Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Mediating commitments

Ian Macduff


This paper explores the implications of one aspect of intercultural theory –the dimension of power distance– in order to comment on the nature of commitments in the mediation process. The familiar model of Western mediation assumes that parties can identify core interests and negotiate around those, through prioritising, trading and balancing. At the heart of our thinking about commitments are our ideas about agency, autonomy, and accountability. However, a core implication of empirical work on power distance suggests that expectations of deference may lead some participants to avoid direct decision-making responsibility and, rather than work towards commitments, to act on the commitments or obligations they already have. Thus, low-power distance culture members are more able and willing to make commitments; high-power distance culture members are more constrained by having commitments. Whereas the Western model of negotiation and mediation addresses the means to reach commitments (the legitimacy of which stems from the choices the autonomous agents make), the norms that shape conduct in high-PD cultures are those the reflect having commitments and obligations (the legitimacy of which derives from antecedent relationships).

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