Transforming 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 ???).

Q: I wonder if that kind of work ultimately ends up in making the conflict over abortion not intractable in the sense that it's not destructive. So if the definition of intractable conflict is a conflict that is enduring and destructive but then something like PCP would make it less destructive but more enduring, is it still an intractable conflict?

A: Yes, that's interesting. That's a good question which I haven't thought through but I think that I would say that the issue is intractable but the relationship isn't because it's moved into a different place so it is sort of how we define the conflict, whether it's at an issue level or a relation level or a broader or system level and the conflict I think is still an enduring conflict. I don't think that issue will change between these groups. Certainly people's attitudes change over time and I think the women's attitudes have changed certainly about the other parties but not about that phenomenon. But definitely the relationship's changed in a tremendous way and the support is there. So it is not an intractable relationship anymore even though it continues to be organized around an intractable issue. And that's such an interesting case, I love that case.