Raimo Vayrynen, New Directions in Conflict Theory

Raimo Vayrynen, ed., (London: Sage Publications, 1991), 232 pp.

Summary by Tanya Glaser.

Copyright 1997 by the Conflict Research Consortium


Escalation control; Negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and consensus building, conflict transformation; written for first and third party participants.


New Directions in Conflict Theory is a collection of essays which explore new approaches to national and international conflict resolution. The essays address a broad range of issues, from the uses of violence to international environmental conflict.

New Directions in Conflict Theory will be of interest to those seeking to broaden their understanding of contemporary issues, challenges and approaches to international conflict resolution. This work is divided into nine chapters, with Foreword by Evelyne Blamont. Blamont reviews the peace research activities of the International Social Science Council. The essays in this collection are the products of a peace research symposium hosted by the ISSC.

Raimo Varyrynen examines the social functions of violence and of collective violence, focusing particularly on violent rebellions and civil wars. If nonviolent forms of conflict resolution are to replace violent forms, they will have to identify and transform the root causes of violence.

Morton Deutsch explores psychological, social and cultural influences on conflict resolution. Factors promoting conflict include contact with and visibility of different people or groups, perceived incompatibility of interests, and perceived utility of conflict. Deutsch also describes the factors which encourage either escalation or resolution of conflicts.

Michael Nicholson examines the advantages and limitations of a rational choice theory approach to understanding conflict resolution. Rational choice model are helpful in clarifying conflict situations. However, such static models are less helpful in describing the dynamic process of conflict resolution. Also, emotional factors often play an important role in supporting or resolving conflicts.

Richard Falk explores the challenges posed to international law by the growing participation of non-state actors in international life. Non-state organizations such as corporations, human rights and environmental groups are increasingly active on the international scene. However, international law has traditionally focused on relations between sovereign nations. Falk suggests ways to extend international law to deal with the new international situation.

Michael Renner, Mario Pianta and Cinzia Franchi examine the relationship between international conflict and environmental degradation. Loss and degradation of environmental resources has become a source of international conflict, due to both competition for resources, and to the tendency of environmental impacts to cross state boundaries. The authors also discuss the effect of a world economy on the environment, and discuss obstacles to global environmental cooperation.

Peter Wallersteen asks whether international conflicts are ever truly resolved, or whether they are merely transformed into new conflicts. He uses a structural analysis to contrast the treatment of Germany after WW I to its treatment after WW II. He concludes that "conflicts are processes, where 'resolutions' are often only part of continuous developments."[p. 151] Effort should be directed to encouraging nonviolent or peaceful transformations.

Juergen Dedring examines the meaning, structure and relevance of multilateral approaches to conflict resolution for the international system. Much of existing academic work on international negotiations focuses narrowly on two-party negotiations. Dedring reviews recent cases in multilateral conflict resolution and suggests some basic features common to those cases.

Hans Nagpaul and Susana Penalva explore urban-rural relationships in India and Latin America, respectively. Both examine the process of urbanization. Nagpaul examines the sources of urban-rural conflict, and suggests ways of minimizing such conflicts. Penalva focuses on differences in the process of urbanization between the First and Third worlds. She examines the economic and political impacts of increased urbanization on the international scene.

New Directions in Conflict Theory explores a variety of contemporary issues in international conflict resolution. The essays are generally accessible to the lay reader.