Christer Jönsson. Handbook of International Relations. Editor: Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, Beth A Simmons. Sage Publication. 2002.
International bargaining and negotiation constitute a relatively well-defined sub-field of international relations (IR) scholarship, with a rich and variegated literature and a respectable amount of middle-range theorizing. Paradoxically, diplomacy—the institutional framework within which much of international negotiation takes place—is a considerably less established field of study. Yet it provides the logical point of departure for this overview.
This chapter thus starts by scrutinizing the academic literature on diplomacy in terms of varying conceptualizations and a common core of themes. Then it goes on to trace the evolution of theoretically oriented studies of international negotiation from the 1960s onwards, and to identify accumulated insights and findings on a number of pertinent aspects, including the role of culture, symmetry/asymmetry, side-effects, mediation and multilateral negotiations, institutional embeddedness, and different understandings of negotiation dynamics.
Diplomacy has been characterized as ‘the master-institution’ (Wight, 1978: 113) or, more prosaically, as ‘the engine room’ of international relations (Cohen, 1998). These and other labels point to diplomacy as an essential institution for the conduct of inter-state relations, as we know them. Moreover, diplomacy has proved to be a resilient institution; it is one of the few international institutions that have survived the challenges of popular sovereignty and nineteenth-century nationalism (Sharp, 1999: 56).
In view of its pivotal role, diplomacy has received surprisingly little attention among IR scholars. Practitioners rather than scientists have written the classic works on diplomacy, such as François de Callière’s De la manière de négocier avec les Souverains (1716, 1919), Ernest Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice (1917) and Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy (1939). The relatively few specialized academic studies of diplomacy that exist have tended to be ‘marginal to and almost disconnected from’ the rest of IR scholarship (Sharp, 1999: 34). As a result, diplomacy has not been the object of much theorizing (cf. Der Derian, 1987a: 91).
There are promising signs of change, however. In recent years, the academic study of diplomacy appears to have been revitalized. Specialized research centers have encouraged new projects and launched publication series. Prominent US and European examples include the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, which publishes The Diplomatic Record annually, and the Centre for the Study of Diplomacy at the University of Leicester, which issues monthly Discussion Papers and a book series, Studies in Diplomacy. The journal Diplomacy and Statecraft was founded in 1990 as a transdisciplinary complement to the older Diplomatic History. In addition, both the International Studies Association (ISA) and the British International Studies Association (BISA) have established diplomatic studies sections in the 1990s. And postmodern contributions to the study of diplomacy (Constantinou, 1996; Der Derian, 1987a, 1987b) have provided new impetus to theoretical debates.
Essence of Diplomacy
Given the undeveloped and fragmented nature of the field, it is not surprising that the study of diplomacy displays a variety of conceptualizations rather than scholarly consensus. The very definition of diplomacy is a bone of contention. Let us take two examples to illustrate some of the major controversies. One recent textbook defines diplomacy as ‘the peaceful conduct of relations amongst political entities, their principals and accredited agents’ (Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 1). The Portuguese diplomat José Calvet De Magalhães, who criticizes the existing conceptual confusion, offers his own ‘pure concept’ of diplomacy as ‘an instrument of foreign policy for the establishment and development of peaceful contacts between the governments of different states, through the use of intermediaries mutually recognized by the respective parties’ (Magalhães, 1988: 59).
One element, which these two definitions have in common but which has been questioned by others, concerns the peaceful character of diplomacy. Whereas these and many other authors regard diplomacy as the opposite to war or any use of force, several scholars are reluctant to draw such a clear-cut line. From a cross-cultural, historical perspective, the ‘juxtaposition of diplomacy and war as polar opposites appears as a peculiarly Western notion not necessarily found in other traditions’ (Cohen, 1999: 4). Alternatively, the blurring of the line between diplomacy and violence is seen as ‘one of the developments of note distinguishing modern diplomacy’ (Barston, 1988: 1). Students of contemporary international relations, the Cold War era in particular, have coined the phrase ‘coercive diplomacy’ to denote the use of threats or limited force to persuade opponents not to change the status quo in their favor or to call off or undo an encroachment (George, 1991; George and Simons, 1994). A compromise of sorts on this issue is provided by scholar-diplomat Adam Watson (1982: 60): ‘Diplomacy is neither the simple casuistry of force, nor is it a guaranteed technique for solving by negotiation the conflicts of states without resort to it.’
This touches on another aspect, where the two illustrative definitions differ. While Magalhães delimits the term diplomacy to the activities of professional diplomats—‘intermediaries mutually recognized by the respective parties’—Hamilton and Langhorne include both ‘principals and accredited agents’ and thus equate diplomacy with statecraft. This reflects a perennial tension between broad and narrow definitions of diplomacy. In broad conceptions, diplomacy tends to become a synonym for foreign policy. This usage, claim Europeans (cf. James, 1993: 92; Sharp, 1999: 37), is especially common in the United States. In a narrower sense, diplomacy refers to the practices of professional diplomats. A comparison of two books with the same title is instructive in this regard. Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy (1994) covers broad themes of statecraft and international relations, whereas Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy (1939) is emblematic of a narrower conception.
Another difference in our two definitions opens up a broader perspective. In Magalhães’s understanding, diplomacy is an institution of the modern state system. Hamilton and Langhorne, on the other hand, refer merely to ‘political entities,’ and thus leave open the question whether diplomacy may exist among other actors than states and in other historical eras. In the former view, the word ‘diplomacy’ is reserved for the diplomatic system that originated in fifteenth-century Italy and was perfected by the French during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, central features of which remain at the core of today’s diplomatic practices. Harold Nicolson (1939, 1954) is a prominent advocate of this view, which also finds expression in a more recent textbook (Berridge, 1995). Proponents of such a time-bound understanding may point to the fact that the word ‘diplomacy’ did not become current in the modern sense until the late eighteenth century.
On the other hand, a number of authors argue that diplomacy ‘expresses a human condition that precedes and transcends the experience of living in the sovereign, territorial states of the past few hundred years’ (Sharp, 1999: 51). Rather than restricting the concept to specific practices and specific actors, these authors understand diplomacy in terms of generic concepts, such as representation and communication.
That representation—in the sense of ‘acting on behalf of ’—is a key function of diplomacy is recognized by most observers, regardless of theoretical background. Paul Sharp (1999: 51), who is the most explicit advocate of an understanding of diplomacy in terms of representation, argues that its ‘practice and context should be seen as responses to a common problem of living separately and wanting to do so, while having to conduct relations with others.’ He proffers the following hypothesis:
The less obvious or ‘natural’ the identities of the agents appear and the thinner the social context in which they operate, the more diplomacy is needed. Conversely, we would expect to see less diplomacy in the relations within a family, where identities appear self-evident, or within a religious or legal setting, where roles and rules are clearly marked and accepted. (Sharp, 1999: 50)
In addition to being a system of representation, diplomacy is also a system of communication. Authors who emphasize this aspect argue that communication is one of the logically necessary conditions for the existence of international relations.
Diplomacy can thus be understood as ‘a regulated process of communication’ (Constantinou, 1996: 25) or ‘the communication system of the international society’ (James, 1980: 942). The need to communicate is demonstrated, paradoxically, when diplomatic relations are broken and the parties almost always look for, and find, other ways of communicating (James, 1993: 96; cf. Berridge, 1994).
If we define diplomacy in terms of representation and communication, its origin obviously can be traced back further than fifteenth-century Italy. In fact, collections of cuneiform tablets from the Amarna period, lasting from about 1350 to 1220 BC, bear witness to a well-developed system of representation and communication in the ancient Near East, which deserves to be labeled diplomacy (see Cohen, 1996a; Westbrook and Cohen, 2000). Nor is diplomacy, in this perspective, limited to state agents but may exist wherever ‘there are boundaries for identity and those boundaries of identity are crossed’ (Constantinou, 1996: 113).
Postmodern interpretations of diplomacy go beyond representation and communication, and see the institution as a reflection of more existential aspects of the human condition. James Der Derian (1987a: 93; 1987b: 6) defines diplomacy as ‘mediation between estranged individuals, groups or entities.’ His key concept is ‘alienation.’ The primeval alienation of man, from the Judeo-Christian mythology of the Fall to the estranged relations between political entities, has required mediation; ‘the form this mediation takes, as estranged relations change, constitutes a theoretical and historical base for the study of the origins of diplomacy’ (Der Derian, 1987b: 6). Costas Constantinou (1996: 31), for his part, argues that ‘the fable of diplomacy’ is ‘nothing less than the story of modernity,’ featuring ‘a sovereign who enjoys the ius legationis and has the capacity to send embassies and messages representative of his thought.’
Aspects of Diplomatic Studies
Despite this bewildering array of definitions and conceptualizations, most texts on diplomacy have a common core. In varying proportions, they typically contain (1) an account of the history and prehistory of diplomacy, (2) typologies of diplomatic functions, modes and techniques, (3) information about the legal framework of diplomacy, and (4) a discussion of contemporary developments and problems.
