Summary of Conflict: Readings in Management and Resolution

Summary of

Conflict: Readings in Management and Resolution

By John Burton and Frank Dukes, eds

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Conflict: Readings in Management and Resolution. John Burton and Frank Dukes, eds.New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990, 354 pp.

Conflict: Readings in Management and Resolution is a collection of essays intended to provide an introduction to and overview of the field of conflict theory.

Conflict: Readings in Management and Resolution will be of interest to those who seek a general understanding of contemporary and historical approaches to conflict and its resolution. This work consists of eighteen essays grouped into six parts, with an introduction by the editors, and an annotated bibliography. In their Introduction the editors describe the recent emergence of conflict as a field of study. They point out central texts and notable thinkers in the field.

The essays in Part I stem from the relative beginnings of the field of conflict research. In his 1951 essay, Quincy Wright discusses the nature of conflict. Quincy is particularly interested in the relation between the broader concept of conflict and the narrower concept of war. Kenneth Boulding's 1978 essay assess the then current state of the field, suggests future directions for peace and conflict studies.

The essays of Part II point to certain crises within the field of conflict studies. Michael Banks explores the relation of international conflict resolution to broader theories of international relations. He criticizes realist perspective of international relations theory, and points out a widening gap between theory and practice. A.J.R. Groom explores the tension between the perspectives of strategist, conflict researcher, and peace researcher.

Part III presents a number of analytical frameworks for understanding conflict and conflict resolution. Bryant Wedge examines the roles of individuals and groups in war. He describes the development of various self-images and of the enemy-image. Paul Sites explains how current crises in legitimacy have posed challenges for the prevailing theories of legitimacy. He then turns to human needs theory to provide a better account of legitimation. Edward Azar lists ten characteristics of protracted international conflicts, and describes the implications of those features for attempts at resolution. Jerel Rosati, David Carroll and Roger Coate contribute their essay, entitled "A Critical Assessment of the Power of Human Needs in World Society."

Part IV turns from theory to application. In a 1983 essay Anthony de Reuck describes the problem-solving approach to conflict resolution. Herbert Kelman discusses the social-psychological aspects of the interactive problem-solving approach. Hendrik van der Merwe, Johann Maree, Andre Zaaiman, Cathy Philip and A.D. Muller distill the principles which govern communication between adversaries, and some principles of mediation, from their study of apartheid-era South Africa. John McDonald discusses the use of small groups to manage complex contentious issues. The United Nations (UN) structure illustrates his approach. James Laue contributed "The Emergence and Institutionalization of Third-party Roles in Conflict."

In Part V the authors consider issues of conflict research and education. Mary Clark asks, "What is Science For?" She argues that education should emphasize not only the scientific facts, but should also present the larger social context in which those fact take on meaning and significance for human lives and choices. Frank Dukes discusses contemporary trends in action research. Action research addresses two central issues: "How does one most effectively produce social change? How can one do research that will aid the practitioner?"[288]

Part VI explores the political implications of conflict studies. Christa Daryl Slaton and Theodore Becker examine two social movements: alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and the Greens political movement. Richard Rubenstein considers the failure of existing social theories to predict or understand such major conflicts as China's democratic uprising in 1989, and the violent response it precipitated. John Burton reviews the present general theory of conflict resolution, identifies its major assumptions, and suggests that conflict resolution theorists turn their attention to the issues of "ripening" and costing.

Conflict: Readings in Management and Resolution is intended to provide the general reader with a "start-up library" on the subject of conflict and conflict resolution. These essays include both classic texts and contemporary contributions to the field.