starts’ is taken in the sense of ‘always originates’. But whatever the external conditions leading to aggression are, they probably have to pass through the minds of men3 and precipitate as perceptions with a high emotive content before they are acted out as aggression. It should also be noticed that what psychology can say today is not that war cannot originate in the minds of men, but that there is no necessity why it should do so. Hostile aggression is not an inseparable part of the innate structure of the ‘minds of men’, but added to it from the outside, e.g. through special socialization processes.

Lord Boyd Orr’s dictum about hunger serves, like the dictum about the minds of men, to direct attention to a possible side-effect of the worthy activities of UNESCO and FAQ. To spread knowledge and food are positive activities in themselves; if, in addition, they can be shown to have a war- preventive effect they may be even more hallowed. But the number of examples that will come to everybody’s minds of hungry individuals and nations that have not aggressed against anybody, not to mention the myriad of individuals and nations with full stomachs and barrels in store who have, makes one wonder if the correlation between hunger and aggression, if positive at all (which we doubt) is high enough to be of much significance.

The difficulty with these theories, like the Dollard frustration theory, is that they are nonstructural; they do not take the social context sufficiently into consideration. The first theory sees man as a self-sufficient unit; he is his own cause. It does not correspond to our feeling that position in the social structure does matter. Granted the importance of individual characteristics, it is at least as unlikely that the chance of aggression for a given individual is independent of social position as it is that all individuals in the same position should display exactly the same tendency towards aggression.

The second theory locates aggression at the places in the social structure where hunger is found; in that sense it is a structural theory. Its sufficiency is rather in terms of the very limited aspect of the social structure it considers. Hunger may supply motivational energy, but it must be combined with a position in the social structure that gives a view to better life situations and resources. This is where the minds of men enter: a theory of aggression should combine the idea of frustration with the idea of perceiving aggression as a possible way out of the frustrating situation.

We now turn to the construction of a theory of that kind.

2. The hypothesis about rank-disequilibrium

Imagine that we have a system of elements that are actors in the traditional social science sense of having goals and being capable of directing actions towards them, and that they interact with each other.4 Concretely, we are thinking of three such types of systems: the system of individuals found in a group and particularly in a nation; the system of groups found in a nation if the groups are so homogenized and organized that they can be seen as actors; and the nations in an international system. However, we shall prefer to proceed with the general theory for a while without referring to these three interpretations, and only return to them at length later on.

Even under these very general conditions it seems difficult to find counter- examples to the following: 1) There will be a division of labor in the sense that the elements will not carry out the same tasks all the time; 2) the elements will tend to be ranked according to a number of criteria evaluating their position in the system; and 3) the relative position of the elements according to these criteria will have a certain stability. All we are saying by this is that stratification seems to be a universal phenomenon. The distance from ‘high’ to ‘low’ can be reduced, the consequences of stratification can be alleviated, but it cannot be declared to be nonexistent. If one wants an egalitarian society where everybody has the same rank this must be arrived at by such techniques as making an element that is low in one context high in another (compensation) or letting individuals who have high ranks in one period have low ranks in the next period (rotation). It cannot be done by abolishing differential ranking as such. For as long as there is interaction there will tend to develop a certain cultural similarity, and as soon as this is the case the element that has more of, or is closer to, or is more in agreement with the values of the system will rise high, and the elements that have little of these values and seem to be far from realizing them — whether it is might and glory, power, intelligence, money, beauty, health — will stay low in the system.

Thus, an interaction system is a multidimensional system of stratification, where those who have and those who have not, those who have more and those who have less, find, are given, or are forced into their positions. For the sake of simplicity, let us deal with these criteria of rank in terms of two positions only: high and low. We shall refer to them as topdog and underdog positions (T and U). Thus, an element in a system with five rank criteria will have a profile, say TUTTU, the interpretation of which depends on what kind of system and what kind of dimensions “e are referring to. It may, for instance, stand for ‘high on power, low on income, high on occupation, high on education, low on ancestry’ (for individuals or groups) or ‘high on military power, low on income per capita, high on industrialization, high on educational level, low on past glory’ (for nations), and one may discuss how likely the configuration is. But two configurations are beyond doubt: the complete topdog, TTTTT, and the complete underdog, UUUUU, are both well-known occurrences in any social system, individual or national. We shall refer to these two as ‘equilibrated positions’, since the ranks of the elements in these positions are in equilibrium with each other; they are equivalents.

With five dimensions and two positions on each there are 32 possible configurations, or in general 2n combinations when n dimensions are used in the analysis. The theoretical problem is now: where in the system, for what social types, is aggression most likely to accumulate and express itself? For common sense, as well as social experience, makes us doubt that aggression is randomly distributed on the configurations or social positions.

With the conceptual apparatus developed so far there are three possible answers: aggression will mainly come from the elements equilibrated at the top (the complete topdog), mainly from the elements equilibrated at the bottom (the complete underdog), or mainly from the elements in rank- disequilibrium, i.e. the elements with some positions high and some positions low. We shall examine the three possibilities.

The complete topdog has already obtained what the system has to offer in terms of rewards, but this by itself will not prevent ‘much from wanting more’. Colonial wars and slavery were typical examples of aggression from the top, although closer analysis perhaps may reveal that they were also efforts made by nations and individuals close to the top, but short on one or two dimensions, to achieve the configuration of the complete topdog.

Then it may be argued that the complete topdog is always in a state of aggression relative to, for instance, the complete underdog. The reward structure of society is a built-in transfer of value from underdog to topdog where the latter inevitably gets more than his due through a process of accumulation. Where there is stratification there will also be exploitation. But however important this may be, it is not aggression in our sense. Aggression involves a desire for change, and as long as the topdogs are only soaking from the structure what is their institutional ‘right’ this cannot be defined as aggression (although possibly as exploitation). They may encounter aggression from positions lower down in the structure with more aggression, but that is reactive aggression which again is different from what we are investigating: the points where aggression can be studied in statu nascendi.

A number of authors have argued that this is not where the complete underdog is located. For imagine that it was: in that case feudal structures like the slave society5 or classical Indian caste society6 would not have been stable, but would have shown a much shorter lifetime. What was typical of these societies was not so much the differences between high and low — those differences are also found in ‘modern’ social structures — but the almost complete correlation between the rank-dimensions. If a person was high in one context relative to another person, this was also the case in a number of other contexts. Nevertheless, or precisely for that reason, the structures did exhibit a remarkable stability, until, we think, some mobility was permitted so that disequilibrated positions appeared.

James C. Davies7 has summarized much of the thinking around the social basis of revolutions:

On the basis of de Tocqueville and Marx, we can choose one of these ideas or the other, which makes it hard to decide just when revolutions are more likely to occur — when there has been social and economic progress or when there has been regress. It appears that both ideas have explanatory and possibly predictive value, if they are juxtaposed and put in the proper time sequence8.

The theories of Marx, de Tocqueville and Davies are all dynamic. Marx located the source of revolution low down in the society, in the proletariat, and predicted revolutions after a period of deterioration and exploitation. Davies uses the study by Zawadzki & Lazarsfeld9 against this view, and uses this description of the situation of the complete underdog:10

… preoccupation with physical survival, even in industrial areas, is a force strongly militating against the establishment of the community -sense and consensus on joint political action which are necessary to induce a revolutionary state of mind. Far from making people into revolutionaries. enduring poverty makes for concern with one’s solitary self or solitary family at best and resignation or mute despair at worst.

This theme recurs very often in studies of periods or places under depression11, or in the concentration camp studies12. Most of these studies focus on the moral or mental state of the complete underdog, however, or the low level of social organization, and often forget the much simpler and more obvious factor that the underdog is deprived of the resources that make revolutions possible: ideas, visions, acquaintances, weapons, social experience, empathy, courage necessary to imagine oneself as a ruler, etc. What the underdog does not have he can get, but he gets it, we believe, precisely by changing one of his U statuses into a T status and converting that status into a resource for the dissolution of his disequilibrium.