History An element in most, if not all, treatises on diplomacy, chronological narratives often figure predominantly in much-used texts (see, e.g., Anderson, 1993; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995). As indicated above, authors have varying temporal scope, the main difference being between those who set the beginning at fifteenth-century Italy and those who delve further back into the prehistory of modern diplomacy. The latter usually refer to diplomacy in ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and Byzantium, and less frequently to ancient Near East, Chinese and Indian diplomatic traditions. Regardless of scope, a prominent purpose of these accounts is to identify significant hereditary links and turning-points in the development of diplomacy.
The city-states of ancient Greece, while war-prone and passionately attached to their political independence, recognized the need to conduct a dialogue. Its rudimentary nature notwithstanding, the Greek diplomatic system may in a certain sense be seen as a harbinger of Renaissance diplomacy.
The pattern which had been present much earlier in classical Greece was mutatis mutandis repeated in Renaissance Italy: an absence of outside threat, an equality of power among the states within the local system, sufficient proximity both to enable and compel communication, and a shared linguistic and cultural infrastructure which made such communication effective. (Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 31)
In view of its organization and longevity, the Roman Empire contributed surprisingly little to the development of diplomacy. It’s most important legacy was the methods of regulating long-distance transactions, which can be seen as the first basis of a diplomatic law (Cohen, 1999: 11; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 12-14).
Byzantine diplomacy had a more lasting impact. ‘Byzantine’ has become a synonym for labyrinthine and devious, and in its efforts to avoid war Byzantium used a broad range of instruments, including bribery, flattery, intelligence-gathering and ceremonial manifestations of its superiority (Cohen, 1999: 12; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 14-20). ‘The expansion of its techniques, its immensely long range and its persistence made it a forerunner of the modern system to a degree which its predecessors could not have been, and the close relationship between Byzantium and Venice provided a channel of transmission to the Western world’ (Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 14).
Among non-European traditions, Amarna diplomacy, dating back more than three millennia, has received most attention among contemporary scholars (Cohen, 1996a; Westbrook and Cohen, 2000). Amarna diplomacy was underpinned by an elaborate code of protocol and customary law; it was facilitated by a lingua franca, Akkadian; and its unique feature was the tolerance of diversity, based on a myth of community transcending civilizational differences (Cohen, 1999; cf. Westbrooke and Cohen, 2000).
Around the same time as the ancient Greek system, India and China, which also consisted of a number of independent entities, developed complex patterns of communication and diplomatic practices.
In contrast to the Greek city-states, both the Indian and Chinese systems looked back to an idealized empire uniting all the fragmented territories (Cohen, 1999: 10-11; Watson, 1982: 89-92).
Irrespective of what historical precedences are adduced, there is general consensus that Renaissance Italy can claim the birthright of the modern system of diplomacy. The most important innovation was the introduction of permanent embassies and resident ambassadors, caused by the growing need not only to send messages but to gather information about neighbors among vulnerable yet ambitious Italian city-states (Berridge, 1995: 3; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 32). A final break with the ambiguous legacy of the Middle Ages came by the end of the seventeenth century, when it was accepted that diplomatic representation was the prerogative of sovereigns alone (Anderson, 1993: 42). Interestingly, the development of diplomacy predated the introduction of foreign ministries. Only in 1626 did Richelieu institute the first foreign ministry, and England established its Foreign Office as late as 1782 (Anderson, 1993: 73-87; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 71-75).
The ‘old’ or ‘classic’ diplomacy, which was advanced by the French in particular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was characterized by elaborate ceremonial, secrecy and gradual professionalization. The continuing sensitivity over ceremonial, procedure and precedence was a legacy of the past. Until the early nineteenth century endless crises were caused by intended or unintended slights between ambassadors or attempts by ambassadors to elevate their status and gain favors from the ruler to whom they were accredited. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the development of procedural rules, or protocol, to avoid or minimize such conflicts (cf. Anderson, 1993: 56-68; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 64-8). The concern about gathering and protecting information in combination with the established practice of conducting negotiations in secret tended to foster excessive secretiveness (Berridge, 1995: 9-10; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 75-6).
The professionalization of diplomacy was a slow and fitful process. Well into the nineteenth century diplomacy remained an aristocratic pursuit. The European aristocracies were linked by ties of friendship, blood and marriage and were united by similarities in outlook and education, which created a sense among diplomats of belonging to a single ‘cosmopolitan fraternity’ or ‘aristocratic international’ (cf. Anderson, 1993: 121; Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 104). In fact, diplomats could easily change from one monarchical employer to another. French, the language of courts and aristocracies, naturally became the lingua franca of diplomacy as well (Anderson, 1993: 102). In the latter half of the nineteenth century most European governments were making efforts at tighter control of the recruitment and promotion of diplomats on the basis of merit rather than social rank, introducing nationality requirements, tests and training programs; and by the outbreak of the First World War diplomacy was a fairly well established profession (Anderson, 1993: 123; Berridge, 1995: 8).
In the wake of the First World War, the secretiveness of the ‘old’ diplomacy came under heavy criticism, and the entire diplomatic system was held responsible for the failure to prevent the outbreak of war. Demands for a ‘new’ diplomacy were widespread. US President Woodrow Wilson’s call for ‘open covenants, openly arrived at’ epitomized the transition to a new, or some would say ‘American’ (Berridge, 1995: 10), diplomacy. This is where the historical account ends in most texts; the development and problems of this new diplomacy are then given special and more detailed treatment (see below).
Typologies If treatises on diplomacy are short on theory, as noted above, they are generally long on typologies. Typically, they distinguish the various functions of diplomacy. Even if the categories differ, there seems to be a modicum of convergence around a set of functions. Almost all authors list representation as the primary function, and some identify sub-categories. Hans Morgenthau (1967: 522-5), for example, makes a distinction between symbolic, legal and political representation; whereas Sharp (1997: 612-18) offers a slightly different trichotomy of symbolic representation, representation of interests and power, and representation of ideas (such as the idea of peace and dialogue). Information exchange is usually listed next to representation. This includes being a listening post, clarifying intentions and trading valued information. Negotiation is a third broad type of diplomatic functions. A fourth category is protection of citizens and commercial and legal interests of the sending state in the receiving state. Fifth, promotion of economic, cultural and scientific relations is an increasingly important function of diplomacy. Policy preparation or policy advice is sometimes added as a sixth function (Barston, 1988: 2-3; Berridge, 1995: 39-44).
Other typologies may concern the modes of diplomacy—distinguishing, for instance, between bilateral diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy and summitry, or between secret and open diplomacy—or diplomatic techniques—be it outlining the difference between negotiation, mediation and good offices, or explicating various types of diplomatic correspondence, agreements and rules of protocol. The general point, to repeat, is that the literature on diplomacy displays an abundance of taxonomies, but a shortage of theories.
Legal framework From the time of its medieval origins, modern diplomacy has been subject to international regulation. ‘Diplomatic law’ was originally concerned primarily with the immunities, privileges and obligations of diplomats and was of a customary nature. Efforts to codify diplomatic law began in the late nineteenth century, but only in 1961 were they crowned with success. After more than a decade of negotiations within the International Law Commission of the United Nations, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was then signed. By the early 1990s the Convention had been either ratified or acceded to by 165 states. As the legal framework of present-day bilateral diplomacy (excluding relations with international organizations and special missions), this Convention is commonly referred to, and sometimes treated at length, in texts on modern diplomacy (see, e.g., Berridge, 1995: 20-9; Wood and Serres, 1970).
Contemporary issues Two prominent themes emerge in the literature on recent developments of diplomacy: ‘newness’ and ‘decline’ (Hocking, 1999: 21). Several significant changes in the context and practice of diplomacy are identified, and the decline or crisis of diplomacy has become ‘a well rehearsed proposition’ (Hocking, 1997: 169). Diplomacy is sometimes suggested as a candidate for the endangered species list (Cooper, 1997: 174), and Zbigniew Brzezinski’s quip in 1970 to the effect that if foreign ministries and embassies ‘did not already exist, they surely would not have to be invented’ is frequently quoted (Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 232; Hocking, 1999: 23; James, 1980: 933). On the other hand, there are voices questioning the amount of change and emphasizing instead the continuity of diplomatic practices. Magalhães (1988: 63), for example, considers the distinction between old and new diplomacy ‘superficial,’ and Alan James (1980: 932) asks whether the new diplomacy may not be ‘contemporary froth on top of a solid base of traditional ways.’
One way to approach this debate is to subsume the various arguments under the four factors which, according to Keith Hamilton and Richard Langhorne (1995: 238-9), shape the development of diplomacy: (1) the international order; (2) the threat, prevalence and changing nature of war; (3) the evolution of the state; and (4) advances in science and technology.
