Understanding Paradigms

Dennis Sandole

Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason 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 ???).

Q: What does the word paradigm have to do with intractable conflict?

A: Well, the paradigm is from Kuhn's book the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I used it in the research methods class, where I think is the most appropriate place to introduce you to it because it concerns philosophy of science, it concerns the nature of knowledge and how we acquire knowledge and how we construct the knowledge. If you have a very emotionally charged paradigm which is the belief value system, what the Germans call Weltanschauung, very historically and emotionally embedded, the conflict may rest on the paradigm. The paradigm may be so incredibly and intimately defended emotionally. So long as the paradigm doesn't shift then the conflict will never get dealt with. This is what you have with the Israelis and Palestinians. You have intractable conflict because their paradigms are incredibly heavily intimately defended emotionally. That is what makes intervention there very hard to do.


So if you change the paradigm, change the conflict?

A: I think if you could induce some dissonance, which does happen when people hear each other talk. When I talk to one of our Israeli students who served in the Israeli armed forces working at the check points ???, was a party of the frustrations to the Palestinians who waited for 6 hours in the heat to cross a check point. Orlly says that the word occupation is rarely used in Israel. When Israelis think of Palestinians they don't think of them being occupied by them and they don't think of the fact of they are sitting on top of them at the bottom of a trash can. It is only when they go into the West Bank and Gaza when they see how these people are living and see what Sharon is doing to them. I mean he attacks people in market places with heavy weapons when Hamas and Islamic Jihad are using their bodies to do horrible things to innocent Israelis. Again the world sees the Israelis, America sees the Israelis, as our friends.