To de Tocqueville aggression was tied to an amelioration of the situation:13 ‘Nations that have endured patiently and almost unconsciously the most overwhelming oppression often burst into rebellion against the yoke the moment it begins to grow lighter.’ De Tocqueville would have found solid support for his thesis in the present Negro revolt in the United States; it seems to confirm his thesis both in space (particularly in the North) and time (increasing rapidly with increasing desegregation).

Davies combines the two perspectives and produces a neat little theory where revolutions are supposed to occur when a population is exposed to a de Tocqueville-effect followed by a Marx-effect, i.e. an improvement accompanied by a revolution of rising expectations followed by a crisis and deterioration in the level of need satisfaction so that one gets ‘an intolerable gap between what people want and what they get’. That is when the revolutions occur, and he gives a number of well-reasoned illustrations but no statistical data to corroborate his thesis.

However good these theories, singly or in Davies’s juxtaposition, are at predicting when, they do not predict or explain where in the social structure the revolutions or other activities of aggression are likely to arise. Davies’s answer might be: exactly in the positions exposed to the Davies-effect. But it would hardly be difficult to show that the complete underdog has often been exposed to the ups and downs caused by economic fluctuations and changing styles of exploitation without resorting to any violence, whereas other sectors of the society may be extremely sensitive to the slightest downward trend. The Davies theory may locate revolutions in time, like the Dollard theory, but neither theory locates them in social space.

We then turn to our hypothesis which is very simple:

Aggression is most likely to arise in social positions in rank-disequilibrium. In a system of individuals it may take the form of crime, in a system of groups the form of revolutions, and in a system of nations the form of war. But these extreme forms of aggression are unlikely to occur unless 1. other means of equilibration towards a complete topdog configuration have been tried, and 2. the culture has some practice in violent aggression14.

We shall now present extensive comments on this hypothesis. Thus, to take up one point immediately: in another paper15 we have discussed this problem from a different angle. In a world consisting mainly of complete topdog and complete underdog positions there will be nobody present to bridge the gap between the two. Hence, a conflict between the TTTTT and the UUUUU would not be alleviated by the presence of mixed combinations that could serve partly as communication bridges, partly as a reservoir of neutrals who could be brought in as mediators and in general dampen the conflict (the classical theory of ‘criss-cross’). A shortcoming of this theory is its neglect of aggressive needs located in the unbalanced combinations. Thus, the theory we are presenting here is in a sense complementary to the other theory: for the classical criss-cross theory, disequilibrated combinations will fulfill an aggression-binding function whereas for the present structural theory of aggression disequilibrium is a reservoir of aggression.

Since the predictions that follow from these two theories are contradictory there is an obvious need for a meta-theory. Just to indicate one possible line of thought: it is possible that the criss-cross theory presupposes l) a high degree of system integration in order for the communication and mediation effects to be present and 2) good chances for the disequilibrated combinations to become equilibrated in a legitimate way. If the degree of system integration is low, as in the international system, and many mobility channels are blocked, the aggression effect will probably predominate over the criss-cross effect. We suggest this as a fascinating topic of future theoretical and empirical research.

3. The theory about how disequilibrium works

The thesis is very simple and the theory behind it is also simple. It rests on a comparison between the social situation of, say, a TU and a UU, in our terminology. There are three such differences that seem to be decisive in this context.

a. Disequilibrium means differential treatment

We have assumed that rank matters in the sense that the elements are treated according to their rank. An element in a TU position will be constantly reminded of his objective state of disequilibrium by the differential treatment he is exposed to. This will force a correspondence between his objective situation and his subjective perception of it, unless he cuts out interaction in one direction or the other. If he does so, he is actually living in a world with only one rank-dimension. But if he does not, disequilibrium will be a part of his phenomenological existence, and the idea of rectification may occur. However, we do not have to presuppose, for the sake of the theory, that an ideology of rectification has to be fully developed, or even perceived at all — only that the objective existence of disequilibrium will cause an instability in the life-style of the person or the nation, and cause what is often referred to as an ‘unstable self-image’.

In more sociological terms, the crux of the matter is the high probability that the disequilibrated TU will use TT as his reference group even if UU is his membership group, whereas a complete underdog, UU, may not even dare to think in terms of TT as a reference group; the complete topdog will be beyond his imagination. The absolute deprivation of the UU may be higher, but the TU has relative deprivation built into his position. The destabilizing effect of this discrepancy will produce a mobility pressure, and the thesis is then that if there are no open channels of mobility, rectification of the disequilibrium will be carried out by other means. In this process two other aspects of the disequilibrium situation are of major importance.

b. Disequilibrium means resources

We have commented on the effects on the TU of having one foot in either camp, for instance, of being white and poor, as nation or as individual. Obviously, the position in the top camp not only creates the motivation towards equilibration, but also some of the resources that will come in handy in the struggle. The nouveau riche may be green, but he is nevertheless rich and the stories about him are about his efforts to obtain balance by converting money into culture and prestige. The small, overcrowded but economically developed nation has in its economic potential the possibility for conversion into military power with subsequent territorial expansion. The member of the intellectual proletariat may be low on almost everything, and yet have in his intellectual maturity, knowledge and academic discipline, invaluable tools that can be converted into power, high-ranking occupations and income. And the ‘white’ but ‘poor’ nation may draw on its kinship with white and rich nations to gain influence and recognition, as is the ease with many Latin-American nations.

c. Disequilibrium means self-righteousness

Our culture seems to be more dominated by themes of balance and adequacy than by the theme of compensation. We have no empirical backing for this, but there seem to be more cases of people and nations saying ‘considering our high rank on x it is right and proper that we should also have a high rank on Y because that corresponds to what is due to us’ than of people and nations saying ‘considering my low ranks everywhere, I think I am entitled to some compensation on at least one dimension’. Claims must be justified not only in the eyes of the others but also in the eyes of the claimants themselves; they must feel they are right to the point of self-righteousness. In the kind of achievement-oriented world in which we live, claims will be based on achievement rather than on lack of achievement; in the latter case they are usually made explicit by others and the Welfare State is an example of the institutionalization of rank-compensation.

There are probably countless examples of this kind of self-righteousness based on disequilibrium. One thinks of such cases as nations trying to equilibrate crowded territory to economic rank achieved by means of rapid industrialization (Germany, Japan) or to equilibrate territory to rank derived from a glorious past (Italy). In all these cases very explicit references were made to the perceived disequilibrium; it became a part of national ideology, so to speak. Or one may think of real or fictional cases of people who have felt that their high rank on one dimension has entitled them to deviance, that it has made legitimate what would have been illegitimate to the complete underdog. Thus, we would imagine that to many juvenile delinquents the world comprises a bitter discrepancy between high ranks in terms of some resources they possess, such as intelligence or muscular power or initiative, and low rank on more institutionalized dimensions such as age, income, position, education.16 Obviously, one would have to use what sociologists refer to as ‘informal status’ in addition to institutionalized statuses to come closer to a sufficient explanatory basis. To summarize: it is socially guaranteed, by the very structure of the system, that the disequilibrated is never left in peace with his disequilibrium unless he cuts out and closes down some interaction channels. In this unstable situation he has both the resources and the inner justification needed for acts of deviance. Nevertheless, we do not hypothesize aggression unless 1) other means of rectification have been tried and 2) the culture has some practice in aggression.

4. More about rank-dimensions and disequilibria

The time has now come to be more specific about the rank-dimensions. These are concerned with the most crucial things of life, the matters for which people live and die.17 But they differ tremendously, and should be analyzed from at least three angles: 1) Is it possible, both in theory and in practice, for one element to change position at all? 2) How does the change of one element affect the position of the other elements? 3) What kinds of disequilibria are most important?

Where the first problem is concerned the traditional distinction made in sociology between ascribed and achieved dimensions is useful. The ascribed position is known at birth, the achieved position is what the individual himself makes out of his life-situation. However, this conceals the important distinction between dimensions that are indelible in the sense that the element cannot escape from it (age, sex, race, primogeniture, family, ethnicity) and perhaps even visible (age, sex, race), and the ‘delible’ dimensions such as nationhood or ecological background, which the individual can move away from, even though they are known at his birth. Achievement may also be so conditioned by the matrix of ascribed dimensions, as in most societies today (skill is not known at birth, but the possibility or impossibility of demonstrating it if it exists is known), that mobility becomes illusory except for persons with the particular mixture of good and evil that makes for mobility. The most aggression-provoking case is probably the half-open dimension of unfulfilled promises, but the completely closed channel will also serve to accumulate aggression unless all channels are closed.

