Chapter 2 Conflict Resolution: Foundations, Constructions and Reconstructions

НазваниеChapter 2 Conflict Resolution: Foundations, Constructions and Reconstructions
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1. Introduction to conflict resolution

First we briefly introduce some of the classical ideas that have shaped conflict resolution thinking and practice and are still foundations of the field. We give a fuller account of their development in Chapter 2.

1.1 Classical Ideas

Conflict is an intrinsic and inevitable aspect of social change. It is an expression of the heterogenity of interests, values and beliefs that arise as new formations generated by social change come up against inherited constraints. But the way we deal with conflict is a matter of habit and choice. It is possible to change habitual responses and exercise intelligent choices.

1.1.1 Conflict approaches

One typical habit in conflict is to give very high priority to defending ones own interests. If Cain’s interests clash with Abel’s, Cain is inclined to ignore Abel’s interests or actively to damage them. Leaders of nations are expected to defend the national interest and to defeat the interests of others if they come into conflict.

But this is not the only possible response.

Box 1 illustrates five approaches to conflict, distinguished by whether concern for Self and concern for Other is high or low. Cain has high concern for Self and low concern for Other: this is a ‘contending’ style. Another alternative is to yield: this implies more concern for the interests of Other than Self. Another is to avoid conflict and withdraw: this suggests low concern for both Self and Other. Another is to balance concern for the interests of Self and Other, leading to a search for accommodation and compromise. And there is a fifth alternative, seen by many in the conflict resolution field as the one to be recommended where possible - high regard for the interests both of Self and Other. This implies strong assertion of one's own interest, but equal awareness of the aspirations and needs of the other, generating energy to search for a creative 'problem-solving' outcome.

1.1.2 Win-lose, lose-lose, win-win outcomes

What happens when the conflict approaches of two parties are considered together? Parties to conflicts are usually inclined to see their interests as diametrically opposed. The possible outcomes are seen to be win-lose (one wins, the other loses) or compromise (they split their difference). But there is a much more common outcome in violent conflicts: both lose. If neither is able to impose an outcome or is prepared to compromise, the conflictants may impose such massive costs on each other that all of the parties end up worse off than they would have been had another strategy been adopted. In conflict resolution analysis this is found to be a much more common outcome than is generally supposed. When this becomes clear to the parties (often regrettably late in the day), there is a strong motive based on self-interest for moving towards other outcomes, such as compromise or 'win-win'. The spectrum of such outcomes may well be wider than conflictants suppose.

Traditionally, the task of conflict resolution has been seen as helping parties who perceive their situation as zero-sumi (Self’s gain is Other’s loss) to re-perceive it as a nonzero-sum conflict (in which both may gain or both may lose), and then to assist parties to move in the positive sum direction. Box 2 shows various possible outcomes of the conflict between Cain and Abel. Any point towards the right is better for Abel, any point towards the top is better for Cain. In the Bible, the prize is the Lord’s favour. Cain sees the situation as a zero-sum conflict: at point 1 (his best outcome) he gets the Lord’s favour, at 2 (his worst) the Lord favours Abel. All the other possibilities lie on the line from 1 to 2 in which the Lord divides his favour, more or less equally, between the two brothers. Point 3 represents a possible compromise position. But it is the other diagonal, representing the nonzero-sum outcomes, that is the more interesting from a conflict resolution perspective: the mutual loss that actually occurred, at 0, when Abel was slain and Cain lost the Lord’s favour, and the mutual gain that they missed, at 4, if each had been his brother’s keeper.

1.1.3 Prisoner's dilemma and the evolution of cooperation

Prisoner's Dilemma is a simple representation in game theory, that clearly illustrates the tendency for contending strategies to end in lose-lose outcomes. Two players (prisoners accused of crime) each have two choices: to cooperate with each other (remain silent) or to defect (inform on the other). The choices must be made in ignorance of what the other will do (they are kept in separate cells). The possible payoffs are given in Box 3. It can be seen that, whatever choice the other may make, each player considered singly gains a higher payoff by choosing to defect (if the other cooperates, defection earns 5 points rather than 3; if the other defects, defection earns 1 point rather than 0). So the only rational course is to defect. But this is not the best outcome for either, since, whereas mutual defection earns 1 point each, mutual cooperation would have earned both of them 3 points. So the individually rational choice turns out to deliver a mutual lose-lose outcome. The collectively rational choice is for both to cooperate, reaching the elusive win-win outcome (point 4 in Box 2). But if both could communicate and agree to go for mutual cooperation, how can each guarantee that the other will not subsequently defect, tempted by the 5 point prize? In this kind of social trap, self-interested parties can readily get stuck at lose-lose outcomes.

