Kevin Avruch is professor of anthropology at George Mason University and faculty member of the university’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent books include two co-edited volumes, Conflict Resolution: Cross-Cultural Perspectives and Critical Essays on Israeli Society. He was a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in 1996–97.
After years of relative neglect, culture is finally receiving due recognition as a key factor in the evolution and resolution of conflicts. Unfortunately, however, when theorists and practitioners of conflict resolution speak of “culture,” they often understand and use it in a bewildering and unhelpful variety of ways. With sophistication and lucidity, Culture and Conflict Resolution exposes these shortcomings and proposes an alternative conception in which culture is seen as dynamic and derivative of individual experience. The book explores divergent theories of social conflict and differing strategies that shape the conduct of diplomacy, and examines the role that culture has (and has not) played in conflict resolution. The author is as forceful in critiquing those who would dismiss or diminish culture’s relevance as he is trenchant in advocating conflict resolution approaches that make the most productive use of a coherent concept of culture. In a lively style, Avruch challenges both scholars and practitioners not only to develop a clearer understanding of what culture is, but also to take that understanding and incorporate it into more effective conflict resolution processes.