The second problem is more interesting. Imagine a system with two elements and one dimension only: how does the position of one affect the position of the other? In principle, there are three possibilities. The units may be positively coupled in the sense that if one rises so does the other, and that they will also follow each other on the way down. Then, again, they may be negatively coupled: the rise of one is the fall of the other.18 And, thirdly, they may not be coupled at all. Different economic systems provide examples of all three. Concretely, the most dramatic example of negative coupling in the case of nations is the dimension of area: one nation’s gain will have to be the loss of one or more other nations unless the game can be made ‘Variable-sum’ through the exploration of outer space (or as it was in the period of the great discoveries). And the same applies to property at any given point of time: one person’s loss is somebody else’s gain, unless the game is changed through such factors as destruction or creation of property or is stretched out in time.

Correspondingly, the dimensions may be coupled positively, negatively, or not at all: the rising of a unit on one dimension may imply its rising on another dimension, or its fall, or it may imply nothing at all. More age means more power, at least the power to influence elections through voting. and. so on.

In general it is obvious that dimensions with negative coupling between units are the dangerous ones, and this may lead one to speculate how many they actually are. With the concept of a nation tied to the idea of a territory, usually contiguous, international politics is dangerous precisely because of the simple metric quality of that dimension. Today national identity is linked to territory in a rigid way, but one can think away that condition even though only the Jews and some others have had long experience in territory-free national existence. Thus, one could imagine each nation as consisting of a non-negotiable geographical core surrounded by a periphery that could be exchanged for other goods or even lost with no irreparable damage done to national integrity and identity. Or one could imagine a world where all nations were like the Jewish nation prior to the birth of Israel — with a central authority, but no territory — where the nations mix much like strata in a society.

But even though it may serve the prevention of aggression to reduce the salience of competitive dimensions and increase the importance of the cooperative dimensions, an important caveat should be inserted here. World economy can probably be structured in such a way that wealth becomes a cooperative dimension so that no unit’s loss can be another unit‘s gain (if in no other way, by the simple method of taxation of such gains). But even if nations rise together on a dimension of prosperity there is one aspect of this dimension that will remain competitive forever: not absolute prosperity, but relative prosperity. One nation’s gain of the no. 1 position, regardless of the absolute value, is another nation’s loss. And this gives rise to a major question that can only be decided on empirically. What matters most, absolute or relative position? What is most important to a competitive pupil, to improve his grades or his relative position? If he improves his grades but slides back in relative rank, how does he look at the net balance of his achievement? And what about the nation accustomed to a no. 1 position in military power that is bypassed by another nation even if it has also itself increased its military capability?

Probably absolute positions are of paramount importance only in systems with little or no interaction or in extreme cases (e.g. below subsistence level). With a high level of interaction we know of nothing in social science literature to disprove the idea that concern about relative position on a rank-dimension will increase, and since increase in interaction is a general trend in the world community this should make dimensions more, not less, competitive, and conflicts for the reason we are discussing more, not less, probable in the future.

Finally, we turn to the problem of distinguishing between disequilibria. To say that disequilibrium matters is not to say that all kinds of disequilibrium matter equally much. A typology of disequilibria is needed, and we shall discuss this from three angles, two of them formal and one of them substantive.

First of all, there is the obvious dimension of degree of disequilibrium. Imagine that we introduce a ‘middledog’, M. We define ‘degree’ of dis- equilibrium as internal distance between the ranks, which would make TTM less disequilibrated than TTU. Generally, the experience based on data from persons in disequilibrium tends to show that the effects of disequilibrium do not show up unless there is a considerable amount of disequilibrium present.19 The consequence is a tendency towards J-shaped relationships: deviation tendencies stay at the base level for equilibrium and low degrees of disequilibrium, and then rise quickly for high degrees of disequilibrium.

Secondly, there is the problem of disequilibrium profile. The sum of internal distances in the combinations TTU, UUT, and TMU are the same, 4, so we would expect more of an effect than for the combination TTM where the sum is 2. But do we expect the same effect with this crude measure of internal distance? A priori, one might argue that TTU is more desperate about his low status and UUT more proud about his high status, so that the former is the more aggressive – and then one might argue just the other way round.20 One might say that TMU is exposed to a particularly deviation-generating mixture, and one may say that his aggression will be neutralized precisely because of the complex social structure in which he finds himself. In other words, one should leave this problem to the data; their richness, provided they are good, will probably by far outdo even a good theoretical imagination.

Thirdly, there is the problem of which dimensions. Obviously, not all disequilibria even with the same profile will have the same deviation-generating effect. The effect will depend on the salience of the dimensions and of the disequilibrium. There is also the important suggestion made by Jackson21 that the achieved vs. ascribed distinction may be used here. Let us compare these two patterns with the same internal distance, based on three dimensions:

Dimension: ascribed achieved ascribed
Pattern 1 high low high
Pattern 2 low high low

Of the three mechanisms we have mentioned in the section on ‘how disequilibrium works’ this distinction should affect the third mechanism, the norm about justice, in particular. The unit with the second pattern is an overachiever relative to his ascribed case; the unit in the first pattern is an underachiever, and the overachiever more than the underachiever will feel that he deserves a fairer deal, at least in an achievement-oriented culture.

According to Jackson one might predict extrapunitivity for the overachiever and intrapunitivity for the underachiever;22 the overachiever will blame society for constraining him, the underachiever will blame himself for doing less than society or the system might expect from him. But the overachiever is in the difficult situation of being low on ascribed dimensions where mobility, by definition, is impossible. Hence, he will have to fight like the educated Negro, not for white status, but for the elimination of race as a rank-dimension. Thus, outward aggression takes a form other than simple fight for mobility and scarce value; it may be a fight about the definition of value.

The underachiever, e.g. the white high-class who is low on education or income, might be more motivated to direct aggression to promote his own mobility. But aggression is just as likely to be due to a desire to keep what he has — perhaps precisely against the attacks of the overachiever. Thus, the two will be pitted against each other, probably with the strongest aggression potential for any possible pair of combinations. In more concrete terms, the underachiever may possibly be identified as a member of the extreme right and the overachiever as a member of the extreme left;23 the former will keep his privileges since that is the high basis he has in the system, the latter will deny the system of privileges or change them to his own advantage. Thus, we disagree with Jackson that outwardly directed aggression should necessarily be less probable for the underachiever, only that it may come as a reaction to the aggression of the overachiever and be less spontaneous.

It is interesting in this connection to compare the state of the Negroes in the USA and in Brazil. Comparisons are very often to the effect that there is less discrimination or prejudice in Brazil, but statistical data do not appear to demonstrate this. Rather, the impression is that there are more Negroes in higher positions in the USA than in Brazil. We shall only suggest an interpretation in terms of the present theory. If we have a nation where race and position are equilibrated we would predict a very low level of aggression, and hence more of a tendency to express oneself in accordance with the predominant ideology of our time, the ideology of racial equality. Thus, there will be no laws prescribing segregation and little overt prejudice, for rank-equilibrium is built into the social structure.

On the other hand, imagine a nation where many Negroes are high in social position and many whites are low. In that case we would predict formal and informal barriers to secure segregation, and as a barrier against aggression resulting from the disequilibrium. In fact, the way to obtain ‘racial equality’ will be through the suppression of race as a dimension at all, and here as elsewhere the role of ideology and perception is probably tremendous. Thus, to the extent that these models are approximations to Brazilian and US reality, the USA seems to be much further along the road towards racial equality than Brazil, except that the USA is in a transitional period with tremendous potentials of aggression that Brazil has not yet really entered. The revolt of the Negroes in the USA is like the revolt of the colonies in this age of anticolonialism: these are both efforts to eliminate dimensions, by making all citizens ‘first class’, or all nations ‘independent’.