(1) The increasing number and types of international actors along with the expanding diplomatic agenda are usually identified as significant changes in the international order. Not only has the total number of states more than tripled since 1945, but new types of actors have come to participate in international relations. Multilateral diplomacy or conference diplomacy (Kaufmann, 1996) has become a hallmark of the twentieth century, and diplomats are increasingly engaged in building coalitions within international organizations or forming contact groups outside existing multilateral fora (Leigh-Phippard, 1999). But the advent of new actors has also given rise to new, unconventional modes of diplomacy. Thus, R.P. Barston (1988: 108-16) uses the label ‘associative diplomacy’ to describe relations between regional organizations, and Brian Hocking (1999) has coined the term ‘catalytic diplomacy’ to denote the growing linkages and symbiotic relationships between governmental and non-governmental actors. Firms and enterprises are increasingly part of the diplomatic dialogue. Susan Strange (1992) identifies the emergence of a ‘triangular’ pattern of diplomacy, consisting of state-state, state-firm and firm-firm bargaining.
In short, dialogues between states and other types of international actors are today ‘blurring the distinction between what is diplomatic activity and what is not, and who, therefore, are diplomats and who are not’ (Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 3). The widening diplomatic agenda, which today encompasses anything from international debt management and telecommunications to refugee flows and the environment, has ‘led professional diplomats into unfamiliar territory’ (Melissen, 1999: xv) and has emphasized the need for expertise beyond that of diplomats. Participation by untraditional actors has been described in terms of ‘paradiplomacy’—direct foreign contacts by government departments and agencies other than the foreign ministry (Meerts, 1999: 90; Melissen, 1999: xv)—‘unofficial,’ ‘private’ or ‘citizen’ diplomacy—the opportunity for non-state actors, groups and individuals to operate on the world stage (Hocking, 1999: 24)—and ‘track-two’ or ‘multi-track’ diplomacy—informal interaction between members of adversarial states as a complement to traditional diplomacy (McDonald, 1991; Montville, 1991; Rouhana, 1999: 113-14). To the extent that we are moving into an era of ‘diplomacy without diplomats’ (Kennan, 1997), diplomacy seems to be ‘losing both its professional and conceptual identity’ (Sharp, 1997: 630).
(2) The advent of nuclear weapons constituted a challenge to traditional diplomacy in several respects. Nuclear weapons were perceived as a threat to state sovereignty, the very pillar on which modern diplomacy rests. Moreover, the nuclear age seemed to herald a shift of influence away from diplomats to the military. Yet during the Cold War the superpowers developed a nuclear diplomacy of sorts, using the new weapons as signaling instruments in crisis management. With the end of the Cold War, the conventions of superpower crisis management no longer seem valid. On the other hand, traditional diplomacy, both bilateral and multilateral, is generally seen to have gained room for maneuver. Gradually, however, it has become evident that one important complication concerns the increasing incidence and significance of intra-state rather than inter-state conflicts in the post-Cold War world. The duty of diplomats not to interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving state, codified in Article 41 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, sets obvious limits to traditional diplomacy in cases of ethnic conflicts and human rights violations, while prompting the evolution of new forms of unofficial intervention (Rouhana, 1999).
(3) The much-debated question of the future of the sovereign state reflects on diplomacy as well. To the extent that the state is in decline, as many argue, diplomacy—as an instrument of the state—is in trouble. Conversely, diplomacy appears to be an institution that is ‘central to the social reproduction of the society of states’ (Wolfe, 1998: 49). This is not the place to delve into that larger debate.
(4) Perhaps the most important factor affecting the evolution of diplomacy has been the revolution in communication and transportation technology. The speed and ease of transportation and communication have reduced the role of diplomats in several different ways. First, compared to earlier periods when it took a long time to relay instructions, the actions of diplomats are today much more circumscribed (Hamilton and Langhorne, 1995: 132). Moreover, direct contacts between political leaders have become frequent. George Ball, a senior US diplomat, lamented in the early 1980s that ‘jet planes and telephones and the bad habits of Presidents, National Security Assistants and Secretaries of State had now largely restricted ambassadors to ritual and public relations’ (quoted in Berridge, 1995: 52n). Summitry, the well-publicized meeting of national leaders, has been ‘roundly anathematized by historians as well as professional diplomats’ yet has been ‘valued chiefly for its enormous symbolic or propaganda potential’ (Berridge, 1995: 82; cf. Dunn, 1996). Finally, the rapid development of electronic media and information technology (IT) has reduced the importance of diplomats in information-gathering, and the contemporary emphasis on speed often forces decision-makers to react instantaneously to international events, bypassing traditional diplomatic channels. At the same time, diplomats are becoming engaged in ‘media diplomacy,’ exploiting the media for their purposes (cf. Y. Cohen, 1986; Jönsson, 1996; McNulty, 1993).
It is impossible to draw any clear-cut conclusions as to whether the institution of diplomacy is in peril or not. Several authors point to its adaptability to changing circumstances in the past (see, e.g., Jönsson and Aggestam, 1999: 166; Sharp, 1999: 56), and one goes so far as to argue that ‘contemporary diplomacy shows every sign of adapting vigorously to new conditions and participants’ (Langhorne, 1997: 13).
In sum, diplomacy is a fragmented field of study, with a weak theoretical base. Its recent revival entails evolving dialogues across disciplines, between scientific approaches, and between scholars and practitioners. While students have been preoccupied with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of diplomatic practice and debates about the decline of traditional diplomacy in the contemporary age, there is today greater willingness to broaden the perspective and theorize. One common theme that pervades the entire literature is the emphasis on negotiation as the core of diplomacy. In fact, several sources define diplomacy in terms of negotiations. According to the Oxford English Dictionary diplomacy is ‘the conduct of international relations by negotiation’; Adam Watson (1982: 33) defines diplomacy as ‘negotiations between political entities which acknowledge each other’s independence’; and G.R. Berridge’s (1995: 1) more elaborate definition is ‘the conduct of international relations by negotiation rather than by force, propaganda, or recourse to law, and by other peaceful means (such as gathering information or engendering goodwill) which are either directly or indirectly designed to promote negotiation.’ The centrality of negotiation in diplomacy is paralleled by its centrality in the study of international relations, to which we will now turn.
Bargaining and Negotiation
Negotiation can be regarded as one identifiable mode of joint decision-making, to be distinguished from coalition, when the choice is made by numerical aggregation (such as voting), and adjudication, when the choice is made hierarchically by a judge who aggregates conflicting values and interests into a single decision. In negotiations the parties are left to themselves to combine their conflicting points of view into a single decision (Zartman, 1977: 621-3). Regardless of formal decision rule, an element of negotiation usually precedes social decisions. In the international arena, dominated by sovereign states, negotiation is the primary and predominant mode of reaching joint decisions.
It is therefore not surprising that the study of international bargaining and negotiation has developed into a vital and productive sub-field of IR research. One bibliography, covering literature up to 1988 (Lakos, 1989), has more than 5,000 entries; and the rate of publication continues apace. Like diplomacy, international negotiation is a field occupied by academicians as well as practitioners; but unlike diplomacy, it is a field that has yielded a substantial body of middle-range theory.
Negotiations are studied from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and students of international negotiation have drawn on insights from diplomatic history, economics, management, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, law and other fields. To mention but one prominent example, an early work on labor negotiations (Walton and McKersie, 1965) is frequently cited in the literature on international negotiations. It should also be noted that the field has seen several fruitful transdisciplinary research projects. Negotiation theory in general has prescriptive as well as descriptive elements, and the study of international negotiation is no exception in that regard. Roger Fisher and William Ury’s modern classic Getting to Yes (1981) has served as a source of inspiration to many authors who, like Fisher and Ury, aim at providing guidance to negotiators and mediators.
The words bargaining and negotiation are frequently used interchangeably in the literature. To the extent that a distinction is made, it goes in either of two directions. On the one hand, bargaining can be seen as the broader concept, including the exchange of verbal as well as non-verbal communication, formal as well as informal exchanges. Negotiation, in this view, refers to a formalized process relying on verbal communication; negotiation thus becomes a sub-class of bargaining (Jönsson, 1990: 2-3). On the other hand, bargaining can be understood as the exchange of offers and counter-offers, concessions and retractions; as bazaar-like haggling in contrast to joint problem-solving. Bargaining then becomes a sub-class of negotiation. In this perspective, bargaining and problem-solving can also refer to two different paradigms in the study of negotiations (Hopmann, 1995; cf. Murray, 1986).
In any event, there is broad agreement that a bargaining situation is characterized by the coincidence of cooperative and conflictual elements as well as interdependent decisions. ‘Without common interest there is nothing to negotiate for, without conflict nothing to negotiate about’ (Iklé, 1964: 2). Interdependence entails the need for mutual rather than unilateral action and renders the best course of action by individual actors dependent on the behavior of others. Far from all bargaining situations, thus understood, lead to negotiations. The parties may exchange non-verbal signals—bargain, in the first sense of the word—‘each aware that his own actions are being interpreted and anticipated, each acting with a view to the expectations that he creates’ (Schelling, 1960: 21). Crisis management and signaling in limited war are cases in point. When negotiations occur, they may, in concordance with the definition of bargaining situations, be understood as ‘a process in which explicit proposals are put forward ostensibly for the purpose of reaching an agreement on an exchange or on the realization of a common interest where conflicting interests are present’ (Iklé, 1964: 3-4).
