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 ???).
I wrote a paper called, "Preventing World War III." That was during the height of the Cold War, I think I wrote it in 1982, it was the Presidential Address to the International Society of Political Psychology. And there I took the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and characterized it as a malignant relationship, which had some of the characteristics that I was talking about with the couple. It was right for both the United States and the Soviet Union to think that the other was hostile, would undo it, would damage it, you know, all of these things. The relationship was a malignant one. They had to become aware of the malignancy, and the only way out really was recognizing that it's hurting, recognizing that there is a potential better way of relating. And that better way of relating involves having a sense that one can only have security if there's mutual security. And that's true in most relationships. That's particularly true to recognize groups that have had bitter strife where they've hurt each other. They have to deal with the problem of how to get to where they can live together. It may be ethnic groups within a given nation or community. They can only live together if they recognize that their own security is going to be dependent on the other person's security. So each person, each side, each group has to be interested in the welfare of the other.
On a national level it has to deal with military and other economic security. At the group level and personal level, it often has to do with psychological security. It has to do with someone recognizing, I shouldn't be treating the other in an undignified, disrespectful way. So in an interpersonal relationship, that kind of security, recognizing that not only are you entitled to it, so is the other person entitled to it. And if you don't give that other person that entitlement the relationship is going to move in the other direction, back to bitter conflict.