5. Methodology

The time has now come to look at the thesis from a methodological point of view. We shall discuss first procedures for testing the hypothesis, secondly some other properties of the theory.

The hypothesis relates two variables that describe elements: degree of rank-disequilibrium on the one hand and degree of aggressiveness on the other. For individuals the former is relatively easily measured. A considerable part of social science ingenuity has been invested in the development of good indicators of basic rank-dimensions. Most authors that have made use of this kind of thinking have trichotomized the dimensions in ‘high’, ‘medium’, and ‘low’, tabulated them against each other and used the distance from the diagonal of agreement as the measure of disequilibrium. One can also use rank-order and perhaps get a more sensitive measure, but it is only meaningful in relatively limited systems with a high interaction pitch.

For nations it should be possible to do the same. Increasingly good statistics are available for most dimensions of interest.24 Data are actually likely to be too good, not too bad, since only gross discriminations are necessary to test the theory. But the difficulty lies in finding which rank- dimensions to use. Obviously, this will vary with time and place. Christian or not, monarchy or not, socialist or not, such concepts may be meaningful and even clear rank-connotations in some periods and not in others. One procedure for finding which rank-dimensions to use would be to peruse the writings and speeches of leading statesmen to see what dimensions they refer to, and more particularly what disequilibria they make explicit reference to. Another procedure for the contemporary world would be to make use of opinion polls where a sample could be introduced to a large variety of rank-criteria and asked to rank the criteria in terms of salience (for instance by means of paired comparisons or the technique of double alternatives). One could then pay particular attention to answers given by the elite.

As to aggressiveness there is a continuum from the idea of change in the structure of the system via the overt expression and propagation of such ideas and actions designed to change the social structure, to real aggression, i.e. efforts to pursue such ideas even against the will of other elements — and even at the expense of other elements. The extremes are, as mentioned, called crime in the individual case, revolution or internal war in the group case, and external war in the case of nations.

This means that there is a large variety of indicators. So far the only thing that has been explored systematically in the literature has been the individual case with attitudinal indicators, and the hypothesis has been well confirmed.25 The logical next step would be to use behavioral indicators. Thus, the theory would predict disproportionately great rank- disequilibrium among radical politicians, among criminals (especially those who are engaged in crimes against property), among leading revolutionaries and leaders of change-oriented groups in general, and among very bellicose nations.

For nations, attitudinal indicators could be based on national polls and aggregate measures, on elite polls, or on what the elite has expressed without being solicited by social scientists, e.g. in articles and speeches. Thus, it should be possible to test the idea that there is a disproportionately great desire for change in disequilibrated nations. And the behavioral indicators should not be too difficult to find with the growing experience social science gains with ‘statistics of deadly quarrels’.26

A major virtue of the hypothesis is that it should be valid both synchronically and diachronically. It should point out the likely aggressors at any given point in time, as was discussed in the introduction. But given one element, an individual or a nation and its history, the hypothesis should help us locate the periods of aggression in that history: the theory is dynamic. Thus, there is a piece of common folklore about radicalism and youth belonging together which gains in perspective if we apply this theory: the youth may be at the period of institutionalized disequilibrium with education high and most other dimensions low, the period of student riots and demonstrations. This is the age where change seems logical, inevitable and desirable and the attitude is known to taper off somewhat with age. The folklore interpretation is in terms of growing wisdom: ‘he who is not a radical in his youth does not have a good heart, but he who is not a conservative when he becomes older does not have a good brain’. Our interpretation is in terms of growing equilibrium more than growing wisdom, and hence decrease in motivation due to decrease in relative deprivation.27 The condition is that the society permits this equilibration, that there is structural provision for it, otherwise the result will be a society with pockets of accumulated disequilibrium that may one day burst and yield a revolution.

For diachronical tests of the theory the system could be observed through a period and the period divided into time-chunks of, say, from one to five years. For each time-chunk the elements should be rated according to degree of disequilibrium and degree of aggressiveness displayed. Since the theory does not predict overt aggression as an immediate outcome of disequilibrium (other alternative. are tried out first), the test of the hypothesis should provide for a time lag between disequilibrium and aggression, and more so for the behavioral and extreme forms than for the attitudinal and more tranquil forms. A great deal of experimentation with time cuts and lags will probably be necessary before a pattern can emerge.

In this process ‘proof’ by illustration should not be accepted. One can always ‘prove’ by the usual library hunt for ten cases in favor and one against (to show that one is not biased), but we have preferred to postpone the presentation of such data till they can be evaluated against a background provided by data amenable to statistical treatment.

One may ask: why not systematically study all wars during, for instance, the last one hundred and fifty years to find in how many cases the aggressing nation can be said to have been disequilibrated? There are two objections to this primitive procedure. First of all, a percentage of disequilibration among nations that aggress says nothing if it cannot be compared meaningfully with the corresponding percentage for nations that do not aggress. One is not interested in the percentage of belligerent nations that are disequilibrated, but in the percentage of disequilibrated nations that engage in aggressive acts. But apart from the trivial point about rules for percentaging there is another objection: the danger of running into a tautology. Given a war and an aggressor it is only a question of time and research imagination to dig up a rank-disequilibrium, for the number of dimensions along which a nation can be ranked is legion. Thus, the methodology will make the theory nonfalsifiable in practice. Undoubtedly, a test of the theory will require much speculation about relevant disequilibria, but the strength of the theory will depend on the ratio between number of types of disequilibria and number of aggressive acts they can explain. The lower the ratio, the more powerful the theory; if each aggressive act should be explained by its own kind of disequilibrium we would still have a disequilibrium theory, but a far less powerful one.

A major advantage of this theory, in addition to its dynamic character, is that the hypothesis is meaningful across different levels of social organization. Individuals as well as groups and nations can be ranked in terms of rank-dimensions and aggression, although there will be problems in connection with the choice of indicators.28 Thus, the theory is a theory in general conflictology, not in any of the special fields concerned (social psychology, sociology, international relations, not to mention history).

There are three aspects of this cross-level nature of the theory.

First of all, the theory points to a basic isomorphism between different levels of social organization. Disequilibrium is relatively easily identifiable at all levels, and its consequences are spelt out in the hypothesis. The hypothesis is about systems of interacting units and three interpretations are given; to the extent that the hypothesis is verified these three levels of organization will have to be isomorphic.

Secondly, there is the possibility of a causal connection between the levels. We shall not explore this, only indicate some possibilities. Disequilibrium at one level can lead to disequilibrium at another level: a highly disequilibrated individual may become the leader of a completely underdog group and lead it into disequilibrium by giving it power, property or education. The group, in turn, may lead the nation into disequilibrium. But we are more interested in the cases where disequilibrium at one level expresses itself as aggression at another level, as perhaps may be argued to be a description of the case of Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Thirdly, there is the problem of interaction. Imagine that a disequilibrated person brings a disequilibrated group to power in a disequilibrated nation. Would one not expect the motivational energy stored in these disequilibria to multiply rather than to add up, and to result in a particularly spectacular form of aggression? Again the case of Hitler’s Germany comes to mind, but also, perhaps, the case of Castro’s Cuba, and in general, new nations high on economy and with a more or less revolutionary leadership.

The methodological implication of this is not only the necessity of independent tests at all levels as pointed out above, but, in addition, the need to explore patterns of causality and interaction.

6. Discussion

Let us now imagine that there is something to this reasoning, at least in the statistical sense that disequilibrium in rank accounts for a major part of the variation in aggressive behavior. We can probably do this with some justification partly because some excursions into data seem to corroborate the theory, and partly because the contrary idea of placing the peak of the probability distribution for aggressiveness a priori on the points of equilibrium seems to lack theoretical justification. The question is what follows from this, can anything be said in more concrete terms about specific arrangements of systems, specific structures? With no value-implication to the effect that aggressiveness is an absolute evil, it is both theoretically and practically important to know something about conditions that promote or do not promote aggressiveness. We shall try to spell out some implications of this kind, mainly for the international system, since this is our major concern.

a. The consequences of economic development

Economic development is a major issue of our times: for most people on earth probably the major issue. The motives for giving technical assistance are interesting.29 Economic and technical aid are defended (against the attacks from those who want to give less or nothing) on such diverse grounds as: 1. it buys us friends, who (a) will not attack us themselves (the direct insurance argument) and (b) will support us if somebody else attacks us (the indirect insurance argument); 2. it increases our military power by securing bases etc. in return; 3. it increases our political power by securing UN votes etc. in return; 4. it increases our economic power by tuning the market to our products or otherwise; 5. if we do not do it the others will do it and gain 1, 2, 3 and/or 4; 6. for humanitarian reasons, all human beings shall be guaranteed a minimum standard of living; 7. for reasons of justice: there is an equitable distribution of economic goods that should at least be approximated to; 8. because it promotes world peace. We are concerned with the last argument.