Even if treatises on international negotiations have been written by scholars and diplomats for centuries, systematic analysis and theory-building began only in the 1960s (cf. Hopmann, 1995: 25; 1996: 24). In 1960 two pioneering works were published: Thomas Schelling’s The Strategy of Conflict and Anatol Rapoport’s Fights, Games and Debates. Both were inspired by game theory, as it had been applied to social phenomena by economists. Neither author restricted himself to formal game theory, both aiming at a synthesis with other fields of knowledge. Schelling combined the game-theoretical basis with psychological insights, and Rapoport contrasted games with ‘debates’—processes of developing mutual understanding and ‘domains of validity’—which heralded the distinction between bargaining and problem-solving paradigms, alluded to above.
Since then several large-scale research projects on international negotiation have been launched. For example, the Harvard Negotiation Workshop of the 1970s has developed into a continuous, trans-disciplinary Program on Negotiation. Its publications include the Negotiation Journal and cover a broad range of topics in the field of negotiation and dispute resolution, including several works bearing on international negotiations (see, e.g., Fisher and Ury, 1981; Fisher et al., 1994; Raiffa, 1982; Sebenius, 1984). In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Crisis Bargaining Project at the State University of New York at Buffalo engaged political scientists, historians, philosophers and psychologists (see Lockhart, 1979; Pruitt, 1981; Snyder and Diesing, 1977). In 1996 the Washington Interest in Negotiation (WIN) Group, based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), launched a specialized journal, International Negotiation, complementing the Journal of Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Journal as a major outlet for research communication in the field. Under the auspices of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, outside Vienna, a project on Processes of International Negotiation (PIN) was initiated in 1986. Organized as a network of PIN groups in the sponsoring states of IIASA, the PIN Project has brought together scholars and practitioners of different nationalities and has resulted in a series of edited volumes (Faure and Rubin, 1993a; Kremenyuk, 1991a; Mautner-Markhof, 1989; Sjöstedt, 1993; Spector et al., 1994; Zartman, 1994a, 2000; Zartman and Rubin, 2000).
The game-theoretical heritage of negotiation studies may be less apparent today, as scholars have come to employ a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, drawing on diplomatic history as well as legal, organizational, economic and psychological theories and using laboratory experiments and gaming as well as content analysis and interviews. Yet game theory continues to be a benchmark of sorts, to which most analysts relate one way or another. First, they can draw on important developments within game theory itself. Robert Axelrod’s (1984, 1997) innovative treatment of the prisoners’ dilemma game, employing computer tournaments, has renewed interest in ‘iterative games’ and ‘tit-for-tat’ strategies. Steven Brams’s (1990, 1994) applications of game theory to real-life episodes of international relations as well as recent refinements of ‘non-cooperative game theory’ and the analysis of games of incomplete information (Morrow, 1994, 1999) have served as sources of inspiration.
Second, several students of international negotiations seek eclectic syntheses of game theory and other approaches. Examples include Glenn Snyder and Paul Diesing’s (1977) effort to build bridges between varieties of systems theory, bargaining theory and decision-making theory as well as James Sebenius’s (1991) ‘negotiation analysis’—focusing on interests, alternatives to agreement, creating and claiming value, and moves to change the game itself—and Terrence Hopmann’s (1996) attempt at a comprehensive framework, adding layers of complexity to a game-theoretical foundation. Third, alternative approaches to international negotiations typically proceed from a critique of game theory. In these cases, it is the shortcomings rather than the accomplishments of game theory that stimulate new research.
In fact, some of the problematic aspects of game theory, as practiced in the 1950s and 1960s, provided impetus to independent theory-building regarding international negotiation and may thus serve as a vantage point for an overview of the present range of approaches to international negotiation. Specifically, early game theory tended to (1) homogenize actors, (2) assume symmetrical relations, (3) emphasize instrumentality, (4) favor bilateral encounters, (5) disregard context and institutions and (6) be static. In the following, I shall review attempts by negotiation analysts to overcome these limitations. It is worth noting that, even if more recent advances in game theory have addressed the same issues, the answers differ and the early parting of ways has entailed increased specialization and differentiation.
The Role of Culture
Early game theory was situation-specific, insofar as it assumed that all actors react similarly to any given situation, as reflected in a game structure, and use the same kind of rational calculus. Yet experience indicates that negotiation behavior is frequently actor-specific, insofar as actors with different cultural backgrounds prefer dissimilar negotiating strategies and react individually to the same kind of stimuli. Hence, a voluminous literature on national negotiating styles has appeared, often based on the experiences of professional negotiators. At the same time, the role of culture in international encounters is a perennial issue among negotiation theorists.
The notion that national cultures produce distinct negotiating styles has long been entertained by scholars and practitioners alike. After the Second World War, the negotiating styles of ‘difficult’ opponents, such as the Soviet Union (Dennett and Johnson, 1951; Kimura, 1999; Schecter, 1998; Sloss and Davis, 1986; Smith, 1989; Whelan, 1983), China (Lall, 1968; Pye, 1982, 1992: Solomon, 1999; Young, 1968) and Japan (Blaker, 1977; Graham, 1993), became popular objects of scrutiny. In parallel with the publications focusing on diplomatic negotiating behavior, a ‘Negotiating With …’ literature emerged in business circles, guiding novices through the intricacies of making deals in specific foreign cultures. Both sets of works are typically written by practicing negotiators for the benefit of others in similar positions; they often focus on negotiation techniques and ‘etiquette’ rather than conflicting values; and they tend to overemphasize the uniqueness of each national negotiating style. Comparative studies of negotiating behavior are less common.
The literature on national negotiating styles has been the target of much criticism. Strictly speaking, many of these works are not about Soviet/Russian, Chinese or Japanese negotiating behavior, but about US perceptions of distinct negotiating styles (cf. Cohen, 1993: 24). The authors seldom allow for variation in styles and behavior depending on opponent, issue-area or other contextual factors. The genre has tended to produce and reproduce stereotypes, which may ultimately serve as self-fulfilling prophecies. Cultural consistency and coherence are emphasized at the expense of the contradictions, tensions or dialectics that are usually embedded in national cultures (Janosik, 1987: 389-91). In addition, culture is not only associated with nationality. With growing complexity and specialization, professional cultures play an increasingly important role in international negotiations; and multilateralism and an emerging ‘system of negotiations’ (Kremenyuk, 1991b) have arguably spawned an international ‘negotiation culture,’ socializing its members into similar behavior (cf. Lang, 1993).
An alternative approach to the culture—negotiations link has grown out of the tradition of intercultural communication (for pioneering works, see Fisher, 1980, 1988; Gulliver, 1979). Rather than trying to identify individual negotiating styles, this perspective highlights negotiation encounters. Instead of viewing culture as a simple determinant of behavior, it focuses on the meeting of different cultures in negotiations, which may create problems of relative, not absolute, values and meanings. While shared cultural background facilitates negotiations, intercultural dissonance renders verbal and non-verbal communication more difficult (Cohen, 1993: 22).
In particular, students of international negotiations have pointed to the problematic encounters between ‘high-context’ and ‘low-context’ cultures (Hall, 1976: 78-9). Representatives of high-context cultures communicate allusively rather than directly; they see language as a social instrument, dislike directness and contradiction, prefer inaccuracy to painful precision and are concerned with appearance and loss of face. In low-context cultures, by contrast, explicitness is the norm; language has an informational rather than socially lubricative function; contradiction is regarded as functional; and content takes precedence over outward appearance. US-Japanese and Israeli-Egyptian negotiations illustrate the problems associated with encounters between low-context and high-context cultures (cf. Cohen, 1990, 1997; Ting-Toomey, 1985a, 1985b).
Critics argue that culture is little more than a residual category accounting for negotiation failures (Faure and Rubin, 1993b: xii). Moreover, culture is a vague concept with no agreed definition. Cultural explanations are criticized as being tautological and epiphenomenal (Zartman, 1993). Advocates, on the other hand, are careful to emphasize that culture can never be the sole determinant of negotiation processes and outcomes, but insist that ‘any reasonable explanation of what happens in international negotiation must include the cultural aspects of the negotiation relationship’ (Faure and Rubin, 1993c: 212; cf. Faure, 1999).
Prominent games, such as prisoners’ dilemma and chicken, presume symmetrical relations and do not take power asymmetries into account. This game-theoretical heritage was reinforced by the overshadowing attention paid to US-Soviet negotiations during the Cold War. Yet it has become increasingly obvious that the relative symmetry brought about by the nuclear stalemate represents an exception rather than the rule in international negotiation. Therefore, the dearth of research into asymmetrical negotiation is surprising and bothering (Habeeb, 1988: 1; Zartman, 1985b: 122). Only recently have efforts been made to redress this imbalance (see Zartman and Rubin, 2000).
