OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

Civil Disobedience

Paul Wehr


One increasingly common form of social action which illustrates both balanced sociation in the way it combines positive and negative relations, and "safety valve" conflict is civil disobedience; an individual or group refuses to obey a law but also refuses to use violence against those who enforce it. Those committing civil disobedience simultaneously act negatively and positively toward the enforcers. Such direct opposition to government policy reflects negative relations while commitment to nonviolence suggests positive relations. Since the 1960s, US society has become increasingly tolerant of nonviolent action. It has come to recognize it as a useful safety valve device permitting conflict and change at minimal cost.  The Southern sit-ins of the 1960s in the U.S. demonstrated how civil disobedience and other forms of nonviolent action can bring about a society that is more just and less vulnerable to upheaval conflict (Wehr 1968). Black student protest, guided by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference engaged in highly emotional conflict at low cost to society. Groups with a grievance in society must have ways of doing conflict with a hated policy or social structure. In the 1970s and 1980s, large numbers of North Americans and Europeans used nonviolent action to oppose government preparations for nuclear war. For nearly two decades, the citizen's movement against the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado combined positive and negative actions to influence public opinion, government officials, legislators, and plant workers (Downton and Wehr 1997). As with the civil rights sit-ins, a conflict with great emotional content and potential for high cost was moderated and served to move the governments and publics of two nations toward necessary change.

Supporting Literature: James Downton Jr. & Paul Wehr, The Persistent Activist , Boulder CO: Westview, 1997; Paul Wehr, "Nonviolence and Differentiation in the Equal Rights Movement," Sociological Inquiry , 38:1, 1968, 65-76.


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