Some would say it follows directly from one or more of the first seven arguments, which may be true but is certainly not self-evident. Then it may be said that the transfer of technical economic assistance requires a kind of international cooperation and even superstructure that by itself will be conducive to a safer world community. But the argument is usually interpreted as meaning something else: statesmen talk about the North-South conflict being of equal or even greater importance than the East-West conflict, alluding to the conflict between rich and poor nations. This may be true in more than one sense, but it does not follow that economic development is the remedy. Of course, it is a tautology to say that in a world where economic value has been evenly distributed (if such a world is imaginable) there will be no conflict because of differences in wealth. That leaves us with the conflicts due to similarities in wealth: the desire to be high in a relative sense, not only an absolute one, and the highly important factor that equally rich nations are often nations in more or less similar stages of economic (and even social) growth and hence will be competing for exactly the same goals, the same values, the same markets, the same friends.

But the argument is rather that economic development will deter the poor from joining together to rob the rich, for when they receive aid they will be deprived of the motive. The argument rarely specifies how this is going to happen in detail, and one reason may be that the idea is probably wrong. Imagine a world with four salient rank-dimensions (or three, or two for that matter) and that aid is given from TTTT nations to UUUU nations, developing some of them into TUUU nations. In all probability this would be a more, not a less, dangerous world to live in, ceteris paribus. All theoretical reasons mentioned in the beginning of this article, the sense of self-righteousness, the access to resources of different kinds, the internal strains due to differential treatment in different interaction contexts, would operate. As a matter of fact, the following development seems much more likely: a group of TUUU nations join their newly gained forces and resources in making an organization for revolution in the international community. Another version of this would correspond to a pattern for revolutions discussed in the following section: one or a few heavily dis- equilibrated nations mobilize the complete underdog nations against the complete topdog nations according to the eight-point scheme below.30

In other words, and put bluntly: economic development per se will probably create more, not less, rank-disequilibrium and hence be conducive to more, not less, aggression. It is unnecessary to add that this does not imply that it cannot be justified on other bases, or that economic development and technical assistance in particular cannot have peacebuilding functions for other reasons, e.g. by contributing to international superstructure.

b. The conditions for revolutions

According to the theory presented the recipe for a revolution should be relatively clear. A revolution needs leaders and followers, and traditionally the leaders seem to come from somewhere high up in the tertiary sector of society whereas the followers come from somewhere low down in the primary and secondary sectors. Thus, what is needed is first of all a sufficient amount of built-in disequilibrium in these social positions. If the point of departure is a feudal system, for instance a newly independent, formerly colonial territory, then one way of arriving at this would be as follows:31

  1. Create universities and other institutions of higher learning so as to turn out a sizeable number of intellectuals who feel they have a key — their high level of education — not only to their own well-being, but to the welfare of the whole society, e.g. economists, physicians.
  2. Make few positions available so that the high educational status will not be translated into the kind of instrumentality that gives power. Regardless of the economic situation, this intellectual proletariat is a proletariat in the sense of not having access to the machinery they know (or think they know) how to turn. They are forced into other positions, and these positions will call for subsidiary capacities (accounting, typing, low administration) and the disequilibrium is created.

It should be noticed how easily such an intellectual proletariat is created: in the age of technical assistance and international fellowships it takes little time to turn out university graduates, but it still takes a lot of time to tune an administration to an efficient utilization of their skills. The intellectuals will probably oversell their products precisely because they are underbought and underdemanded, and they will be feared, envied and hated by their rank opposites, the powerful non-intellectuals. Both sides will develop ideologies that make symbiosis less likely, as is so easily observed in most countries in Latin America. Thus, a climate for the emergence of revolutionary leadership is created, unless the rulers are clever enough to coopt the intellectual proletariat by giving them something that tastes of power, e.g. by paying them for writing recommendations.

The revolutionaries may be able to sway a sufficient number of followers to do the footwork for them, but we are concerned with the structural conditions for automatic supply, not with special conditions. Thus, one simple formula is to copy what is mentioned above lower down, and in the primary or secondary sectors of society:

  1. Institute mass education with a compulsory base and easy access to educational follow-up institutions of various kinds especially so as to permit autodidactic leaders to emerge. The factor of self-righteousness will probably work more strongly for the autodidact than for the formally trained person, especially if he is high on what he has learnt himself and low on formal schooling. This contributes to an explanation of the role of typographers in social revolutions: their work brings them close to a source of rank-disequilibrium through studies.
  2. Make no other changes, which means that the recent rise in education is not accompanied by any corresponding rise in economy or power.

Again, it should be noticed how easily this is done. Mass education, like mass medication, costs little compared to building dams or irrigation schemes or the creation of a sector of heavy industry. Also, like mass medication it can bring quick results and cause disequilibria. The disequilibrium caused by raising the hygienic standard without a corresponding rise in the economic basis is well known — to this can be added the effects of a free education market without a corresponding freedom in the markets of economics (goods) and politics (power).32

Let us then add to these four conditions four more, and we should have a relatively good set of predictors:

  1. A pattern of boom followed by depression or repression as mentioned earlier — the pattern made explicit by Davies in his article.
  2. Contact between the two (or more) disequilibrated groups, between the tertiary high and the primary or secondary low in disequilibrium. Urbanization provides the medium for such contacts, and is a rapidly increasing resource on the world level.
  3. An ideology that does not have to explain the past or present or to predict or prescribe the future, but has to provide a kind of semantic bridge over the social distances within the group urging change. This function of ideology, to provide a revolutionary group with emotive symbols that are easily applied and have the same reference for those who use them, is the more necessary the greater the social distance within the group.
  4. A charismatic leader. The functions of personification and centralization are not easily satisfied without a leader. To say that he should have charisma is probably a tautology since the proof of his charisma lies in his ability to be a leader and sway people into action. But a personality with appeal across social distances is indispensable.

Any one of these conditions may serve as a spark to ignite the motivational energy stored in the disequilibrium mentioned in points 1—4, and all four together should be more than sufficient. We would, as mentioned, believe more in disequilibrated rank as a source of revolutions than in the Davies factor, for a completely balanced underdog group is so psychologically and ideologically conditioned as to absorb the vagaries of economic cycles. But it may also be argued that the two factors are rather similar. They are both themes of frustration, and more than that: a boom followed by a depression or repression is likely to create rapidly a high number of disequilibria at critical points in the social structure. But disequilibria are also created by rapid economic growth, so the arguments in the preceding section about the consequences of economic development for external war can also be turned into arguments for internal war. In other words, there is little inspiration in our theory for anyone who might want to stop ‘communism’ nationally or internationally through a policy of technical assistance and economic aid. What is wrong with that theory is that it confuses the social situation in nations or groups equilibrated at the top with all the disequilibrium states they have to go through on their way up from a complete underdog situation.

c. On the number of elements in a system

All our reasoning so far has been with no reference whatsoever to the number, N, of elements in a system. This simple variable, number, is rarely used for other purposes than data analysis in social science; here we shall try to point out one theoretical implication of number. We choose a simple world: it is ranked according to two dimensions and in a random way so that 1/4 of the elements are TT, 1/4 are TU, 1/4 are UT, and 1/4 are UU. The question is: what difference, if any, does it make if this world has 4, 40, 400, 4,000 or 4 million elements?

