Professor Richard C. Reuben
Law 538. Conflict Theory. Winter 2003.
Tuesdays, 3 p.m. to 5:50 p.m.
Room 7.; 884-5204
Meetings by Afternoon Appointment Encouraged


Conflict Theory Syllabus

There are three required texts for this course. The basic text is Jeffrey Z. Rubin, Dean G. Pruitt, and Sung Hee Kim, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement (2nd ed. 1994) (hereinafter “Rubin”). These readings will be supplemented by selected readings in Morton Deutsch and Peter Coleman, The Conflict Resolution Handbook (2000) (hereinafter “Handbook”), and in The Conflict Theory Supplement (hereinafter “Supplement”).

Classes will be a combination of lectures, exercises, and other class supplements. As a result, there will be a $15 course materials fee to defray the extra costs associated with the course. Checks should be made payable to the “School of Law,” and turned in to Ms. Pat Agnew in Room 203 no later than the third class, Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Class attendance is required and participation is expected. Please note that there will be one Saturday session, on April 12, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Attendance at this session is mandatory, so please arrange your calendars as appropriate.

In addition to an examination, there will be two writing assignments. The first is a mini-paper (7-10 pages) requiring you to analyze a conflict using the principles discussed in class and in the readings. It will be due on April 1. The second will be a group writing project (groups of three or four) to develop a role play, simulation, or other exercise or game that will demonstrate the conflict theory principles discussed in class. It will be due on the last day of class, April 29.

Writing Section students will write research papers (20 pages) on topics approved by the Professor, and should be prepared for the possibility of conducting research in a variety of academic disciplines, including but not limited to law, journalism, psychology, anthropology, and economics. The First Draft is due on Friday, March 21. The Final Draft is due on the last day of class, April 29. The Writing Section grade will be allocated on the basis of 70 percent First Draft, 30 percent Final Draft.

Grading will be on the basis of the following allocation: 50 percent exam, 30 percent writing assignments, and 20 percent class participation. For Writing Section students, the forgoing allocations will apply to 80 percent of the final grade, and the writing component will count for 20 percent.

Schedule of Classes

January 21. Approaching Conflict.
Rubin: Chapter 11 (Skim)
Handbook: Deutsch, Cooperation and Competition
Supplement: Felsteiner et al, Naming Blaming and Claiming

Review the course, begin a general orientation toward conflict, and develop a basic understanding of essential conflict resolution principles that will complement our study of conflict theory throughout the remainder of the course. In so doing, we will examine the differences between conflicts and disputes, the functions and desirability of conflict, and the conditions that facilitate conversion of conflicts from destructive to constructive.

January 28. What Is the Nature of Conflict?
Rubin: Chapters 1 and 2.
Handbook: Opotow, Aggression and Violence
Sandy et al., Personality and Conflict
Supplement: Chamallas, Architecture of Bias
                      Cochran, DiPippa & Peters, Lawyers, Clients & Psychological Type Theory

We will begin a more nuanced definition of conflict, and in so doing will explore the different approaches to the source, nature, and categories of conflict in general. We will examine three traditional schools of thought on sources of conflict: individual characteristics theories, social process theories, and social structure theories. We will also look at more contemporary notions of identity theory as a predicate for developing an understanding of intergroup conflict.

February 4. Perceptions & the Development of Conflict.
Rubin: Chapter 7 (pages 100-108)
Handbook: Allred, Anger and Retaliation in Conflict: The Role of Attribution
Supplement: Mnookin & Ross, Introduction, Barriers to Conflict Resolution

This class focuses on the role of perceptions in the development of conflict, underscoring the important psychological and related work that has been done with regard to our perceptions of ourselves and our perceptions of others. We will give particular emphasis to attributional error, and other psychological phenomena that can distort judgment in perceptions of, and responses to, conflict.

February 11. Power and Trust in Conflict.
Handbook: Coleman, Power and Conflict
                    Lewicki & Wiethoff, Trust, Trust Development & Trust Repair
Supplement: Tyler, Public Mistrust of the Law

This class focuses on the sources of power and its role in conflict, as well as trust theory. Note that we will look at trust in the context of interpersonal trust as it affects conflict dynamics, as well as institutional trust in the rule of law as it affects social regulation.

