If you’ve struggled with a protracted personal conflict or ruminated over social/political/environmental conflicts you’ve likely realized the myriad of approaches available. You could take a hard negotiation approach, a collaborative mediation approach, or perhaps engage in a larger problem solving process that involves multiple people. You may take a reflexive approach that asks you to consider how you or your company, nation, family, etc. has contributed to the creation of the problem. Perhaps you understand the conflict as the outcome of multi-generational abuses.
You could spend a lifetime reading books about these approaches, attending seminars, getting coaching etc. At times the advice will disagree. So what to do? How can anyone navigate all these approaches. Even if you pick one approach, someone may challenge you asking why you’re not engaging in the others.
We, the authors of this new conflict resolution resource, understood this conundrum and wanted to provide a textbook that offers a genealogy of the field that contextualizes the different approaches. By breaking the field in to three eras, or epochs (as we call them), we show how the various approaches you’ve heard about developed in response to various crises faced by the western world. This is not to say that other civilizations and cultures do not have their own approaches. They have and continue to develop forms of resolution that address conundrums they face. The field of conflict resolution as a discipline, however grew in response to contemporary challenges; how to prevent nuclear war, genocide, terrorist activities?
The book discusses three epochs that shape the field; Epoch 1 (1945-1989), Epoch 2 (1990-2001), Epoch 3 (2002-today). We consider the theories, approaches and research methodologies of each epoch through articles written either by some of the founders of these approaches or those who articulate clearly the discourses of that approach.
Understanding these approaches as discourses developed in response to certain events (nuclear arms race, inter-ethnic warfare, terrorism, etc) allows us to think through whether an approach makes sense for a particular situation and, if we engage in the approach we can understand the limitations. For example, negotiated settlements might hold off a war, but they do not alone resolve tensions between peoples. Without addressing these tensions, the violence may return and upend the settlement.
We are excited to present this interdisciplinary anthology useful for a wide range of undergrad through graduate conflict-related courses. We tested the book’s concept with students at; George Mason University, University of Colorado Boulder, SciencesPo (France), University of Baltimore, and others. The book’s approach are also being shared at conferences around the world and to a wide variety of organizations and governmental organizations such as the U.S. Department of State.
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