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.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Lack of Legitimacy

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Effective persuasive arguments must be seen as legitimate and must come from parties--individuals and groups--which are themselves perceived as legitimate. Kenneth Boulding, who was perhaps the most eloquent proponent of the importance of the integrative system, argued that legitimacy formed the core of that system. "Legitimacy applies to persons, to roles and occupations, to organizations, customs, habits, means of communications, institutions--indeed there is hardly any aspect of society the development and future of which are not profoundly determined by its position in the constantly changing structure of legitimacy." (Boulding, 1989; p. 113.)

How legitimacy is obtained and/or lost, however, is not well understood. One source of legitimacy is compliance with fundamental societal values and norms. If a leader obtains his or her position through a process which is generally regarded as "fair," if he or she fulfills the leadership role in a way that corresponds with general wishes and expectations of the people, then the leader is likely to have-and maintain legitimacy. If the leader violates common expectations, however, their legitimacy may crumble. U.S. President Nixon was one good example; Soviet Premier Gorbachev was another. They violated their citizen's expectations about the appropriate behavior of a leader, and eventually both lost their positions of power. Personal charm, or charisma, plays a role in legitimacy as well, however. U.S. President Reagan violated political norms in the Iran-Nicaraguan Contra scandal, just as much as Nixon had but Reagan did not lose his legitimacy as a result, as his charisma was much stronger than Nixon's.

Thus, one's legitimacy is a critical factor in the effectiveness of one's persuasive arguments. When persuasive arguments are made by people who are seen themselves to be illegitimate, the arguments also will be viewed as illegitimate. Likewise, effective persuasive arguments must be based on commonly held values and principles of fairness; otherwise, they are likely to be dismissed as self-serving, naive, unreasonable, or simply wrong.


Links to Examples of Lack of Legitimacy:

Joseph Nye Jr. -- International Conflicts After the Cold War
Nye reviews the causes and consequences of communal conflicts following the end of the Cold War. One cause he discusses is that traditional methods of mediating conflicts lose force in "delegitimized states." Ethnic identities often offer alternative sources of legitimacy to leaders, making them much more persuasive in their efforts to arouse internal ethnic pride and cohesion, but often much less able to operate effectively between communal or ethnic groups.
Hugh Wyndham -- The Falklands: Failure of a Mission
Effective mediators are seen as legitimate facilitators of negotiations, and their legitimacy enables them to successfully persuade the disputants to alter their hard-line stances and negotiate a mutually-agreeable settlement to their problem. The mediator in the Falklands case was not seen as legitimate, nor were the Argentinean negotiators. As a result, the Falklands mediation effort failed.
Louis Kriesberg--Taking Initiatives
Negotiations will not be successful unless all the parties view the other as legitimate, Kriesberg illustrates in this essay.


Links to possible treatments of this problem:
Moral High Ground
Finding Commonality
Links to related problems:
Differences in Values
Erosion of Traditional Conflict Management Institutions
Integrative System Does Not Exist or is Very Weak

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu