What is Structural Violence?

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In a perfect world violence would no be an issue that you would have to ever deal with. That however is not the case and as such we have to deal with violence on a daily basis. It is so bad in fact, that there are now more types of violence cataloged than ever before. One such concept of violence is structural violence. This term is most commonly attributed to Johan Galtung who introduced it in his article “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research,” in the year 1969.

The structural violence definition that is commonly agreed upon is violence that is the result of a social structure or social institution that keeps people from their basic needs. When determining what is structural violence, you can often think in a few easy ways.

How To Identify Structural Violence

The first step to identifying structural violence is of course to think about what type of violence is really occurring. Does a social structure keep people from getting their basic needs? Are people being truly denied their rights or are they simply unable to get them by some other issue? Are basic needs being denied for other reasons than violence like shortage, rationing, or the good of a whole people at the expense of one?

You can often spot structural violence in countries and areas where the government is a very strong presence. In countries where the government exerts major power over the individuals that reside in the area structural violence is likely to occur. A good example would be a location where the government has control over an essential like food, water, or shelter. You can often determine if people are subject to structural violence simply by taking a look at how they go about procuring their basics. If they have free access to foods, are able to grow or raise their own food, have access to grocery stores and water sources, and they have control over their own living arrangements they are likely not being exposed to structural violence.

If on the other hand they were living in an area where they are not freely able to get what they need, they have to ask permission, or they are given a ration, they are likely experiencing structural violence. A good example of structural violence in history could be Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, smaller villages across the world, and more. In Nazi Germany for example Jewish citizens were stripped of their possessions, forced into ghettos and eventually camps, and more or less wiped out by the command of the government or social governing body.

Examples of Structural Violence

Taking a closer look at some examples of structural violence, Nazi Germany is the perfect example as the consequences are lingering and far reaching. Jewish citizens were stripped of their possessions, their homes, their food, the access to markets, their ability to sell their goods, and more. In this case, the government that was supposed to protect them was actually preventing them from living and getting access to what they needed.

Soviet Russia was similar. The government strictly rationed what the people were able to do, what they could buy, what they could sell, and they even decided what they though the people needed to succeed. Though structural violence was not yet a defined thing, it was prevalent in both of the cases mentioned here.

Though it may seem like this is a somewhat archaic concept, structural violence is still in place across the world. In cults, religious sects, some smaller villages and countries, and in places where the government is in supreme control, citizens are being denied basic needs every day without any punishment being doled out to the governments that are practicing it.

What Does Structural Violence Do?

In most cases structural violence is used to cow down or break a population of people. In cases where governments are in complete control of their people, they do what they can to make sure that people are completely dependent on the government. In most cases, structural violence is used to make sure that a people or a group is completely dependent on the governing body that is practicing this type of violence. Though this type of violence and forced subservience may seem somewhat archaic and barbaric to most governments, it is still widely practiced.

This type of violence is also very common in areas where resources are scarce. In some countries it is necessary for the government to strictly lord over necessities like food and water to help keep order. In these cases, these governments may be inadvertently participating in structural violence not to keep the people in line, but to help keep the people going when resources are scarce.

Is Structural Violence Harmful?

In so many words, yes. Structural violence or any form of social violence for that matter is incredibly detrimental to the people that are being forced to live under it. This type of violence can lead to wars, hatred between peoples, issues with boundaries, mal-nourishment, and even death of those that are being subjected to it. Though it may seem like the government or body that is practicing it is just keeping things in line, it can be very detrimental to the health and the spirit of the people that are being forced to live it.

How Can Structural Violence Be Prevented?

In some cases there are no real ways to prevent the social violence that is structural violence. In many cases, governments or other groups are able to impose structural violence because there is not enough of one resource or another to go around. In other cases the people are not strong enough to rise up and stop the injustice. Though you may not be able to stop this type of social violence all together, you can recognize when it is occurring and help bring awareness to prevent and even stop it.

There are plenty of companies out there that are devoted to the destruction or disbandment of governments that practice structural violence and other forms of violence that work to oppress and break the people that are being held under them. You can learn more through an internet search and can even join the cause in some cases with a small donation to helping these individuals that are being subjected to this type of injustice.

Will It Ever Stop?

Though it seems like a nations should be able to come together to stop this type of violence, there is no real way to stop it as long as there are conditions that breed and protect this way of life. As mentioned before, there are groups that work to help liberate people but this is a very dangerous mission that most people are not willing to undertake. You can take the time to learn more and educate others, knowledge is the best way to combat this type of violence and knowing what is really happening is the best way to really get the problem resolved. This is not something that will be resolved over night, with time, effort, and knowledge we can combat this type of issue and can really make a difference overall to the people that are being negatively affected.

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