The trap depends on the game being played only once. If each move is part of a sequence of repeated games, there are possibilities for cooperative behaviour to evolve. In a well-known series of experiments, Robert Axelrod (1984) invited experts to submit programs for a Prisoner's Dilemma competition run on computer. A spectrum of 'nice' and 'nasty' strategies was submitted and each was tested in pairs against all the others in repeated interactions. The surprise clear overall winner was a simple strategy called 'Tit-for-Tat' (submitted by the conflict resolution analyst Anatol Rapaport), which began by cooperating on the first move, and thereafter copied what the other had done on the previous move. The repeated overall success of Tit-for-Tat shows, in Richard Dawkins' phrase, that, contrary to a widely held view about competitive environments of this kind (including Darwinian natural selection), 'nice guys finish first' (Dawkins, 1989, 202-33). Tit-for-Tat is not a push-over. It hits back when the other defects. But, crucially, it initially cooperates (it is 'generous'), and it bears no grudges (it is 'forgiving'). Its responses are also predictable and reliable (it has 'clarity of behaviour'). For the 'evolution of cooperation' to get going in a melee of competing strategies, there must be a critical if at first quite small number of initially cooperating strategies, and the 'shadow of the future' must be a long one: interaction must not be confined to just one game (for example, with one player able to wipe out another in one go). But, so long as these conditions operate, even though 'nasty guys' may seem to do well at first, 'nice guys' come out on top in the end.ii Natural selection favours cooperation.

So taking account of the future relationship (for example, between two communities who will have to live together) is one way out of the trap. Another is to take the social context into account. Imagine, for example, that the prisoners know that there is a gang outside, who will punish them if they defect and reward them if they cooperate. This can change their payoffs and hence the outcome. A similar change occurs if instead of considering only their own interests, the parties also attach value to the interests of each other: social players are not trapped.

1.1.4 Positions, interests and needs

How can the parties reframe their positions if they are diametrically opposed, as they often are? One of the classical ideas in conflict resolution is to distinguish between the positions held by the parties and their underlying interests and needs. For example, two neighbours quarrel over a tree. Each neighbour claims that the tree is on his land. No compromise is possible: the tree cannot be sawn in half. But it turns out that the interest of one neighbour is in using the fruit of the tree, and the interest of the other is in having the shade. So the interests are not irreconcilable after all. Interests are also often easier to reconcile than positions, since there are usually several positions that might satisfy them. Matters may be more difficult if the conflict is over values (which are often non-negotiable) or relationships, which may need to be changed to resolve the conflict, although the same principle of looking for a deeper level of compatible underlying motives applies. Some analysts take this to the limit by identifying basic human needs (for example, identity, security, survival) as lying at the roots of other motives. Intractable conflicts are seen to result from the denial of such needs, and conflict can only be resolved when such needs are satisfied. The hopeful argument of these analysts is that, whereas interests may be subject to relative scarcity, basic needs are not (for example, security for one party is reinforced by security for the other). As long as the conflict is translated into the language of needs, an outcome that satisfies both sides' needs can be found.

For example, Woodhouse is aggrieved that, although he is the author with the best ideas, his name comes only third on the list of authors. He therefore demands that Miall and Ramsbotham change their names to Woodhouse by deed poll. But they refuse to do so, because of their interest in personal glory and fame (Box 4). Enter Woodhouse’s daughter. She points out that if the deadlock persists, they will be unable to publish a book together, which is a common underlying need. They must find a way to acknowledge their equal participation in the text. By shifting to a new position that reflects their underlying needs, the conflict is resolved.

1.1.5 Third party intervention

In the previous example, Woodhouse’s daughter plays the role of a third party, and her intervention changes the dynamics of the conflict. Where two parties are reacting to one another’s actions, it is easy for a spiral of hostility and escalation to develop through positive feedback. The entry of the third party changes the conflict structure and allows a different pattern of communications, enabling the third party to filter or reflect back the messages, attitudes and behaviour of the conflictants. This intervention may dampen the feedback spiral.

Woodhouse’s daughter is an example of a ‘powerless’ mediator—her communications are powerful, but she herself brings to bear no power resources of her own. In other situations there may also be powerful third parties whose entry alters not only the communication structure but also the power balance. Such third parties may alter the parties’ behaviour as well as their communications by judicious use of the carrot and the stick (positive and negative inducement); and they may support one outcome rather than another. Of course, by taking action, powerful third parties may find themselves sucked into the conflict as a full party. Box 5 illustrates how third parties may act as arbiters (with or without the consent of the conflict parties), or may try to facilitate negotiations or mediate between the parties (coercively or non-coercively).

