Negotiating with the Devil

Morton Deutsch

E.L. Thorndike Professor and Director Emeritus of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University

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 ???).

A: Years ago I wrote a paper on "Negotiating with the Devil," or something like that. You have to make a decision, do you think the devil is corrigible or not? If the devil is not corrigible, then probably in a sense, negotiating really is a matter of amassing the power to contain the devil. However if the devil is corrigible, there are ways to try to elicit those corrigible aspect of the devil into a negotiating situation. I wrote the paper many, many years ago, there was a social science conference on the Cape, called "The Craig Field Papers." There were highly distinguished people talking about issues of war and peace. At that time, the conflict of the Soviet Union was very prominent, and the issue for me was how to view the Soviet Union as a corrigible devil, or something incorrigible. And I tried to show that an incorrigible devil with a hydrogen bomb you're going to loose it any way with that, so its better off making the assumption that its corrigible, which might be true but it might not be true.. And if it's corrigible, you'd take these different courses of action.

Q: And maybe if you assume that it's corrigible then your first tenet is if you initiate cooperation, you might get cooperation back.

A: Yeah, and the question is how to initiate a friendly course of action. So you want to imitate it, you have to be fair in cooperation, which the other sees as fair and flexible. So that you can be creative, but you have to be firm, not let the other trample over you in a way that you are really being used by the other and your interests are completely ignored. So all four elements: firm, fair, friendly, flexible. In any order, its not important.