February 18. Tactical Choices in Conflict.
Rubin: Chapters 3 and 4. Writing Project Groups Due.

This class will discuss the key categories of tactical responses available to parties in conflict situations, and their potential impact on the course of that conflict.

February 25. Stability and the Escalation of Conflict.
Rubin: Chapters 5-6, skim Chapter 8

This class will analyze the conditions under which conflict is likely to be stabilized or escalate, the nature of the escalation of conflict, and the ways in which conflict is transformed during the escalation process.

March 4. Intergroup Conflict.
Handbook: Fisher, Intergroup Conflict
                    Kimel, Culture and Conflict
Supplement: Ward, African-American themes
                    Chew, Readings on Gender & Conflict (Taylor & Miller, Gilligan, Keashly)
                    Volkan, Bloodlines, Ethnic Tents & Large Group Identities

This class extends our discussion of conflict into the intergroup context, with a special emphasis on the additional considerations that come into play because of the dynamics of the group. An emphasis will be on culture and conflict. We will have a guest speaker for that class, Professor Ilhyung Lee, who teaches Cross-Cultural Negotiation at the Law School.

March 11. Why Conflict Endures.
Rubin: Chapter 7
Handbook: Peter Coleman, Intractable Conflict
Supplement: Pruitt, Beyond Hope

This class will explore the psychological mechanisms that tend to cause escalation to persist, as well as the nature of conflict that becomes intractable.

March 18. Stalemate and De-Escalation.
Rubin: Chapters 8 & 9

We will discuss the concepts of stalemate and de-escalation, and the transformation of conflicts through these processes.

March 21 (Friday). Writing Section students turn in First Draft to Room 203 by 4 p.m.

March 25. Spring Break. No Class!

April 1. Conflict and Conflict Resolution.
Rubin: Chapter 11
Supplement: Cochran, DiPippa & Peters, Client Counseling, 131-143

This class will begin the portion of the course that is directed at applying the theoretical principles previously studied to different contexts. The first context is that of the role of lawyer as client counselor, and the implications of conflict theory for client counseling, and choice of dispute resolution method.

April 8. The Media’s Role in Conflict.

This class focuses on the relationship between conflict and the media, emphasizing the role of the lawyer. We expect to be joined by three professors from the Journalism School to provide different perspectives on the relationship between conflict and the media. Professor Michael Grinfeld will focus on coverage of conflict from a reporter and editor’s perspective. Professor Glen Cameron will discuss conflict management from a public relations or strategic communications perspective. Finally Professor Wayne Wanta will discuss the effect of the media on conflict, and implications for democratic governance.

April 12. International Conflict.
Supplement: Volkan, Bloodlines, Sadat Goes to Jerusalem

This is a mandatory Saturday session that will begin at 9:00, and end at 4 p.m. There will likely be some lecturing but most of the day will be devoted to running and debriefing a significant role play set in the international context. Political Science Professor Paul Wallace will assist with the class.

April 22. To Be Announced.

April 29. Moving Forward as Lawyers with Conflict Theory. Turn in writing project.


Statement Regarding Americans With Disabilities Act

If you need accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me immediately. Please see me privately after class, or at my office.

To request academic accommodations (for example, a note taker), students must also register with Disability Services, AO38 Brady Commons, 882-4696. It is the campus office responsible for reviewing documentation provided by students requesting academic accommodations, and for accommodations planning in cooperation with students and instructors, as needed and consistent with course requirements. For other MU resources for students with disabilities, click on  “Disability Resources” on the MU homepage.

Statement Regarding Academic Dishonesty

Academic honesty is fundamental to the activities principles of a university. All members of the academic community must be confident that each person's work been responsibly and honorably acquired, developed, presented. Any effort to gain an advantage not given to students is dishonest whether or not the effort successful. The academic community regards academic dishonesty as an extremely serious matter, with consequences that range from probation to expulsion. When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, or collaboration, consult the course instructor.

Copyright 2003 Richard Reuben. Teachers are free to copy these materials for educational use in their courses only, provided that appropriate acknowledgment of the author is made. For permission to use these materials for any other purpose, contact the author.