Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5118-8.ch001
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In order to locate the discussion of political mediation in the context of intra-state conflicts, this chapter focuses on the intra-group level of conflict dynamics. Since most approaches to political mediation focus on the state, this research is innovative in the sense that it acknowledges that bottom-level dynamics have an important impact on group-level negotiations and cohesion. In order to argue for a better appreciation of actor dynamics, the relevant theoretical postulates are highlighted, providing a meta-framework for analysis.
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The essence of mediation is to engage in a lengthy, often times dangerous and stony process. It is a process lead by a neutral and impartial third party, whereby the parties receive assistance determining the ‘How’ and the ‘What’ of resolving their factual or perceived incompatibilities. Political mediation belongs to the realm of peacemaking, complementing traditional state actions with that impact on sovereignty (such as sanctions, good offices, embargos, diplomacy, shuttle diplomacy, etc.). It is a process of conflict regulation, whereby the mandated third party assists the negotiating parties to terminate the violent conflict and supports them on addressing the root causes of the conflict. Conflict regulation is a coordinated process of state action, through the instruments of state diplomacy with the aim to prevent, contain and end military conflict. The aim of conflict regulation is to provide a set of rules and incentives that, at distinct levels and in sequenced stages, provide political incentives or demand concessions from the parties to engage in non-violent processes of social and political change. Subsumed within the broader domain of conflict regulation, is conflict management where containment of violence particularly takes place, typically through the interposition of peacekeeping forces. Conflict regulation differs from conflict resolution. Where conflict regulation occurs at distinct levels and in sequenced stages, conflict resolution processes occur more comprehensively. It refers both to the intention to bring about changes and to the completion of the change process. Yet, the question remains as to how these processes of conflict regulation provide enough leeway for groups engaged in conflict to focus on the benefits of peace rather than the benefits of war. One of the major tasks of the political mediator is to extract concessions from the parties. He/She does so by fostering group cohesion, allowing for confidence-building measures and elevate the communication patterns to a new constructive level of engagement. Hence, the mediator’s style is inextricably linked to whether or not conflicting groups align themselves with his/her goals of dispute settlement.

In order to understand to what extent emerging research is exploring the many facets of political mediation, this theoretical section will focus on the reduction of complexity in group related conflict resolution. In connection with Tötösy de Zepetnek’s statement of inter-disciplinarity (Tötösy de Zepetnek, 2002), Cook’s post-positivist paradigm (1985) and Boudreau’s multiplex methodology (2003), the exploration will not only focus on socio-psychological approach but also on intercultural communication and cultural studies’ approaches to conflicts and conflict resolution processes. This is due to the prevalent silence in international relations as to the impact and relevance of culture in internationally mediated processes. The theoretical framework will be provided by a meta-model of mediation, interdependence theory, game theory, furthermore hybridity and conflict resolution models.

The generic framework for the identified intercultural context is being described by Berger’s term of ‘Pluralism’ (2014):

The process of modernization, which by now has fundamentally affected virtually every society on earth, has as one of its most important consequences the situation commonly called pluralism. The term means quite simply that people with different beliefs, values, and lifestyles come to live together in close proximity, are forced to interact with each other, and therefore are faced with the alternative of either clashing in conflict or somehow accommodating each other’s differences.

Out of this assumption of ‘Pluralism’ being the real-world scenario, new intervention methods in multi-party conflicts have to be found. So far, most of the reviewed literature shows that research focuses on dyadic negotiations and on behavioral changes. Although mediation has been used as a potential successful intervention method involving a third party, the field still lacks of a basic epistemology on third party intervention methods and on how third party goals align or are congruent with the conflict parties strategic vision of the intended outcome.

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