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.

Power Mixes in the US Civil Rights Conflict

Paul Wehr


The movement for civil rights in the US of the 1950s and 1960s illustrates how moderating a power strategy can greatly reduce the cost of conflict. Until the mid 1960s, civil rights leaders used a power mix of nonviolent force to end segregation and discrimination tempered with an integrative view of their opponents as fellow humans simply doing wrong. They also used some trading behavior in negotiation with businesses and governments in different cities throughout the South. That was a difficult power mix to sustain. It had to be forceful enough to open up segregated facilities yet sufficiently moderate to deter the full fury of racial backlash from southern whites. Nonviolent force was necessary to escalate the conflict but nonviolent ideological restraint was required to contain an explosive conflict situation.  Leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) such as Martin Luther King were able to maintain a more moderate mix into the mid-60s, despite Black Panther and SNCC shifts toward increasingly threatening strategies and a new urgency produced by northern urban riots. But ultimately, SCLC rhetoric and tactics, too, became more militant in an effort to retain control of the movement as it moved northward. When King was assassinated in 1968, the movement's radical wing (and their opponents in urban police departments) ignored the trading and tolerating power of the earlier movement and went to a much more threatening, force-based approach. That shift in power strategies was very costly for them and society generally.

Supporting literature: Kenneth Boulding , Three Faces of Power Beverly Hills CA: Sage, 1989; Paul Wehr and Sharon Erikson Nepstad, "Violence, Nonviolence and Justice in Sandinista Nicaragua," in Wehr, Burgess and Burgess eds., Justice Without Violence Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994, 81-98.


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