Different Types of Intractable Conflicts

Peter Coleman

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

...Intractable conflicts can be of different sorts. They can be because some despot is throwing a wrench in the peace works, and that's really what's happening, this is really the bad guy. But I think that that explanation has limited value these days. In some situations it may be accurate, but typically I think what happens is that in the long term conflicts where people are in relationships where they are stuck and can't get out — in a family system or elsewhere...you have long-term destructiveness or latency that endures. Typically what you have here is an emergent phenomenon, you have a lot of complex things that happen but the ultimate result in this state of destructiveness, it might be high intensity, it might be low intensity, but it's basically bad and it can cycle in terms of intensity and things like that but basically it stays in this sort of state.