Negotiation as a Post-Modern Process

Kenneth H. Fox

Hamline University – School of Law


Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy, Vol. 31, p. 367-384
In Innovations for Context and Culture (Rethinking Negotiation Teaching Series) by Christopher Honeyman, et al., 2009


Conventional pedagogy treats negotiation as a strategic and instrumental process. With few exceptions, students are currently taught that the negotiator’s central challenge is learning how to develop and enact rational strategies to claim and/or create maximum value that satisfy the negotiator’s (or her principal’s) self-interest. This way of thinking opens a world of possibilities for developing diagnostic, analytic and predictive tools for negotiators. we study brain functions, cognition, behavioral and game theories, and more, all geared toward a better understanding of our own internal thought processes and those of our counterparts; how to «game» the process of interaction between negotiators; and how to achieve better outcomes for ourselves and our clients. This way of thinking also provides a useful framework for how to organize our negotiation teaching. First generation negotiation pedagogy is built on this conceptual framework.

After spending four days with some of the best theorists and teachers in the negotiation field, I am left with a sense of awe at how much we know. I am also left with the nagging feeling that something quite important is missing. Much of our discussion centered on how to extend our existing canon and how to refine the teaching delivery of this body of knowledge. Yet, around the edges, I heard other voices suggesting that recent developments in our field, among others, confirm what some negotiation scholars have argued for many years: our frame for approaching the study and teaching of negotiation is overly limited. I agree with this critique and suggest, using the language of our own canon, that we are victims of our own inattentional blindness. I further suggest that second generation negotiation theory and teaching must recognize this limitation and expand our frame to incorporate additional paradigms for understanding people and how they interact.

Specifically, our experience on the ground increasingly shows the importance of looking beyond needs and interests to more fully understand the ways negotiators make meaning from their social contexts and through their interactions. Further, the very way we conceptualize the negotiation «process» limits what we are able to learn about it. A different conception of the process may open new avenues for negotiation research and teaching.

Negotiation as a Post-Modern Process

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