Saturday, October 14, 2006

Review Four: Beyond Machiavelli

Review Four: Beyond Machiavelli: The Chaotic World of Choices

There are indeed glorious individualists who stubbornly insist on telling the truth as they see it, but most give in to the majority opinion, obey the atmosphere.When put as baldly, as unflatteringly, as this, reactions tend to be incredulous:"I certainly wouldn't give in, I speak my mind. . . " But would you? People who have experienced a lot of groups, who perhaps have observed their own behavior, may agree that the hardest thing in the world is to stand out against one's group, a group of one's peers. Doris Lessing (b. 1919) (From a lecture in 1985)
This quote begins my little review as it appears obvious that negotiation strategists themselves operate within a limited scope of understanding the subtle differences attributed to the sense of self possessed by individuals in its host of cultural influences and the tendancy of strategists to project a western-defined sense of self on their conflicting competitors more often than not of incompatibly diverse cultural values. Thus Fisher et. al. contend with global conflict in a context which never fully realizes a group understanding of the historical vertical or horizontal integrations of perspective on previous attempts of remedial action, response, proposals, or compromises in terms of comparative values theories and research. They charge the topic of raising an examination of choices to conclude that conflicts continue to remain unresolved as the necessary steps to the present have not raised a working model of peaceful coexistence between parties. First, past events are tagged for analysis in terms of interpreting the message that has been sent and as it has been received while second, analysis of decision-based processes that have resulted due to the analyzed messages are discussed. However nowhere are comparative or dualistic values discussed other than their effects in the obscuring of the message rather bureaucacies and governments are similarly depicted as being merely images of each other while vastly differentiated cultural structures.
Three basic elements of communication are considered useful for analyzing the message.
1. Demands: What we are heard asking for;
2. Threats: What we are heard as threatening as a result of demands not being met;
3. Offers: What we are heard as offering if our demands are met.
Demands are described as requests for action involving elements of unstated wishes as well as the legitmacy or reasonableness of the objectives required. Threats are described as the results of not meeting demands such as warnings about consequences which are considered only as effective as the clarity, credibility, and thus probability of actions determined by the quality of the message. Good results are considered the benefits of accepting an offer and are also considered determinant on the quality of the message.
The first example illustrated makes clear the illogic and simply emphasizes the flaw in US policy regarding North Vietnam and a bombing campaign of direct threat without clear options or results of offers or demands and is perhaps problematically an example of the flaws in this cookie-cutter approach to international negotation. Considering what successive US administrations knew regarding the unwinnable aspects of that conflict leads a reader to suspect that resolution was never an outstanding issue among US policy makers. However to emphasize a respect for such process review, the near impossiblity of sending a clarified message in the world of today is made clearer by the fact that no forms of media can precisely excise the transmission of accurate messaging between parties from great gulfs of cultural, linguistic, and interpretative differences, especially those most relevant to an understanding of the values associated with or between individual versus group senses of consciousness. It is intrinsically difficult to anticipate the processes of individual versus group cultural values as they exist in variances across cultures. It is thus difficult to anticipate the choices available between conflicting parties under states of analysis which themselves are often inaccurately depicting the status or state of individual versus group cultural conditioning. While Fisher et. al. observe this clearly they do not focus themselves on how to make their model more palatable to such realities.
As Fisher et. al. note the key decision makers are often difficult to identify, the decisions which are most favourable to both parties are equally difficult to at times justify, while consequences of any decisions are observable only under conditional forecasting theory and prediction of outcomes or results which do not exist in vacuums but are continually effected by the passage of time from present to future. Therefore charts which make clear distinctions of currently perceived choices may be totally inaccurate when measured under the assumption that individuals outside a select group of western nations might actually perceive individual choices in such a manner. While description of measurements of choices available to Saddam Hussein prior to the Gulf War are given as evidence of their usefulness it must be assumed that such processes were equally incorrectly utilized to predict Iraqi cultural behaviour and reaction and thus inaccurately predicted their response to US led and long-term occupation which appears to have changed in the interim passing of the years.
Furthermore, if it is the responsibility of decision-makers and negotiators to effectively influence their conflicting competitors through perceptively altering their views of their own choices it is already fairly common knowledge that effective choices are not only the most discretely difficult to change even among western educated and highly individual adults, even those simply ploddingly attending bazaars in their own companies training programs. The results of such efforts are equally as difficult to measure and or evaluate in terms of success or failure. For one to assume that one size fits all in terms of negotation strategy or that one size subverts all in terms of intercultural negotiation would be fairly imperialistic in terms of perception of choices in the past, present, or future. While it appears to work to some extent for multi-national companies it has yet to prove itself among many global conflicts. It is dramatically clear that many conflicts exist boldly along cultural divides well and beyond the local hotel ballroom seminar group, thus attempting to construct future choices for peoples and decision-makers who never fit the mold of past or present choices as perceived by western academics must be a possible factor implicating negotiational failures when observing some conflicts which never seem to be resolved yet flare and linger again like viral plague upon various parts of the global hotel.
These notes would indicate an overall skepticism suggesting neither party may successfully estimate the past, present, or future choices made particularly in the cases of non-western entities, nor the persuasive abilities of western mindsets to accurately predict the future concerns of foreign cultural entities among their conflicting competitors may triumph without perhaps increasing the unsatisfied quotident of intercultural understanding first. Again my conclusion would be that one must assume a benchmark of rational thinking over the last few decades in many terms and cases absent from several western-inspired negotiations, Vietnam included as Fisher et. al. suggest. This leads at least one individual mind to surmise that application of such ready-made methods to inter-party influence is often too purpose led rather than peaceably inclined and might explain again why such conflicts remain unresolved. There is always a suspicion as in the case of Vietnam that purposes often rule out resolution due to the interests of both parties. Too often one appears to desire to dominate and the other often simply resists through spite. However better some form of cookie-cutter than none at all? It certainly appears to cut more corners than are available.

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