We expect the drastic demands for reallocations to come from the TU and UT positions. But there is a long distance between making a demand, a request and open aggression, and the probability of aggression will also depend on the number of alternatives. With increasing N the number of combinations for a given element increases very rapidly. There is no need to enter into the mathematics of the combinatorics since they reflect nothing of substantive interest except the extreme rapidity with which the number of subsystems that can be formed increases with N.

v Some of these subsystems may be belligerent coalitions that increase the probability of aggression. But there is another kind of subsystem which is more important in this context. To discover it one only has to recognize one way in which tensions are alleviated for disequilibrated individuals in intranational systems: they form subsystems that dissolve the disequilibrium. A group of 100 TUs isolating themselves from the rest of the system will no longer see themselves as TUs; the dimensions are negated in the homogeneity of the groups. Thus, one university professor may feel entitled to more power, to the power that corresponds to his wisdom — together with 99 others he may be more concerned with minute differences in wisdom within the group than gross differences between his position and other positions in the society.

If the idea is simply that people and groups and nations like feeling superior or at least not inferior, then the implications are equally simple. A TU for N = 4 will have one other element to associate with (UU), whereas the TU will have 19 others for N = 40 (10 UU and the remaining 9 TU). The UT are excluded because their profiles lie over the profile for TU at one point. The gain in sources of gratification is conspicuous and continues: I, 19, 199, 1,999, On the other hand, as soon as these subsystems are formed they may serve to reduce effectively the number of elements until one has a supersystem of four elements, where the elements are complicated organizations bearing the TT, TU, UT and UU characteristics.

Thus, the higher the number of elements, the higher the probability of finding some kind of organizational insulation against the strains produced by a disequilibrium position. The world with four elements throws the elements against each other mercilessly: all comparisons involve some element of strain, there is no refuge in the relaxed atmosphere of the complete peer, the real equal. With only two elements it would be still worse, especially if they were posited against each other in TU and UT positions, one being high in power and low in culture and the other one being just the opposite. It is easy enough to see where the difficulties disappear: only at the point where all elements have coalesced into one.

If there is stability of the kind under discussion in systems consisting of one element on the one hand and systems consisting of many (hundreds, thousands, millions) on the other hand, then some conclusions can be drawn. Nations owe their stability, if they have any, to 1. a large number of individuals, and 2. a sufficiently complicated social structure in terms of all kinds of rank-dimensions to prevent a simplification to a very low number of groups. Of course, stability is enhanced by obliterating the rank- dimensions, by making them irrelevant, as during a foreign occupation — but this is a rare occasion and when it does not obtain there is strength in number alone.

Similarly the international community should have its points of stability for the one world state as well as for a world consisting of a large number of nations. With the present trends the world is probably moving into the in-between region; for instance with two federations developing out of the NATO-alliance, (one North-American and one European), of the Warsaw alliance (Soviet and Eastern Europe), Asia (for or against China), Africa (Arab and bloc) and Latin America (Spanish and Portuguese) one is left with a dozen nations and all kinds of rank—profiles. Formal political union is not necessary for such effects to be demonstrable: even now European nations play a counterpoint to the US; Eastern European nations (singly more than combined) to the USSR; in Asia a China-non-China division is meaningful; in Africa the Sahara is a dividing region and in Latin America the poor could well be pitted against the rich.

d. On the number of dimensions

It looks as if one may use the same argument about the stability in one and many, but not in few, for the number of dimensions. Of course, the number of dimensions is a more volatile characteristic of the system than the number of elements. But it is not operationally meaningless, as indicated in the section on methodology. One will have to count the number of criteria of ranking on which there is a degree of consensus above a preestablished level.

Imagine that there is only one such dimension — for instance per capita income. This does not mean that conflicts and aggression will disappear, but that one source of aggressive behavior, arising from disequilibrium (e.g. with size of territory) does not exist. The ‘haves’ will be envied by the ‘have-nots’ but quite possibly be more safe in their topdog position than they would have been if there were some more dimensions available. For on these other dimensions the underdogs might rise and get into the web of disequilibrium. No doubt, there are exceptions to this. Topdogs have always and everywhere known the importance of stretching out a ladder of compensation to the underdogs, for instance in the form of an ideology that promises salvation in a transcendent existence (religion) or in this world (‘die orgiastische Chiliasmus’). But these ladders are not rank-dimensions in the sense that they lead to identifiable positions where one is treated differently by the whole society. Thus, to institute mass education and give knowledge to the masses with the idea that ‘this will satisfy them, they will think less of getting property’ is both psychologically and socially unsound. Not much time will pass before the UT, high on education, starts wondering why he should be less well off than the TT, not to mention the TU — he may find comfort in his top position for a while, and then start worrying about his low position.

The question is now whether there is a limit to this kind of reasoning set by the number of dimensions. A world with a very high number of salient dimensions would permit more flexibility; the number would serve as a cushioning against the effects of disequilibrium. For each new dimension gives a possibility upwards, and hence a source of gratification, especially if different nations climb on different dimensions. Take as an example sports competitions and ‘contests’ as to which nation has the highest number of Nobel laureates; both define positions that can be highly gratifying and compensating. Our hypothesis, then, is that a U position may loom high in the national conscience if it is surrounded by one or a couple of T positions but not if it is surrounded by very many such positions. Then it may even be turned into a point of pride: look at what we have been able to do in spite of that handicap (the national ethos of the small nations in North-West Europe, Norway for instance, illustrates the case).33 Again, if the U is surrounded by nothing because the system is seen as one-dimensional, then the hypothesis is that an attitude of acquiescence will be more likely, for there is no disequilibrium present to provoke restlessness. The consequence of this is a prediction of stability in extremely monolithic and extremely pluralistic cultures — in the former there will be one criterion, in the latter, many, for pluralism is precisely a multifaceted basis for evaluation. Again, it may look as if the world is presently moving towards the in-between region. Communications and international organization make greater areas relevant for each other, but at the same time the richness in total cultural variation is broken down. But what could be called the world consensus is probably richer today than the narrow military-economic basis of evaluation prevalent during the period of colonialism.

Combined with the preceding section this means roughly the following: the world is neither in the simple monolithic world-state nor in a very pluralistic system of numerous and small nations — say a couple of thousand. The world is in-between and in a situation where there is considerably less than maximum protection to be found in the formation of subsystems. We are then thinking not only of the subsystems where nations that feel similar keep together, but also of cultural subsystems where a nation regards itself as salient only in some dimensions. She may pick the dimensions where she ranks high — and receive gratification. But, undoubtedly, she may also pick precisely the dimensions that present her with a maximum internal disequilibrium — so richness and variety in number of dimensions give a potential for containment of aggression — not a fool-proof recipe.

In general, one may say that this perspective implies a number of connections between change and conflict, between the causes of disequilibria and their aggressive dissolution. Social change is structural; it may, for instance, introduce new and usually disequilibrated rank-combinations. Or it may distribute new resources more evenly, which is another way of saying that some complete or nearly-complete underdogs will rise on one or more dimensions due to mass education, prosperity, universal suffrage or, on the national level, to such factors as freedom from colonialism or economic development. The result is either disequilibrium with consequent aggression until more equilibrated combinations of rank-sets are achieved, or a precarious balance between equilibrated and disequilibrated combinations as described by the criss-cross theory. And thus world history unfolds itself, and makes aggression as lasting as rank-disequilibrium, that is, as long as human society exists. But that does not imply, of course, that the forms of aggression will necessarily be as dangerous as is the case today, nor that social change will always cause as much rank-disequilibrium as it does today.

In a sense the whole theory is located somewhere between purely system-oriented theories of aggression (like the theories of Richardson processes) and purely element-oriented theories (attributing aggression to national character). According to the theory it is the rank-balance within a unit that counts, not the rank-balance between units. But this balance within is defined with reference to the balance between and is meaningless except in a system context. In fact, as indicated in the reasoning about the formation of subsystems, the system reference is indispensable if one is to decide whether an element is in equilibrium or not.

7. Some policy implications

Not much can be said in terms of policy implications of a principle so general as the principle under discussion, and not much should be said as long as the principle has not been confirmed by a variety of strategically placed tests. Nevertheless, it is interesting to pretend that this has already been done and to look at the implications.

