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Political conflicts and conflict resolution

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on International Relations

POLITICAL CONFLICTS AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Menua Soghomonyan, PhD, Associate Professor
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
A study of theory of conflicts and of conflict resolution is of great importance for political scientists, as political conflict is one of the determinants of gaining political power – the central category of political science. Conflict resolution theory, including theories on mediation, arbitration, negotiation, conflict transformation serves as an important scientific base for contribution to settlement of various conflicts. This course module is designed to provide basic understanding of the structure and dynamics of conflicts and specify some approaches to explain a number of problem-solving tools in the conflict resolution arsenal.

2. Objectives of the course module

2.1 To introduce students with the core concepts of Conflict and Conflict Resolution theories.
2.2 To assist students explain the causes, dynamics, and resolution of a range of conflicts - intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, and inter-group.
2.3 To specify characteristics of Political Conflicts. To classify Political Conflicts according to political regimes.
2.4 To explore the advantageous and disadvantageous sides of basic Conflict Resolution approaches – negotiations, mediation, arbitration in various cases.
2.5 To explore the content and process of Conflict Transformation.
2.6 To specify Conflict Resolution strategies and approaches in Civil Wars.

3. Assessment
Since this is a distance-learning course, assessment will be based only on students’ written work.

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay - 40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 General theory of conflict
- The notion and typology of conflict.
- Objective and anthropogenic elements of conflict.
- Reasons of conflict.
- Functions of conflict.
- Dynamics of conflict.

Readings:
- BARTOS OTOMAR, WEHR PAUL, 2002 Using Conflict Theory. (pp. 12-49) Cambridge University Press.
- SCHELLENBERG JAMES, 1996 Conflict Resolution: Theory, Research and Practice. (7-58) State University of New York Press.
- CHELDELIN SANDRA, DRUCKMAN DANIEL, FAST LARISA, 2003 Conflict, from Analysis to Intervention. (pp. 68-128) Continuum International Publishing Group, London, New York.

Assignment 1:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- What are the important distinctions within conflict studies?
- How Individual Characteristic theories explain the process of eruption and development of conflicts? Substantiate your answer.
- What do conflict analysts mean speaking about structural sources of conflict?
- How conflict resolution specialists can contribute to the resolution of conflicts rooted in social systems? Substantiate your answer.

Class 2 The nature of intergroup conflicts
- Specific features of intergroup conflicts.
- Objectivity of intergroup conflicts.
- Institutionalization of intergroup conflict.
- The phenomenon of structural violence.
- The mechanisms of appearance of intergroup conflicts: factors of influence of groups on individual.
- Objects and phases of intergroup conflicts.

Readings:
- SCHELLENBERG JAMES, 1996 Conflict Resolution: Theory, Research and Practice. (pp. 59-102) State University of New York Press.
- LOUNSBERY MARIE, PEARSON FREDERIC, 2009 Civil Wars: internal struggles, global consequences. (pp. 25-54) University of Toronto Press Inc.
- CHELDELIN SANDRA, DRUCKMAN DANIEL, FAST LARISA, 2003 Conflict, from Analysis to Intervention. (pp. 103-128) Continuum International Publishing Group, London, New York.

Assignment 2:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- How can individuals influence on the development of intergroup conflicts?
- Describe a case, an event, when the group, whose member you were, was engaged in a conflict situation. How that conflict escalated? What characteristics of escalation  would you suggest? What structural changes occurred in your. as well as, in the other groups? Substantiate your answer.

Class 3 The nature of political conflict
- The structure of political conflict: object of political conflict, subjects of political conflict: classes, interest groups, political institutes.
- The nature of political process and specifics of political conflicts.

Readings:
- DAHRENDORF RALF, 1959 Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Stanford, CA; Stanford University press.
- FISHER R., IBRAHIM ABDI., LUDIN L., SMITH R., WILLIAMS S., WILLIAMS S., 2000 Working with conflict, Skills and Strategies for Action New York, St. Martin’s press.
- CHELDELIN SANDRA, DRUCKMAN DANIEL, FAST LARISA, 2003 Conflict, from Analysis to Intervention. (pp. 87-101) Continuum International Publishing Group, London, New York.