At issue is ‘the power of the weak’—the observation that the ‘stronger’ party does not always ‘win’ in asymmetrical negotiation encounters. The answers that have been suggested to this paradox all go beyond the realist notion that aggregate structural power determines outcomes. For example, Hopmann (1996: 119) argues that parties ‘with more attractive alternatives, and consequently with lower losses associated with the failure of negotiations, are more likely to be influential in claiming a larger share of the value being distributed within negotiations.’ The significance of asymmetrical commitment or ‘resolve’ as a source of weak states’ power is confirmed by Snyder and Diesing (1977: 190) in the context of crisis bargaining.
Mark Habeeb (1988) makes a distinction between issue-specific structural power and behavioral power. Issue-specific power, in his framework, is determined by available alternatives, commitment and control (the degree to which one side can unilaterally achieve its preferred outcome). Behavioral power refers to the actors’ tactics to alter the issue-power balance, such as building coalitions or threatening to veto an agreement, and thus adds a dynamic element to the power calculus. The importance of behavioral power in compensating for structural weakness is echoed by other authors as well. William Zartman (1985b: 122) maintains that ‘weak parties can often make use of procedural manipulations when substantive equality eludes them,’ citing fractioning and packaging of issues as well as the use of deadlines and withholding signature as examples. John Odell (1980, 1985) shows that weaker states, in bilateral trade negotiations with the United States, have taken advantage of the pluralist US system to mobilize allies within the United States to promote their cause; in addition, they have pursued a ‘technological strategy,’ profiting from being more informed and coming better prepared to the negotiating table. Similarly, Habeeb (1988: 132-3) points to the ‘asymmetry of attention’ in enhancing the power of weak states.
Empirical studies of asymmetrical negotiations cover different actors and issues and reach varying conclusions. Robert Rothstein’s (1979) and William Zartman’s (1985b, 1987) studies of mostly unsuccessful North—South negotiations on economic issues emphasize the insufficiencies of the international bargaining system and make prescriptive suggestions as to how the negotiation process might be improved to the benefit of the weaker parties (Zartman, 1985b: 121). Ole Elgström (1990, 1992) shows that shared norms may increase the leverage of recipient countries in highly asymmetrical foreign aid negotiations. The pattern in the early phase (1973-5) of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), according to Hopmann (1978), was that states with the least to lose from non-agreement were more influential as to what was included in the text than those with more to lose. From his analysis of the Panama Canal negotiations, US-Spanish bases negotiations and the three Anglo-Icelandic Cod Wars, Habeeb (1988: 130-1) concludes that issue-specific structural power is the best predictor of negotiation outcomes, and control the single most important component of issue power.
Negotiating for Side-Effects
Iklé defined negotiation, it will be recalled, in terms of an exchange of proposals ‘ostensibly for the purpose of reaching an agreement.’ His use of the word ostensibly indicates that he believes negotiations can be used for other purposes as well. Accordingly, Iklé (1964: 43-58) pioneered inquiries into various side-effects of negotiations—effects not concerning agreement that may arise either by accident or by design. This is an aspect disregarded by pure game theory and most other approaches that proceed from assumptions of instrumentality.
Negotiations may be a way to maintain contact with the opponent and establish a habit of communicating, which might be useful in case of crises or emergencies. Furthermore, they can serve as a substitute for violent action; a prevalent view in the West, according to Iklé, is that engaging the opponent in talks will prevent him from using force. Intelligence may be another side-effect of negotiations; the information obtained in the negotiation process is sometimes more important than the settlement of issues. The flip side is that negotiations can be exploited for purposes of deception, for instance to gain time to prepare for future use of force. Propaganda as a side-effect occurs when parties use negotiations to have a sounding-board, to gain prestige or publicity or to show Pharisaic rectitude. Governments know that refusal to participate in negotiations will impair the good will of important groups. States may also engage in negotiations in order to improve their bargaining position with third parties. Iklé proffers several historic examples of these various side-effects, and present-day realities—especially the many frustrating attempts at negotiating ethnic conflicts in the Balkans and elsewhere—testify to their continued relevance.
Mediation and Multilateral Negotiations
Bilateral encounters have provided the foundation for most negotiation theory. Additional parties entail increased complexity. Even if the interaction of three or more parties can logically be broken down into dyadic component sub-systems, the dynamics of tri- and multilateral negotiation cannot adequately be analyzed as a sequence of bilateral negotiations. Mediation—which transforms the negotiation structure from a dyad to a triangle—and multilateral negotiations have therefore given rise to studies and theorizing, which draw on other traditions than game theory.
The literature on international mediation usually proceeds from a conflict perspective. Mediation is framed as an instrument of conflict resolution, especially in intractable conflicts such as in the Middle East or the Balkans. Less attention is paid to ‘unauthorized mediation’ in multilateral negotiations (Stenelo, 1972). On the basis of statistical analysis of a large data set of international disputes from 1945 to 1990, mediation emerges as a vastly more common type of conflict management than direct negotiation between the parties (Bercovitch and Houston, 1996: 18). The significance of mediation has, if anything, been enhanced in recent years, when ‘state leaders and international institutions can no longer hide behind the fig leaf of superpower rivalry as an excuse for their own inactivity or ineffectiveness’ (Kleiboer, 1998: 2).
Mediation is a political form of third party intervention, to be distinguished from the legal procedures of arbitration and adjudication. In mediation the ultimate decision-making authority remains in the hands of the disputants and the outcome is not binding. Mediators, whether invited by the parties or offering their services, must be acceptable to both or all disputants. Identifiable varieties of informal intervention, such as conciliation, good offices and fact-finding, can be subsumed under mediation (cf. Touval and Zartman, 1985: 7; Kleiboer, 1998: 6-7).
With the expansion in the numbers and varieties of third party intervention in international conflicts in recent years, scholars have become increasingly interested in ‘multiparty mediation.’ The term refers to efforts by multiple mediators, whether sequential, simultaneous, or ‘composite’ actors such as international organizations. Multiparty mediation may entail benefits in terms of burden-sharing, complementary action and leverage, but also raises serious management issues of coordination, leadership, commitment and responsibility (Crocker et al., 1999).
Mediation analysts tend to agree that mediation outcomes are the result of the interaction of contextual and process variables. Contextual variables include the nature of the dispute, the contending parties and their relationships, and mediator characteristics. Process variables concern the strategies and tactics employed by mediators (cf. Bercovitch and Houston, 1996: 15; Kleiboer, 1998: 18). There is also some convergence concerning identifiable mediator roles and methods. Saadia Touval and William Zartman’s (1985: 11-14) threefold typology of the mediator as communicator, formulator and manipulator has been expanded on by others. Terrence Hopmann (1996: 231-7), for example, adds process facilitator (working on atmospherics and logistical support) and facilitator of cognitive change (inducing the parties to see the problem in a new light). And Raymond Cohen (1996b: 111-23) points to three specifically cross-cultural roles: acting as interpreter (decoding and explaining the parties’ culturally encoded messages), as buffer (helping disputants to save face) and as coordinator (synchronizing discordant negotiating conventions).
However, there is more diversity than commonality among mediation studies. The theoretical foundation varies. Marieke Kleiboer (1998: 39-83) identifies four ideal-type models: international mediation is variably viewed as power brokerage (drawing on neorealism, this perspective posits major powers as the most plausible mediators); as political problem-solving (drawing on political psychology, this perspective emphasizes the mediator’s knowledge, commitment to peace, analytical skills and ability to communicate); as domination (drawing on structuralism, this perspective sees mediation as an instrument used by élites and powerful states to defend the status quo); and as restructuring relationships (drawing on critical theory, this perspective points up the mediator’s commitment to social change and the advantages of moving mediation efforts away from the usual diplomatic arena to more informal workshop settings). Similarly, mediation researchers have employed a variety of methods, ranging from single-case studies to laboratory experiments, computer simulations and statistical analyses of large data sets.
The lack of a common theoretical or methodological basis has entailed a number of scholarly disagreements and debates. Three prominent issues have concerned the assessment of mediation outcomes, the impartiality of mediators and the timing of mediation efforts. First, there are no agreed criteria, according to which a mediation effort can be judged successful or a failure, and there is a lack of normative consensus. Several analysts beg the normative question by avoiding any conceptualization of mediation success and failure. In the conceptualizations that can be found in the literature, mediation is variably considered successful: if it settles or makes a great difference to the dispute; if it initiates dialogue and avoids violence among the disputants; if it allows both parties to save face; if it creates a valuable precedent; if it fulfils the mediator’s objectives; or if it resolves the underlying roots of conflict (cf. Kleiboer, 1998: 13-14).