First of all, the principle and a value premise against aggression are compatible with a large variety of possible worlds. Among these worlds should be mentioned:

  1. the feudal order, consisting of the complete topdog and the complete underdog alone,
  2. the pluralistic world, consisting of a large variety of nations, possibly several thousands or based on a large variety of criteria of ranking and achievement, and
  3. the unitary world, where independent national actors have disappeared from the scene, or there is only one dimension of evaluation.

In all other worlds, according to the theory, unbalanced configurations exist and are bound to harbor aggression, as long as one assumes the existence of rank-dimensions and values worthy of being pursued. In general ideological debate these three worlds are usually considered so disparate that one of them would exclude one or more of the others; the theory points to what they have in common.

Secondly, a general implication well known from debates on economic development is the following one: if change is one-dimensional only from the position of the complete underdog, aggression is likely to be its effect; for aggression to be avoided a necessary condition is multidimensional change. This calls for a tremendous amount of political ingenuity.34 One nation leaps economically ahead of the others ‘with whom it is natural to compare oneself’. The idea of compensation and egalitarian concepts of social justice would prescribe some kind of mobility to the other nations so that the first nation ‘does not become too strong’. Thus, one maxim of statesmanship will have it that federal capitals should be placed in one of the poorer member States and State capitals at least not in the richest or biggest city of the State. Within a well-integrated nation this is probably nonconsequential, the forces created are not unleashed because of the strong bonds between the constituent elements. But in a loosely integrated group of individuals or nations the principle would predict aggressive consequences unless the system generates enough value to permit mobility that is not at the expense of the others.

The prescription based on the principle would rather make increase in political influence an immediate concomitant of economic growth. This would be in agreement with achievement conceptions of social justice, but lest it should lead to a feudal world order that many people would rule out on the basis of other value premises, the principle should rather be interpreted negatively. That is, to take the most important example in the world just now, if a nation which is the world’s largest in terms of population, one of the largest in terms of area and the most ‘glorious’ in terms of history undertakes the transition from a semicolonial status to independence and autonomy through the catharsis of a revolution and then undergoes a dramatic socioeconomic change that alters its economic status towards that of an industrial nation: if that nation is voted out of existence as a political entity by being denied membership in the club of nations and more particularly by being denied access to the club of great powers, then the hypothesis of this article would be very wrong if the predicted aggression did not occur within a reasonable time-span. Whether that nation adds to its territory or seeks de facto political control through other media the principle does not predict, but the principle would predict that if due political status is given to it before aggressive tendencies have had too much of a habit-forming effect, then its neighbors should have less to fear.

It is not difficult to look through national statistics and discover disequilibria and make predictions about the future behavior of some nations in terms of aggressive behavior. A major formula of aggression will probably be precisely the nation favored by nature, culture, talent or an economic aid benefactor that makes a jump ahead of its neighbors so that all three mechanisms of disequilibrium are set into motion. This makes those economic policies to the effect that some nations should be developed first, as has been advocated by some,35 particularly dubious from this point of view. And since parallel development of many nations on one dimension is also an implication of the principle one is not stuck with the elitist formula of parallel development of one nation on many dimensions. Clearly, if aggression had less dangerous consequences, as it may have in a world where arms are controlled and alternative methods of conflict management better developed, one could focus on the positive aspects of aggression and put the negative aspects, the damage done to others, aside. Disequilibrium is a reservoir of initiative that serves evolution unless it is frustrated. But in the present world there are probably better theoretical reasons to favor some kind of equilibrium principle than the opposite principle, if economic development is to take place without too many deviations into war and warlike processes. Throughout this paper a number of the indications given should make it clear that the implications of an equilibrium principle are not necessarily only on the ‘conservative’ side or only on the ‘radical’ side — whatever these terms may mean.


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ZALEZNIK, CHRISTENSEN, ROETHLISBERGER 1958 The Motivation, Productivity and Satisfaction of Workers. Pages 56—66. Boston: Harvard University Press.


  1. This is a revised version of a paper presented at a plenary session of the Scandinavian Summer University in Bergen 1964. During the spring of 1964 it was also presented at the Circolo Turati, Milano, Facolt‘a delle scienze politiche, Universita di Torino, Polemological Institute, University of Groningen and the Danish Conflict Research Society in Copenhagen as well as study groups under the Scandinavian Summer University in Lund and Aarhus. This paper is also printed in J. Peace Res. 1964, No. 2, pp. 95—119. Deep gratitude is expressed for all the good ideas received during these discussions — particularly to Mr. Bengt Höglund of the study group in Lund. The study is an outcome of a grant from the Aquinas Foundation, New York, and from the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities, and serves as a theoretical basis for a series of empirical investigations.
  2. This is different from standard definitions in the field, e.g. the famous definition given by Dollard that aggression is any ‘sequence of behavior, the goal-response to which is the injury of the person toward whom it is directed’. This definition is also used in the standard work by Berkowitz, Aggression: A Social Psychological Analysis (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962). But we agree with Klineberg when he writes (The Human Dimension of International Relations, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964, p. 11): ‘The question of universality of aggression is further complicated by considerable difference in the definition of the term itself. One writer, for example, refers to the original meaning of aggression as a tendency to go forward or approach. This is regarded as instinctive, whereas the inborn or instinctive nature of hostility has never been demonstrated. Another describes it as the will to assert and to test our capacity to deal with external forces, and it is this, rather than hostility, that is a fundamental characteristic of all living beings’ (p. 10). But universality or fundamentality still leaves us with the problem of where or for whom aggression in this broad sense is most pronounced, and with the problem of under what conditions aggression expresses itself as hostility. We use aggression somewhat in the sense of ‘self-assertion’, but only insofar as this self-assertion implies an effort to change social relations, i.e. no longer to comply with existing conditions.
  3. Klineberg, op. cit., pp. 7—17.
  4. For an analysis of the concept of interaction see Galtung, ‘Expectations and Interaction Processes’, Inquiry, 1959, pp. 213—34.
  5. See, for instance, the brilliant analysis in Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen, The Negro in the Americas (New York: Knopf, 1947). It took many years before the rank disequilibrium of some, and complete underdog status of most, US Negroes led to the mutinies of the 19th century.
  6. See, for instance, the analysis in Barth, The System of Social Stratification in Swat, North Pakistan, in Leach, (ed.) Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon and North- West Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960), p. 113.
  7. Davies, ‘Toward a Theory of Revolution’, Amer. Social. Rev. 1962, pp. 5—19.
  8. Op. cit., p. 6.
  9. Zawadzki and Lazarsfeld ‘The Psychological Consequences of Unemployment’, J. Social Psychol. 1935, pp. 224—51.
  10. Davies, op. cit., p. 7.
  11. See, for instance, ch. 5 in Rose, Indagine sull’integrazione sociale in due quartieri di Roma (Roma: Istituto di Statistica, 1959), pp. 60—69); or such classics as Angel, The Family Encounters the Depression (New York: Scribner, 1936) or Komarovsky, The Unemployed Man and His Family (New York: Dryden, 1940).
  12. Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell (New York: Berkley Medallion Books, 1958), ch. 23, ‘The Psychology of the Prisoners’. (Title of the original: Der ss Staat)
  13. Quoted from Davies, op. cit., pp.5ff.
  14. The condition of rank disequilibrium is, of course, not a necessary condition for aggression. Aggression may arise for other reasons. And it is hardly a sufficient condition either; perfect relationships between variables are rarely if ever found in the social sciences. But we shall argue later that for high levels of disequilibrium aggression seems to be a very probable consequence.
  15. Rank and Social Integration (Oslo: Peace Research Institute, stencil 10—2, 1963), to be published in Berger, Zelditch, Anderson, Sociological Theories in Progress (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965). (Essays III. 5.)
  16. Work is under way at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo to test this implication of the hypothesis. So far it is based on more intuitive impressions of delinquents, and some investigations purporting to show that juvenile delinquents more than others in comparable positions are marked by some of the characteristics of the entrepreneur, viz. initiative, intelligence, energy, ability to take risks and to see possibilities, etc.
  17. The following list may be useful as a reference. We have presented two sets of variables for nations, depending on whether the variables are ‘analytic’ (based on statistical information about individuals) or ‘global’, i.e. sui generis. 
    # Individual Dimensions NATIONS, ANALYTIC NATIONS, GLOBAL
    1. Age (adults vs. adolescents and children) population pyramid Age as a nation
    2. Sex (men vs. women) population pyramid  
    3. Family (‘good’ vs. ‘bad’)   Alliances (‘good’ vs. ‘bad’)
    4. Primogeniture (‘first born’)   Doyen in a group of nations
    5. Race (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, etc.) rates of racial composition Dominant culture
    6. Ethnicity (Gentiles vs. Jews, emigrants vs. immigrants) rates of ethnical composition Dominant culture
    7. Ecology (urban vs. rural) rate of urbanization  
    8. Geography (center vs. periphery)   Central vs. peripheral nation
    9. Nation (for individuals only — all national variables relevant as context)    
    10. Education (degree) rate of literacy Educational structure
    11. Occupation, split into   Occupational structure
    a. sector (tertiary, secondary, primary) I-rate in primary occupations  
    b. position (high vs. low) I-rate of pop. in low occupations Social structure
    12. Ideology (‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’) rates of believers Dominant ideology Stage of economic growth
    13. Income, property (rich vs. poor-‘dispossessed’; bourgeoisie vs. proletariat) per capita income = per capita consumption + per capita investment; standard of living GNP (development), natural resources utilization of resources (rate of growth)
    14. Power (rulers vs. subjects) rate of popular participation Political structure, International power
    15. Legality (law-abiding vs. law-breaking) rates of criminality Legality
    16. Health (well vs. ill) rates of morbidity etc., life expectancy Medical structure
    17. Knowledge (those who know vs. those who do not know)   Cognitive culture
    18. Skill (those who can vs. those who cannot)   Technical culture
    19. Conviction (the ‘true believers’ vs. the others) rates of true believers Ethical culture
    20. Taste (artists vs. laymen)   Esthetic culture



