chapter  6
17 Pages

The Structuralists’ Paradox in negotiation

Negotiation takes place when neither party in a conflict is strong enough to impose its will or to resolve the conflict unilaterally. In such negotiations, the parties are formally equal, since each has a veto over an acceptable outcome. Yet two-party equality produces deadlock. Obviously there are power differences between the parties, however, asymmetries that can be used to break the deadlock. But these asymmetries then raise the Structuralists’ Paradox: how come weaker parties negotiate with stronger parties and still get something? Expecting to lose, a weaker party should want to avoid negotiation with a stronger party at all costs, but it cannot; and, expecting to win, a stronger party should have no need to negotiate to get what it wants, but it must. Yet weak parties not only engage stronger ones in negotiation, they usually emerge with payoffs – and often with bigger payoffs – in the end. How does one account for the Structuralists’ Paradox, and what is the effect of power symmetry or asymmetry on negotiation.