Beyond Machiavelli: Tools for Coping with Conflict

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Beyond Machiavelli: Tools for Coping with Conflict

By Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Kupfer Schneider
Harvard University Press, 1994
144 pp. $16.95
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This slim volume, the latest product of the Harvard Negotiation Project, is a kind of cookbook for conflict resolution, providing a checklist of how-to steps reflected in chapter titles like "Step Into Their Shoes" and "Formulate Good Advice." The authors believe that these rules will work for all sorts of conflicts, from marital disputes to ethnic conflict in Bosnia. While some of these rules are simply commonsensical, there is a hidden assumption throughout this book that all conflicts can and ought to be resolved, and that they are best resolved through compromise. These assumptions may be generally valid in a liberal society, and for international society to the extent that it resembles liberal society. But the problem in many negotiations is knowing when no agreement is better than a bad agreement; on this, no book of negotiating tactics can provide much help. I suspect Machiavelli will rest easy.

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