  18. This corresponds to the distinction made in game theory between cooperative and competitive games. Also see Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), ch. 2,3 and 6. 
  19. See Jackson (9, p. 473) or Galtung, Members of Two Worlds, A Sociological Investigation of Three Villages in Western Sicily (Oslo: PRIO publication No. 6—2, forthcoming), section 4.6.
  20. See Jackson, op. cit.
  21. Ibid., pp. 476 fi‘.
  22. Loc. cit.
  23. I am indebted to Tom Broch for this suggestion.
  24. For many of the nation variables indicated above, United Nations: Statistical Yearbook and United Nations Demographic Yearbook will do. For other variables the excellent World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators prepared by the Political Data Program of Yale University will answer many questions. But this is for the contemporary scene; since the hypothesis should also be tested over time, historical data are needed where cruder distinctions will have to be made.
  25. The main findings in the empirical investigations based on the ideas of rank equivalence can be summarized as follows (see table below) for this and other references (see Bibliography).The focus of the research has been on the persons with rank differences. Unfortunately, only the very stimulating article by Adams has group data in addition to individual data, and this leads him to the important conclusion: ‘it should be noted that there is an apparent antithesis between productivity and group euphoria, at least in settings such as the military organization‘ (ibid., p. 22). In general, it should be noticed that all findings reported by these authors are based on relatively small percentage differences. Hence, even though the phenomenon is too consistent to be written off in any way, it is probably of secondary importance to other factors.

    Author About the rank-equilibrated About the rank-disequilibrated
    Fenchel et a1. less so unstable self—images because of differential treatment
    Adams less subject to discontents or compensatory behavior group performance low group atmosphere harmonious trusting cooperative ‘lack of congruency is an effective motivator of the individual’ group performance high group atmosphere less harmonious
    Lenski less radical support Democrats more, have liberal and left views
    Lenski less isolated more sociable in their motivation ‘social isolates more numerous’ ‘less likely to report sociable motivations’ — for social participation
    Goffman less concerned about change of power distribution ‘prefer extensive change of the distribution of power in society’ — but only when ‘experience opportunities for upward mobility are low’
    Jackson less frustration less ambiguity frustration leads to 1. stress (intrapunitive) if low status more achieved 2. radicalism (extrapunitive) if low status more ascribed
    Landecker in general, more consciousness of class status less so


  26. The science of peace research, when it gains momentum and perspective, will probably acknowledge its tremendous debts to the genius of Lewis F. Richardson even more clearly than is the case today. Regardless of the criticism that can be raised against his work, his courage in treating nations and wars like the physicists treat bodies in mechanics has been invaluable. It is to be hoped that there will be many follow-up studies such as Paul Smoker’s work on the mathematical side (J. Peace Res. 1964, pp. 55—64) or J. D. Singer’s forthcoming work on ‘150 years of conflict’ on the statistical and theoretical side.
  27. Similarly, one can predict at what period in a woman’s life the tendencies towards participation in emancipist movements will be most pronounced. She starts as a young girl with equilibrium between her low sex-status and her low age and probably also education, income, power (if only in the family), etc. But as she grows older she will grow into disequilibrium between her sex position and all the concomitants of age; hence, we would predict participation in radical movements at a much older age than for men. Men gain equilibrium as they grow older, women lose it — hence the difference.
  28. The only author to our knowledge that has written consistently about the sociology of international relations from the point of view of international stratification is Lagos, International Stratification and Underdeveloped Countries (Chapel Hill: University of North CarolinaPress, 1963). However, as pointed out by Amital Etzioni in his review of the book (Amer. J. Social. 1964, pp. 114 f.), ‘the potentially promising line of examining the consequences of status inconsistency, of a country rich but weak, poor but honest, etc., is not sufficiently developed’. For further comments see Appendix 2 in Galtung, ‘Rank and Social Integration’ in Berger, Zelditch, Anderson, op. cit. (Essays III. 5.)
  29. See article by Mari H. Ruge, ‘Technical Assistance and Parliamentary Debates’, J. Peace Res. 1964, pp. 77—94.
  30. The role of China in the follow-up of the 1955 Bandoeng conferences can probably be studied under this perspective.
  31. A study of the Cuban revolution guided by this theoretical perspective is in process at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. The reader may find it useful to test the ideas against standard knowledge of this revolution and of the life of Fidel Castro.
  32. Thus, it is not surprising that turns towards the left have taken place where the rate of illiteracy is relatively low, as in Kerala in Southern India, Cuba or Chile, which stood a fair chance of electing into power a marxist president, Senator Salvador Allende. The relation between the interplay of social indicators and the type of political system is probably much more complicated than the famous analysis by Seymour Lipset: ‘Economic Development and Democracy’, in Political Man (New York: Doubleday, 1960), pp. 45—76.
  33. Norwegians love per capita statistics, for the simple reason that many indicators when divided by a small population will make Norway rank relatively high.
  34. Adoption is a system whereby a wholesale transition from (almost) complete underdog to (almost) complete topdog position, can take place. The Japanese feudal system of bestowing on a servant ‘who has proven himself’ status as son of the family is a good example, and very functional for the preservation of the feudal order precisely because it preserves rank equilibrium. Knighting in the Middle Ages probably had a similar function, whereas winning in the lottery does not, it may create gross disequilibria. However, since equilibration will be on other dimensions than property, aggression may not necessarily result from this type of disequilibrium.
  35. See, for instance, Shonfield, The Attack on World Poverty (London: Chatto and Windus, 1961).

Prof Johan Galtung

Prof Johan Galtung

a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU

Prof Johan Galtung was born in Oslo. He earned the PhD degree in mathematics at the University of Oslo in 1956, and in 1957 a year later completed the PhD degree in sociology at the same university.

Prof Johan Galtung received nine honorary doctorates in the fields of Peace studies, Future studies, Social sciences, Buddhism, Sociology of law, Philosophy, Sociology and Law.

Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1987 and has received many other prizes and accolades as the Humanist Prize of the Norwegian Humanist Association,Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values, Brage PrizeMorton Deutsch Conflict Resolution Award, Erik Bye Memorial Prize and other.

Credits : TMS: A Structural Theory of Aggression (1964)  


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