Assignment 3:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- Why and how social-economic transformation gives birth to the class conflicts? Substantiate your answer.
- Why and how class conflicts transformed into dissonance between trade unions and corporations according to Dahrendorf?

Class 4 Conflict dynamics
- Description of Conflict Dynamics.
- Latent stage of conflict.
- Conflict emergence stage (incident).
- Escalation.
- Stalemate.
- De-escalation phase of conflict.
- Conflict settlement/resolution stage.
- Post-conflict peace-building and reconciliation.

Readings:
- SCHELLENBERG JAMES, 1996 Conflict Resolution: Theory, Research and Practice. State University of New York Press.
- BARTOS OTOMAR, WEHR PAUL, 2002 Using Conflict Theory. Cambridge University Press.
- DEUTCH MORTON, COLEMAN PETER, MARCUS ERIC, 2006 The Handbook of Conflict Resolution, theory and practice.2nd edition, Jossey-Bass.

Assignment 4:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- What are the main characteristics of the latent stage of a conflict?
- Please describe 3 incidents (“triggering events” that mark the evidence of conflict emergence) of conflicts you know?
- What conditions contributes the escalation of conflicts? Substantiate your answer.
- What are the difficulties of the peace-building stage of a conflict? Substantiate your answer.

Class 5  Understanding Conflict resolution: Basics of conflict resolution
- Definition of conflict resolution.
- Limits of conflict resolution.
- Negotiation, mediation and arbitration.
- Mediation as a conflict resolution mechanism.
- The notion of effectiveness of mediation.
- International practice of mediation.

Readings:
- BARTOS OTOMAR, WEHR PAUL, 2002 Using Conflict Theory. (pp. 148-173) Cambridge University Press.
- SCHELLENBERG JAMES, 1996 Conflict Resolution: Theory, Research and Practice. (135-206) State University of New York Press.
- MOCKAITIS THOMAS, 1999 Peace operations and intrastate conflicts: The sword or the olive branch? (pp. 125-144). Praeger publishers.
- AXELROD ROBERT, 1984 The Evolution of the Cooperation. New York. Basic Books.

Assignment 5:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- What processes are more effective to reach integrative accords? Substantiate your answer.
- What relationships are there between the process and results of negotiations?
- How peace interventions might be best conducted? Substantiate your answer.

Class 6  Approaches to conflict resolution: Structural transformation and peace-building
- Conflicts and structural changes.
- Structural bases of social conflicts.
- The transformation of conflicts as a structural transformation.
- Peacemaking and peace-keeping in the context of conflict transformation.
- Reconstruction of post-conflict period.

Readings:
- FISHER R., IBRAHIM ABDI., LUDIN L., SMITH R., WILLIAMS S., WILLIAMS S., 2000 Working with conflict, Skills and Strategies for Action New York, St. Martin’s press.
- LEDERACH JOHN, 1995 Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures. Syracuse, New York, Syracuse University Press.
- BOUTROS-GHALI BOUTROS, 1995 An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping. New York, UN.
- CHELDELIN SANDRA, DRUCKMAN DANIEL, FAST LARISA, 2003 Conflict, from Analysis to Intervention. (pp. 386-400) Continuum International Publishing Group, London, New York.

Assignment 6:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- Compare the differences between conflict transformation on one hand and conflict regulation, management and resolution on the other?
- How and why peace-making is a definite form of conflict transformation? Substantiate your answer.
- What conditions are necessary for successful implementation of third party roles in peace-making process? Substantiate your answer. 

Class 7  Conflict resolution in Civil Wars
- Armed conflicts and Peace accords within states.
- Dealing with incompatibilities over state power.
- Democracy and the settlement of civil wars.
- The internal security dilemma.
- Civil society in internal Conflict resolution.

Readings:
- LOUNSBERY MARIE, PEARSON FREDERIC, 2009 Civil Wars: internal struggles, global consequences. University of Toronto Press Inc.
- DUFFIELD MARK,1998 Post-Modern conflict: warlords, post adjustment states and private protection. Civil Wars, 1: pp 65-102.

Assignment 7:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

- Analyse the main characteristics of civil violence and modern civil wars?
- What state level factors lead to civil war?

Class 8  Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed within this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

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