Second, the impartiality of mediators, deemed pivotal by earlier analysts (see, e.g., Young, 1967: 81, 309), came under intensive debate in the 1970s and 1980s. One important impetus was the publicized use of mediation by high-ranking representatives of major powers, especially Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East (Mitchell and Webb, 1988: 8). The notion of a disinterested, impartial mediator becomes difficult to uphold in an increasingly interdependent world. Most analysts today agree that mediators have a stake in the conflict they try to resolve and act out of self-interest as much as altruism. Moreover, there seems to be consensus that it is the mediators’ resources and ability to effect change, rather than their perceived impartiality, that determine their acceptability and effectiveness (cf. Bercovitch, 1996a: 5; Zartman and Touval, 1985: 255). Some scholars argue that even ‘biased’ mediators—who have closer ties with one of the disputants, and are perceived as such by all parties—can be effective, when the bias adds to their capacity and motivation to influence (Carnevale and Arad, 1996; Smith, 1985; Touval, 1985). Thus, the United States can be accepted by Arab states as a mediator in the Middle East because of its ability to ‘deliver Israel.’
A third debate zeroes in on the appropriate timing of mediation. The accepted wisdom is that third party roles are most relevant when the parties have reached an impasse; only after having exhausted all other possibilities—and themselves—will disputants be susceptible to outside help. The notion that a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’ (Zartman, 1985a; see below) precedes and facilitates mediation has been questioned by analysts who argue that this is a situation inviting failure: ‘the relationship between the parties has deteriorated significantly, interests are often interfused with needs and appear nonnegotiable, and the respective positions have become intransigent through a series of past commitments’ (Keashly and Fisher, 1996: 247). Instead, some claim, mediation is a particularly useful tool in conflict prevention (Bercovitch, 1996b).
Multilateral negotiations are less studied and theorized than either bilateral negotiations or mediation; in fact, they represent ‘one of the least developed areas in negotiation theory’ (Hopmann, 1996: 244). The principal reason is their bewildering complexity—‘a very messy affair, almost defying generalization’ (Holsti, 1982: 160). Yet multilateral negotiations have become increasingly common and significant in the global arena. In fact, one might claim that there are no bilateral negotiations in international relations, since each side is always composite (Zartman, 1991: 74). Multilateral negotiations raise the problem of managing complexity (Winham, 1977a, 1977b) for practitioners and theorists alike. ‘The more the messier’ (Zartman, 1994b: 3) applies not only to the parties to multilateral negotiations, but to issues and roles as well. Methods to reduce complexity therefore include coalition-building, issue aggregation and disaggregation, and role differentiation. These aspects of multilateral negotiations are also highlighted in the scholarly literature.
First, coalitions reduce the number of negotiating actors to a manageable amount (see Dupont, 1996). Coalition-building, however, may be a double-edged sword. While simplifying the negotiation process by reducing the number of actors, coalition formation often entails intransigent negotiation positions, once consensus is reached within the coalition, and may thus intensify conflicts among members of opposing coalitions (Hopmann, 1996: 261). Hence, multilateral negotiations can be understood as a coalition-building, coalition-bridging and coalition-breaking exercise (Hampson with Hart, 1995: 20). Sequencing is important, since potential coalition partners’ assessments of the returns of joining are influenced by knowledge of who has already joined, or decided not to join (Sebenius, 1996; Watkins and Rosegrant, 1996). In addition, several studies point to the importance of cross-cutting rather than reinforcing coalitions (cf. Hampson with Hart, 1995: 353; Hopmann, 1996: 264; Touval, 1989: 164).
Second, multilateral negotiations typically encompass several, complex issues. Two diametrically opposite techniques to handle this complexity are identified in the literature. One is issue disaggregation, also referred to as issue decomposition and sequencing (Hampson with Hart, 1995: 45-7; Hopmann, 1996: 81). This incremental approach, which involves negotiating each issue separately and sequentially, rests on the belief that half a loaf is better than none. It often entails organizing working groups to deal with specific issues or sub-issues (Midgaard and Underdal, 1977: 336-7). Issue aggregation or issue linkage represents another method of handling complexity (see, e.g., Hopmann, 1996: 81-4). This means combining sub-issues that would be non-negotiable if treated separately into package deals or tradeoffs.
Third, multilateral negotiations involve not only many parties and many issues, but also have a multi-role character (Zartman, 1994b: 5). Role differentiation is a trait of international conferences as well as other social groups (Touval, 1989: 161-2). The mediator role can be assumed by parties or groups of parties to multilateral negotiations. The difficulty of differentiating the role of ‘mediator’ from that of ‘negotiator’ then constitutes a problem for presumptive mediators as well as other parties (cf. Stenelo, 1972; Williams, 1988). Leadership roles are considered especially significant in multilateral negotiation (see Hermann, 1995; Malnes, 1995; Sjöstedt, 1999; Underdal, 1994; Young, 1991). Various modes of leadership have been identified in the literature, with a substantial degree of overlap. For example, Oran Young (1991) distinguishes between structural, entrepreneurial and intellectual leadership; Margaret Hermann (1995) between crusaders, salesmen, agents and fire fighters; Lance Antrim (1994) between inspirational, procedural and substantive leadership; and Arild Underdal (1994) between unilateral, coercive and instrumental leaders. Different modes of leadership may be required at different stages of the negotiations (Sjöstedt, 1999).
In sum, multilateral negotiation is an area of theoretical underdevelopment but of growing scholarly concern. The research focus is on the management of complexity, including ‘reduction (simplification) to make complexity comprehensible, structuring to make it manageable, and direction to produce a result’ (Zartman, 1994c: 220).
Context and Institutional Embeddedness
Game theory in its purest form operates in a context-free and institution-free environment. The choices of the interdependent parties are supposedly based on information about their own and the opponent’s preferences and the game structure. In real-life negotiations an endless variety of contextual factors may influence behavior and processes, and it matters whether the negotiation is embedded in an institutional framework or not. For instance, the current and past relationships between the negotiating actors obviously affect the negotiation climate. In the estimate of one experienced international negotiator (Brady, 1991), the most difficult negotiations are those between ‘friends’—countries that share neither membership in a formal alliance nor an adversarial relationship.
One common notion is that bargaining behavior and processes may be issue-specific rather than situation-specific, as assumed by game theorists, or actor-specific, as in studies of negotiating styles and culture. Iklé (1964: 26-42) makes a distinction between negotiations aiming at extension, normalization, redistribution, innovation or side-effects with different negotiation patterns. Students of negotiations on different issues, such as arms control, trade, crisis management and environmental protection, have noted issue-specific traits. Odell (2000), for instance, points to sensitivity to changes in market conditions as the fundamental distinguishing trait of negotiations over economic issues as compared to other international negotiations.
Several international negotiations tend to become continuous. Arms control negotiations and trade talks in the context of GATT/WTO are cases in point. Then it becomes difficult to pinpoint the beginning and end of bargaining processes; the outcome of one round of negotiations creates a new bargaining situation, and the parties are continually in contact with each other. According to Axelrod’s (1984) notion of the ‘shadow of the future,’ this would make cooperation more likely, as the short-run gains of non-cooperation are outweighed by the long-run losses of mutual non-cooperation. Moreover, continuous negotiations tend to become institutionalized; they develop a culture, behavioral norms and a language of their own.
Students of international institutions or regimes have paid relatively little attention to negotiation processes. They have addressed questions of why states cooperate rather than how they cooperate, and have focused on the conditions of regime creation rather than its process. Yet it could be argued that the building and maintenance of regimes involve continuous negotiations and that ‘regimes deserve greater attention as forums for bargaining’ (Fearon, 1998). Among regime theorists, Oran Young (1989, 1994) is exceptional by having elaborated the notion of ‘institutional bargaining,’ in which the participants seek to reach agreement on the terms of constitutional contracts.
The most prominent example of institutionalized negotiations in today’s world is the European Union, which has been characterized as a ‘permanent negotiation institute’ (Bal, 1995: 1) or a ‘multilateral inter-bureaucratic negotiation marathon’ (Kohler-Koch, 1996: 367). Negotiations in the EU take place within an institutional framework, with norms and rules impinging on the negotiations, and persistent negotiation patterns over time. The main dividing line among students of EU negotiations runs between ‘liberal intergovernmentalists,’ who maintain that all major agreements are in effect bargains between the most powerful states (Moravcsik, 1991), and network theorists, who emphasize the participation by state as well as non-state actors and the informal nature of EU negotiations (Jönsson et al., 1998; Pfetsch, 1998). The former approach focuses on ‘history-making’ negotiations; the latter on day-to-day negotiations. Although some studies point to the importance of institutional factors in EU negotiations (Jönsson et al., 1998; Pfetsch, 1999), the institutionalization of international negotiations is still insufficiently understood and deserves further research.
While useful in revealing the nature of bargaining situations and available strategies, game theory originally offered less guidance to the analysis of negotiation processes. The back-and-forth communication, the exchange of proposals and signals, the tactics and techniques used, the patterns of concessions and retractions—in short, the dynamics of mutual persuasion attempts that we usually associate with negotiations—were insufficiently caught by early game theory.
