Rethinking the Curriculum: Toward an Integrated, Interdisciplinary College Education

By Mary E. Clark ; Sandra A. Wawrytko | Go to book overview

6
THE LIMITATIONS OF POLITICAL THEORY FOR ANALYZING CONFLICT

Richard E. Rubenstein


INADEQUACY: THE DEPTH OF THE PROBLEM

When the field of conflict resolution was first developed, many of its advocates considered it interdisciplinary. They hoped that focusing the light of several disciplines on human conflict would illuminate the causes, nature, and consequences of deep-rooted conflict and improve our ability to resolve serious conflicts without large-scale violence. Two problems, however, have all but shattered these hopes. First, too many of the "light beams" do not cross. There is little basis for collaboration, for example, between a psychologist who assumes that human beings are innately aggressive and a sociologist who assumes that they are infinitely "socializable". Second, even where the beams do cross, there is what one might call a problem of theoretical power failure. So inadequate has existing theory proved for anticipating serious conflict, analyzing it while in progress, or making sense of it afterward that we have been forced to start almost from scratch in an effort to develop a generic theory useful in conflict resolution. As my colleague John Burton has written, this field will either become adisciplinary or, like other interdisciplinary fads of recent years, it will cease to exist. 1

What do we demand of social theory? Good theory makes sense of the world around us, explaining the connections between apparently disconnected events. It often makes nonsense of so-called common sense, demonstrating that things are not necessarily what they seem. It reevaluates changes occurring over time, illuminating the continuities and discontinuities between past and present, and indicating to what extent the

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