Mediation's Values: An Examination of the Values Behind Five Mediation Texts

101 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2010 Last revised: 3 Oct 2010

See all articles by Charlie Irvine

Charlie Irvine

University of Strathclyde – Law School

Date Written: April 27, 2007


This dissertation is a theoretical study of the values behind mediation, inspired by the author’s exposure to ethical dilemmas in practice and to different theoretical models in the literature. The methodology involves a form of discourse analysis in which five influential mediation texts were examined for values statements. Themes were identified and analysed in five chapters. Chapter One deals with the ‘mainstream’ of mediation, portrayed in the texts as an activity that brings expertise to conflict, yet limits its own authority. It also stresses autonomy and principles over connection and feelings. Chapter Two finds the philosophical foundation of this mediation model to be the Enlightenment values of liberal democracy, manifested in its espousal of neutrality, rationality and self-determination. Chapter Three examines one alternative to the mainstream, ‘Transformative Mediation.’ This model prioritises interaction over resolution and derives from an essentialist worldview which views human nature as operating on the twin poles of personal autonomy and relationship with others. It is contrasted in Chapter Four with a second alternative, ‘Narrative Mediation.’ This model sees stories as key to how we view the world, and deconstructs conflict using social constructionist and postmodern thinking.

The study concludes by comparing the three models and reflecting on two possible frames for understanding such values diversity. One is to view mediation as a North American export, bringing that society’s values into the UK and Scottish social order. Another is to parallel mediation with religious faith, which purports to be a source rather than product of values. This is a useful explanatory framework in understanding the mediation profession’s strong sense of mission, its powerful identity and tendency to schism. The dissertation concludes that mediation is best understood as a laboratory of practical philosophy, in which mediators and clients are continually working out their values ‘in fear and trembling’.

This dissertation was submitted in partial completion of the MSc in Conflict Resolution and Mediation Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London in association with the Institute of Family Therapy

Keywords: Mediation, Values, Conflict, Autonomy, Enlightenment, Self-Determination, Transformative Mediation, Narrative Mediation, Culture

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Irvine, Charlie, Mediation's Values: An Examination of the Values Behind Five Mediation Texts (April 27, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Charlie Irvine (Contact Author)

University of Strathclyde – Law School ( email )

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Glasgow, Scotland G1 1QE
United Kingdom
447779577019 (Phone)

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