Project on Meta-Framing in Complex ConflictsOverview: The aim of this project, which began in 2000, was to develop a comprehensive meta-framework for conceptualizing the multitude of conditions and processes that contribute to the self-sustaining dynamics of protracted conflicts. It builds on four basic premises regarding contemporary conflict: 1) our world is becoming increasingly more complex, ecologically, politically, economically, and socially; 2) human systems are ever-changing and the pace of change is rising; 3) such complexity and dynamism place extraordinary demands on our capacities to accurately comprehend enduring conflicts; and 4) this often leads to an over-reliance on our primary frames of understanding which are useful but limited and can over-simplify our sense of problems. As a result, much of the research on conflict intractability is either fine-grained and piecemeal; focusing on independent cause and effect relationships at single levels of analysis (e.g. studying individuals without consideration of the society in which the conflict is occurring), or case studies of specific situations viewed through a particular disciplinary lens. Similarly, our interventions, often based on the findings of such research, have limited effects or worse, unintended negative consequences which fuel the conflicts. The metaframework offers an alternative approach. Its primary objective is to cultivate a dynamic sense of conflicts which correspond as much as possible to the complex environments in which they exist, while remaining sufficiently comprehensible and navigable. Using a conceptual platform derived from dynamical systems theory, it portrays intractable conflicts broadly as complex, non-linear systems sustained in a state of destructiveness by a variety of emergent, embedded, and automatic processes. Although the meta-framework applies the systems frame as a starting point, it ultimately emphasizes the need to employ multiple paradigms and methods for diagnosing conflict in order to best comprehend the many sources and dynamics of intractability in any given setting. Thus, in order to more fully comprehend ongoing patterns of school violence, we must understand the political, economic, social, cultural, and pathological dimensions of the problem which contribute to its intractability. Developed from current literatures on dynamical systems, realism, human relations, postmodernism, and the health sciences, the meta-framework offers a preliminary set of frames and guidelines for research and intervention with intractable problems that is informed in the dynamics of complex systems. The meta-framework was published as a three-paper series in Peace and Conflict, the journal of the Peace Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association (see Coleman, 2003, 2004, 2006).
Publications from this project
Tuesday, January 18, 2000
Coleman, P. T. (2003). Characteristics of protracted, intractable conflict: Towards the development of a meta-framework – I. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 9(1), 1-37. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Abstract Protracted, intractable conflicts mark a new research frontier in … Continue reading →
Tuesday, January 18, 2000
Coleman, P. T. (2004) Paradigmatic framing of protracted, intractable conflict: Towards the development of a meta-framework – II. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 10(3), 197-235. Abstract Protracted, intractable conflicts are a form of human interaction that may very … Continue reading →