From Crude Low to Precise Formalism: Identifying and Essence of Conflict Intractability
26 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
Despite intense research on intractable conflicts their dynamical properties are not well understood, and in many respects they appear paradoxical. The defining characteristic of intractable conflicts is stability and resistance to intervention, yet this stability is maintained by underlying volatile dynamics. The dynamical systems approach provides tools to understand how high stability can emerge from dynamics. This paper examines which features of intractable conflict may be explained by the dynamical implantation of one of the most general laws in the social domain the Crude Law of Social Relations formulated by Morton Deutsch. Results of computer simulations show that the Crude Law applied to describe individual interactions produces rich dynamics at the group level with many emergent properties that were not anticipated to result from the crude law. It dynamics resembles autocatalytic dynamics of exponential growth, characteristic for many growth processes. When the growth involves negative elements, under certain conditions conflicts may escalate to intractability, the conflict forms s self-sustaining system, and captures the dynamics of the society where it exists. Many features of intractable conflicts are reproduced by the model. The results of simulations also suggest that local conditions may be critical for conflicts to reach the level of intractability and indicate possible scenarios for transformation of intractable conflicts. The article also shows how models built in the tradition of dynamical minimalism can turn general psychological theories into precise formal models which exhibit many emergent properties.
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