chapter  4
14 Pages

Negotiation as a search for justice

Negotiation is one of the basic modes of social decision-making, a crucial element in commerce, diplomacy, law and everyday international (and other) life, but we are still surprisingly far from a theory about how people negotiate. Negotiated outcomes are achieved by the combined and competing efforts of parties holding initially conflicting positions. But they are not merely the results of a contest of countervailing wills and power nor of a confrontation of skills and tactics. Rather, the range of potential agreements and the shape of the final outcome are determined in large part by underlying notions of fairness or justice

Despite some semantic debates that undoubtedly have importance in some other contexts, the two terms are used interchangeably here. This article reviews current attempts to answer the basic analytical question of how negotiated outcomes are obtained and explained, and presents growing research on an alternative explanation: in the process of negotiating the exchange or division of the items contested between them, negotiators come to an agreement on the notion of justice which will govern this disposition; if they do not, negotiations will not be able to proceed to a conclusion. Unlike other explanations, the renewed focus on justice as a parameter not only explains how and why negotiations proceed, but also why they fail

Fairness and justice are a major motivating force in all human decisionmaking and hence in negotiation (Lerner 1975; Deutsch 1985; Wilson 1993); indeed there is evidence that getting a fair deal is often more important than getting the best deal (Lind and Taylor 1988). “It seems that wherever one finds people who want something (are there are other kind?), whenever there are desired resources to distribute, the preeminent factor in the decision process appears to be one of the various facets of justice – fairness, rights, deserving, etc.” (Lerner 1975, p.1). “[C]laims will not be successful unless they embody a bona fide ideal of distributive justice” (Elster 1992, p.5).