THE HEART OF CONFLICT by Brian Muldoon

THE HEART OF CONFLICT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Part textbook, part inspirational tract by a reformed lawyer with Things on His Mind. Muldoon departed the adversary system during the go-go 1980s to found a private mediation firm; he claims to have helped settle thousands of disputes, has taught law school courses in alternative dispute resolution, and was a facilitator for the 1993 Parliament of World's Religions, about which he writes at length. ``One must become transparent so that the power can flow through the channels of the whole without becoming diverted to private aggrandizement,'' he writes. One's reaction to this book will most likely depend on one's tolerance for such woozy formulations, which flow relentlessly from first page to last. It also could depend on one's acceptance of schematization as a method for understanding reality; for example, Muldoon's strategies for resolving conflicts are Containment, Confrontation, Compassion, and Collaboration, with the ideal being Confluence. The analysis doesn't lack Common Sense (one alliteration that somehow got away), but Muldoon appears to have included every commonsensical observation he's ever jotted down in his years of sitting through meetings, as well as a number of a priori statements for which some foundation would have been instructive; the generalizations about emotions and motivations build on each other until the mind--at least the archaic, Western, linear mind--starts to numb. The last third of the book is essentially a self-help treatise with religious overtones; the major influences seem to have been Teilhard de Chardin, Buckminster Fuller, and Carl Rogers. As a how-to book on reaching mutually beneficial outcomes, this inevitably will be compared with Roger Fisher and William Ury's Getting to Yes, and not to the present work's advantage. Those who are interested in the mechanics of negotiation and mediation will probably be disappointed.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1996
ISBN: 0-399-14180-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996




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