No alternative, overarching theory of international negotiation processes was developed in response; instead, the literature today offers a variety of approaches, which highlight different dynamic aspects and have been used alone or in different combinations in studies of international negotiations. One may distinguish at least seven perspectives, according to which the essence of international negotiation processes is, respectively, (1) establishing a contract zone, (2) using tactical instruments, (3) reducing uncertainty, (4) balancing contradictory imperatives, (5) timing, (6) coordinating internal and external processes, and (7) communicating. These approaches can be placed along a continuum, with (1) being closest to, and (7) most removed from, the game-theoretical tradition. At the risk of oversimplification and streamlining, each perspective will be treated separately below.
Establishing a contract zone One central feature of our common understanding of negotiation is that the parties initially ask for more than they expect to get. If we add the assumption that the parties know how far they are willing to go in terms of concessions, we can, for each party, construct a continuum ranging from its maximum objective to its minimum acceptable outcome or ‘resistance point.’ The crucial problem then is to identify a space where these continua overlap, that is, where both parties prefer an agreement to breaking off negotiations. This space is often called ‘contract zone’—‘bargaining range’ and ‘settlement range’ are other labels used. The exchange of proposals and other signals, in this conception, serves to gradually reveal whether a contract zone exists and, if so, where it is located.
This understanding of the negotiation process applies most readily to bilateral, distributive negotiations on single, easily measurable issues. The difficulties of identifying maximum objectives, resistance points and contract zones in multilateral negotiations on complex, abstract issues can be staggering to analysts and negotiators alike. Yet one notion, originating from this perspective, that has gained wide currency in the negotiation literature is that of BATNA (the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) (Fisher and Ury, 1981; Raiffa, 1982). Negotiators are supposed (and recommended) to determine their resistance points by comparing the value of an agreement at any stage of the negotiations with the value of no agreement; only if a negotiated solution is better than their BATNA will (or should) they agree.
Using tactical instruments Another perspective focuses on the attempts by each party to outwit the other by means of ‘strategic moves,’ such as commitments, threats and promises, designed to constrain the opponent’s behavior by affecting the opponent’s expectations of one’s own behavior. This ‘manipulative’ (Young, 1975: 317) conception of negotiation owes much to Thomas Schelling’s (1960, 1966) pioneering work. His analysis of commitments, ‘the power to bind oneself,’ through which bargaining parties eliminate some of the options open to them, has been especially influential. To be effective, Schelling argues, a commitment must not only be communicated and made intelligible to the other side, but has to be made credible as well.
Schelling’s seminal treatment of the credibility problem has been followed up by other scholars. For instance, Robert Jervis (1970), drawing on Erving Goffman’s (1969) analysis of ‘expression games,’ has suggested a basic distinction between signals and indices. Signals are issued for manipulative purposes; they have no inherent credibility, as they can be used as easily by a deceiver as by an honest actor. Indices, by contrast, are less easily manipulated; they are believed to be inextricably linked to the actor’s capabilities or intentions and to be untainted by deception. Indices, according to Jervis, are used by negotiators to verify or falsify the opponent’s signals. Yet once the sender becomes conscious of the fact that the adversary perceives certain behavior as an index, possibilities of manipulation emerge. If the receiver, in turn, becomes conscious of the adversary’s manipulation, ‘multiple cycles of manipulation’ may ensue (Jervis, 1970: 41-65).
The ‘contract zone’ and ‘manipulative’ perspectives share a view of the negotiation process as a battle of retreat. Agreement is seen to be the result of a series of incremental steps away from the parties’ opening proposals; through mutual concessions convergence may be achieved. The two complementary perspectives are therefore sometimes referred to as the ‘concession—convergence’ approach to negotiation. The game-theoretical heritage is evident in their assumptions of rational choice and exogenously given interests as well as the primary focus on bilateral encounters. These assumptions are relaxed in the following approaches.
Reducing uncertainty This approach proceeds from the structural uncertainty experienced by negotiating parties, especially—but not only—in multilateral negotiations; that is, ‘the nature of the possible outcomes and not just the probability associated with different outcomes is unknown’ (Winham, 1977a: 101). Trial-and-error search, information processing and uncertainty control are basic elements in this understanding of negotiations. The central focus of the joint decision-making process is to reduce the variety inherent in the complex and multidimensional bargaining situation. An important element in this process is the search for a formula, ‘a shared perception or definition of the conflict that establishes terms of trade, the cognitive structure of referents for a solution, or an applicable criterion of justice’ (Zartman and Berman, 1982: 95). A formula can be something akin to Schelling’s (1960: 57-8) idea of ‘focal points’—mutually recognized keys to coordinated solutions, based on prominence, conspicuousness and uniqueness. It may also be a captivating metaphor, such as ‘the common heritage of mankind’ formula guiding the Law of the Sea negotiations on the exploitation of the seabed. A formula, in short, ‘helps give structure and coherence to an agreement on details, helps facilitate the search for solutions on component items, and helps create a positive, creative image of negotiation rather than an image of concessions and compromise’ (Zartman and Berman, 1982: 93).
In this perspective, negotiation appears as a deductive exercise. Only after a formula has been established, can a structured search for solutions of more precise problems—the ‘detail phase’—begin (Zartman and Berman, 1982: 147). One technique that has been identified as particularly helpful in the detail phase of multilateral negotiations is the use of a ‘single negotiation text’ (SNT) (Fisher and Ury, 1981: 118-22; Raiffa, 1982: 205-17). After listening to the stated positions of all the parties, one participant, in a mediator or leadership role (often a chairperson), drafts a text, which is then circulated for criticism, modifications and refinements. Successive rounds of redrafting and feedback may eventually produce an agreed document, as in the Camp David negotiations in 1978 and the Law of the Sea negotiations. In sum, a distinguishing feature of viewing negotiations as uncertainty reduction is that ‘the development of common perceptions becomes more important than the exchange of concessions’ (Winham, 1977a: 97). Creativity and reconceptualizations are considered more important than outwitting the opponents.
Balancing contradictory imperatives One conceptualization of international negotiations that resonates among practitioners is that of a series of dilemmas with no fixed, invariably acceptable solution (cf. Snyder and Diesing, 1977: 207-56). The essence of the negotiation process is thus to find the appropriate mix of contradictory imperatives along several dimensions. One basic dilemma concerns firmness vs. flexibility. If you are too firm, you may invite hostility and stalemate; if you are too flexible, you may be exploited by the opponent. It has been suggested that ‘early firmness followed by later flexibility’ is the optimal mix (Druckman, 1995: 79). Notions of ‘firm flexibility’ or ‘flexible rigidity’ have been introduced to denote combinations of firmness with respect to ends and basic interests and flexibility with respect to means and tactics (Pruitt, 1995: 103-9; Pruitt and Lewis, 1977: 183-4; Pruitt and Rubin, 1986: 153).
Several dilemmas of this kind can be identified, be they openness and honesty vs. secrecy and deception; explicitness vs. ambiguity; manipulating risk vs. minimizing risk; or aggregating vs. disaggregating issues. The view of negotiations as a series of dilemmas implies an indeterminate process. Practitioners therefore frequently conclude that negotiation defies scientific generalizations. To use an analogy once suggested by star negotiator Richard Holbrooke, negotiation, like jazz, is based on skills of improvisation.
Timing Another approach that finds strong support among practitioners emphasizes the importance of timing in negotiations. There are two variants of this perspective. One distinguishes stages in the negotiation process, the other focuses on ripeness. The notion that negotiations proceed through several identifiable stages, each with a pattern of characteristic and/or appropriate behavior, is common in the literature. Theorists adhering to the ‘concession—convergence’ paradigm typically postulate an early contentious stage and a later problem-solving phase, with varying numbers of stages in between (Pruitt and Rubin, 1986: 137). Those who see the reduction of uncertainty as the essence of negotiations distinguish three stages: a diagnostic, a formula and a detail phase (Zartman and Berman, 1982). The notion of stages is sometimes combined with efforts to identify turning points, ‘events or processes that mark the passage of a negotiation from one stage to the next’ (cf. Druckman, 1986; Druckman et al., 1991: 56).
Negotiation analysis has, in fact, extended beyond the negotiating table and identified pre-negotiation and post-agreement stages as well. The pre-negotiation phase has attracted increased attention (Saunders, 1985; Stein, 1989). In pre-negotiations, the parties attempt to identify the problem and ways to deal with it, produce a commitment to negotiate and set the parameters for the negotiations. At the other end, a post-agreement bargaining phase follows the conclusion of many agreements—the point where most negotiation analyses end. For instance, the Oslo and Dayton agreements marked the starting point rather than the end point of bargaining between the parties. ‘Compliance bargaining’ concerning the terms and obligations of international agreements (Jönsson and Tallberg, 1998: 372) takes place in such institutional settings as the European Union and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
A somewhat different approach to the question of timing proceeds from the concept of ripeness (Zartman, 1985a). Negotiation or mediation is most likely to bring results at a moment when the conflict or issue is ripe for solution. The definition of a ripe moment has two components. First, the parties experience a ‘mutually hurting stalemate,’ that is, a realization that neither can benefit but will suffer from continued conflict or status quo. Second, they perceive the possibility of a way out by means of a negotiated solution.