1.1.6 Three faces of power

It may seem strange to call Woodhouse’s daughter ‘powerless’, when she has provided the impetus to resolve the conflict. This is because the term ‘power’ is ambiguous. On the one hand it means the power to command, order, enforce—coercive or ‘hard’ power. On the other it means the power to induce co-operation, to legimitimise, to inspire - persuasive or ‘soft power’. Hard power has always been important in violent conflict, but soft power may be more important in conflicts managed peacefully. Kenneth Boulding (1989) calls the former 'threat power' ('do what I want or I will do what you don't want'). Following earlier theorists of management-labour negotiations, he then further distinguishes between two forms of soft power: 'exchange power', associated with bargaining and the compromising approach ('do what I want and I will do what you want'), and 'integrative power' associated with persuasion and transformative long-term problem-solving ('together we can do something that is better for both of us'). Conflict resolvers try to shift emphasis away from the use of threat power and towards the use of exchange and integrative power (see Box 6).

Third parties like politicians and governments may use all these forms of power. In terms of third party intervention (Box 5) it is helpful to distinguish between powerful mediators, or ‘mediators with muscle’, who bring their power resources to bear, and powerless mediators, whose role is confined to communication and facilitation. ‘Track I’ diplomacy involves official governmental or intergovernmental representatives, who may use good offices, mediation, and sticks and carrots to seek or force an outcome, typically along the win-lose or ‘bargaining’ line (between the points 1, 3 and 2 in Box 2). ‘Track II’ diplomacy in contrast involves unofficial mediators who do not have carrots or sticks. They work with the parties or their constituencies to facilitate agreements, encouraging the parties to see their predicament as lying along the lose-lose to win-win line (between points 0, 3 and 4 in Box 2) and to find mutually satisfactory outcomes.

1.1.7 Symmetric and asymmetric conflicts

So far we have been considering conflicts of interest between relatively similar parties. These are examples of symmetric conflicts. Conflict may also arise between dissimilar parties such as between a majority and a minority, an established government and a group of rebels, a master and his servant, an employer and her employees, a publisher and his authors. These are asymmetric conflicts. Here the root of the conflict lies not in particular issues or interests that may divide the parties, but in the very structure of who they are and the relationship between them. It may be that this structure of roles and relationships cannot be changed without conflict.

Classical conflict resolution, in some views, applies only to symmetric conflicts. In asymmetric conflicts the structure is such that the top-dog always wins, the under-dog always loses. The only way to resolve the conflict is to change the structure, but this can never be in the interests of the top-dog. So there are no win-win outcomes, and the third party has to join forces with the under-dog to bring about a resolution.

From another point of view, however, even asymmetric conflicts impose costs on both parties. It is oppressive to be an oppressor, even if not so oppressive as to be oppressed. There are costs for the top-dogs in sustaining themselves in power and keeping the under-dogs down. In severe asymmetric conflicts the cost of the relationship becomes unbearable for both sides. This then opens the possibility for conflict resolution through a shift from the existing structure of relationships to another.

The role of the third party is to assist with this transformation, if necessary confronting the top-dog. This means transforming what were unpeaceful, unbalanced relationships into peaceful and dynamic ones. A diagram adapted from Adam Curle (1971), Box 7, illustrates how the passage from unpeaceful to peaceful relationships may involve a temporary increase in overt conflict as people become aware of imbalances of power and injustice affecting them (stage 1, education or 'conscientization'), organize themselves and articulate their grievances (stage 2, confrontation), come to terms in a more equal way with those who held a preponderance of power over them (stage 3, negotiation), and finally join in restructuring a more equitable and just relationship (stage 4, resolution). There are many ways in which this can be approached without using coercion. There is the Gandhian tactic of 'speaking truth to power', influencing and persuading the power-holders. Then there are the tactics of mobilising popular movements, increasing solidarity, making demonstrations of resolve, establishing a demand for change. Raising awareness of the conflict among those who are external or internal supporters of the top-dog may start to weaken the regime (as did for example the opponents of apartheid in South Africa). The unequal power structure is unbalanced; it is held up by props of various kinds; removing the props may make the unbalanced structure collapse. Another tactic is to strengthen and empower the under-dogs. The under-dogs may withdraw from the unbalanced relationship and start building anew: the parallel institutions approach. Non-violence uses 'soft power' to move towards a more balanced relationship.

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