Featured Topic Area: Scale, Complexity, & Intractability
An essential precondition for success, a realistic assessment of the difficulty of the challenges that have to be addressed.
Here we introduce the Conflict Frontiers Seminar and discuss what we mean by the term "intractable conflict." We also explain why we think our inability to successfully address such conflicts is the number one issue of our time. The posts in this unit include:
Frontiers Seminar Videos
- Welcome and Introduction to the Frontiers Seminar -- Limiting the destructiveness of today's big and intractable conflicts will require majors advances at the frontiers of the peace and conflict fields. -- March 6, 2018
- Why Can't We Fix Anything Anymore? -- Why can't we fix our serious social, economic, political, and environmental problems? Because we don't know how to deal with the underlying conflicts! -- March 7, 2018
- What Are Intractable Conflicts? -- Intractable conflicts aren't impossible to resolve--they are just very difficult. Recognizing their true nature is the first step towards transformation. -- March 7, 2018
- What Makes Conflicts Intractable? -- Why are intractable conflicts like the earth and an onion? They all have multiple layers that hide the core. -- March 8, 2018
- Intractable Conflict: A "Climate Change-Class" Problem -- What are the parallels between intractable conflicts and climate change? There are many--and much to be learned from studying them. -- March 9, 2018
- Limits to Growth, Tragedies of the Commons, and the Conflict Problem -- Conflict problems associated with wisely and equitably managing the social, political, economic, and environmental "commons" are society's real "limit to growth." -- March 10, 2018
- What Are Intractable Conflicts? -- While some people argue that most conflicts aren't intractable (or that even none are) we are finding more and more that fit into this designation. (This essay contains more detail than the video posted above.)
- The Core Causes of Intractable Conflicts -- An essay which goes into more detail about the factors that combine to make conflicts intractable. (This essay, too, contains more detail than the video posted above.)
- Conflicts and Disputes -- This article explains the difference and why it matters--you can't address conflicts the same way you resolve disputes.
- Core and Overlays Part 1 -- An examination of the Burgess's theory of core and overlaying factors which contribute to conflict intractability.
- Core and Overlays Part 2 -- Following on from an examination of core factors, this article examines the Burgess's notion of "complicating factors" that also contribute to intractability.
- High-Stakes Distributional Issues -- A further discussion of one of the Burgess's core factors driving intractability.
- Inequality -- Inequality was a key driver of intractability when this article was written--it is even more so now.
- Moral or Value Conflicts -- Value conflicts cannot be dealt with as if they were interest-based conflicts, although that's how mediators are often taught to handle them.
- Identity Issues -- Identity has long been identified as a driver of intractability. This essay explains why, and what can be done to address these conflicts.
- Status and power struggles -- Another core driver of intractability--the fight over social status never seems to end, as is discussed in this Fundamentals Post.
- Nature of Intractability -- It can be difficult to decide whether a conflict is, in fact, intractable. This essay explains why the term, "intractable," is so controversial.
- Characteristics Of Intractable Conflicts -- Intractable conflicts are ones that go on and on, are frequently very destructive, and seem to resist any attempts at resolution. Though international conflicts, such as Israel-Palestine quickly come to mind, domestic issues such as the abortion controversy, and even some marital relations are quite intractable as well.
- Unmet Human Needs -- Human essentials go beyond just food, water, and shelter. They include all those things humans are innately driven to attain, such as love, dignity and safety. Some theorists argue that most intractable conflicts are caused by the drive to satisfy unmet needs.
- Sound the Alarm People don't realize how destructive their conflict behaviors often are: we must sound the alarm to spur change!
- If You're Not Part of the Solution, You're Part of the Problem Conflict is created by everyone--it becomes better or worse depending on what all of us do.
- First, Do No Harm Doctors promise to, at a minimum, “do no harm.” People who want to improve conflicts should do the same.
Seminar videos (listed above) contain additional "BI in Context" references.
- America’s Never-Ending Culture War -- A 50 year retrospective on the culture wars. Since victory (for either side) seems out of reach, how about coexistence?
- What Happens if the Gender Gap Becomes a Gender Chasm? A well-documented and, in many ways, surprising look at the growing political divide between men and women.
- How Gay Marriage Became a Constitutional Right -- The history of the gay marriage movement: a case study in successful social change--showing that intractable conflicts can, indeed, become tractable!
- Can America Survive Tribalism? -- An argument for rediscovering the United States' common identity and putting our "tribal differences" in better perspective.
- What If There Is No Ethical Way to Act in Syria Now? - An example of a truely intractable, "wicked" problem.
- When the Necessary is Impossible in the Middle East - A succinct summary of the "wicked" problem that is today's Middle East.
- Trump Has Got Democrats Right Where He Wants Them -- An excellent look at the staggering complexity of the immigration issue and its dangers for both the left and the right.
- Fist Icon – Source: https://pixabay.com/en/solider-salute-man-fist-hand-2345373/; By: Coffee; Permission: CC0 Creative Commons