The ripeness notion has intuitive appeal, and it has been built on, refined and criticized by a number of scholars and practitioners. Dean Pruitt (1997: 239), in his ‘readiness theory,’ defines a ‘motivationally ripe moment’ in terms of the parties being motivated to achieve de-escalation as well as optimistic that the other party will reciprocate cooperation. Christopher Mitchell (1995) emphasizes the importance of an ‘enticing opportunity,’ the prospect of future gains, in assessing ripeness. On the basis of a study of international mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, Stephen Stedman (1991: 235-42) concludes that it is not necessary for all actors in a conflict to perceive a mutually hurting stalemate and that ripeness, paradoxically, can come from a situation where both sides believe that a settlement will produce a victory for them. Like Jo Husbands (1991), he points to the significance of domestic political processes and cycles in the determination of a ripe moment. Louis Kriesberg (1991: 1-2) and Jeffrey Rubin (1991: 239) caution that claims about timing and ripeness can be used to attempt to manipulate the pace and direction of negotiations. In short, efforts to apply and specify ripeness have tended to emphasize the subjective aspects of a concept that may seem to connote an objective condition (see, e.g., Aggestam and Jönsson, 1997: 772-4; Kleiboer, 1994; Mooradian and Druckman, 1999).
Coordinating external and internal processes It is sometimes said that every bilateral international negotiation encompasses at least three bargaining processes: the external one between the two parties, and two internal ones within each of the parties. Practitioners, in particular US negotiators, usually emphasize the problems of internal bargaining, arguing they spend as much or even more time achieving consensus within their own side (cf. Martin, 1988: 49-50; Winham, 1979: 116-19; Zartman and Berman, 1982: 207). Although practitioners often accuse theorists of neglecting the internal aspect of international negotiation, the nexus between internal and external negotiations has been a perennial theoretical concern. For instance, a recurring game-theoretical idea holds that a bilateral negotiation might be represented as one main game with a number of sub-games or ‘auxiliary games,’ the playing of which influences the playing and outcome of the main game (Midgaard, 1966). Similarly, the notion of ‘intraorganizational bargaining’ in labor negotiations can be translated into intra-alliance and internal bargaining in the international arena (Walton and McKersie, 1965: 281-351, 389-91; cf. Jönsson, 1979).
Robert Putnam’s (1988) conceptualization of ‘two-level games’ has gained wide currency and has been applied to a number of international negotiations (Evans et al., 1993). Internal bargaining concerning ‘ratification,’ broadly understood, parallels inter-state negotiations. The ‘win-set’ in any international negotiation is thus determined not only by strategies at the inter-state level, but by preferences and coalitions as well as institutions at the national level. A narrow win-set internally (due, for example, to varying interests and opposing views in a vital democracy) may be an asset externally, whereas a broad win-set internally (due, for example, to lack of opposition in an authoritarian state) may be a liability. The side that can credibly point to domestic conditions that limit its bargaining range—be they the parliamentary situation, strong interest groups or public opinion—has an advantage over the side that cannot in the same way narrow down the win-set. Some international negotiations have the character of ‘multilevel’ rather than two-level games. Thus, changes in EU agricultural policy have been analyzed as the result of a ‘three-level game’—parallel negotiations within GATT with the EU as one party, among the EU member states, and between various interests within key member states (Patterson, 1997).
Communicating Bargaining and negotiation can be seen as sub-classes of social communication. One might argue that ‘without communication there is no negotiation’ (Fisher and Ury, 1981: 33) or that ‘in essence, international negotiation is communication’ (Stein, 1988: 222). Yet the linguistic or nonlinguistic aspects of communication in international negotiations have received scant attention; in fact, ‘much of the existing literature derives from theoretical approaches that are particularly insensitive to language and communication’ (Bell, 1988: 233). Both verbal and non-verbal messages are exchanged in international negotiations. Diplomatic ‘body language’ ranges from the venue and the format of the negotiations or the level of delegations to the mobilization and movement of military troops and hardware. Indeed, activity as well as inactivity and words as well as silence may be perceived as messages in bargaining situations.
Diplomatic signaling (Cohen, 1987; Jönsson and Aggestam, 1999) thus seems a pertinent yet not sufficiently explored area of research. One study (Jönsson, 1990), which draws on attribution theory and semiotics in analyzing inherently ambiguous communication in international bargaining, characterizes negotiators as ‘intuitive semioticians.’ There are recent efforts to apply semantics (Cohen, 2000) and Jürgen Habermas’s critical theory of communicative action (Risse, 2000) to the argumentative processes of international negotiations. Shared meanings (or the lack thereof) and ‘the power of the better argument’ then become foci of attention. On the whole, however, the communication aspects of bargaining warrant more research.
Lessons Learned and Unanswered Questions
Bargaining and negotiation as well as diplomacy represent vital and variegated research areas. While efforts at generalizations and theory-building have been considerably more advanced in the study of international negotiations, neither area has a firm, generally accepted theoretical foundation. Game theory originally promised to provide such a basis for bargaining and negotiation. Yet, game theory—its indisputable heuristic value notwithstanding—has perhaps been more important because of its shortcomings than because of its success. The rewards of game theory have thus been indirect, as was the case with the sons who were told by their father to dig for buried treasures in the vineyard: they found no treasures, but they improved the soil (Rapoport, 1960: xii, 360).
This chapter has tried to chronicle the accomplishments as well as the shortcomings of scholarship in diplomacy and international bargaining and negotiation. The study of diplomacy has provided us with a detailed picture of the evolution of diplomatic practice. Recent research has traced the roots of diplomacy far back into history and beyond the European perimeters of earlier writing. At the same time, students have explored the peculiar problems of diplomacy in the post-Cold War era of revolutionized communications technology and globalization. Postmodern authors, framing diplomacy as a reflection of more fundamental problems of alienation or modernity, have posed the challenge of formulating a general theory of diplomacy. Representation and communication have been suggested as the conceptual foundation of such a theory, which should also take into account the role of diplomacy in reproducing sovereign states.
Students of diplomacy and international negotiation have joined forces to a surprisingly limited degree. Yet there would seem to be synergetic dividends from collaboration between the two branches of scholarship. Diplomacy represents the institutional framework of inter-state negotiations, an aspect largely neglected by negotiation theorists. Multilateralism constitutes a common research concern. The notion of a global diplomatic culture, an aspect frequently mentioned but seldom explored by students of diplomacy, is closely related to the equally unexplored idea of a common negotiation culture, found in the negotiation literature. This represents another promising area of joint research efforts. Comparative studies of the significance of the diplomatic culture relative to national cultures and negotiating styles are warranted, as are systematic comparisons of national diplomatic and negotiating styles.
Students of international bargaining and negotiation, in their search for useful middle-range theory, have largely eschewed the grand theoretical debates between various ‘isms.’ Yet a bargaining perspective offers valuable correctives to both neorealism and neoliberalism. On the one hand, it admonishes realists that power is more than material resources and that interests are malleable; on the other hand, it advises liberals that international cooperation does not necessarily ensue when facilitating background factors are present. Whereas realism focuses on explaining conflict and is worse at handling cooperation, and liberalism focuses on explaining cooperation and is worse at handling conflict, bargaining theory highlights the conjunction of cooperation and conflict in most international relations.
Empirical findings and theoretical ideas related to bargaining processes abound. The range of available negotiation techniques has been explored in considerable detail. Increasing efforts are put into the study of multilateral negotiations and mediation, as opposed to the previous emphasis on bilateral encounters. Transdisciplinary research is flourishing. Despite all these positive developments, there is still a dearth of efforts to combine insights from different approaches and perspectives. To that extent, the field can be said to represent an archipelago of conceptual and theoretical islands. The lack of bridges concerns two areas in particular.
First, research has so far failed to reconcile strategic-choice perspectives and perspectives emphasizing cognitive and social processes. Whereas the strategic-choice perspective posits purposive and instrumental actors, furthering their own interests while taking the actions of others into account, cognitive and social process perspectives highlight information processing, joint search for commonalities and socialization. These are often construed as rival, mutually exclusive approaches. Yet, to the extent that international negotiations encompass elements of both—as several scholars and practitioners maintain—they would seem to be complementary. A second shortcoming concerns the neglect of the ongoing structure—agent discussion in IR. The prevalent actor-oriented perspectives have largely neglected the structural parameters of international negotiations, be they institutions, norms or varying international systems. Frameworks that explicitly and theoretically combine agent and structure are needed to provide a fuller view of international bargaining and negotiation.