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Sharing reality: an insight from phenomenology to John Burton's problem solving conflict resolution theory

Väyrynen, Tarja Helena (1995) Sharing reality: an insight from phenomenology to John Burton's problem solving conflict resolution theory. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86377) (KAR id:86377)


The starting-point of the thesis is the idea that conflict may be endemic and even functional. However, the question remains whether the man is inherently aggressive and violent. It is assumed in the thesis that every theory of conflict and conflict resolution consists of an image of human 'being' and human nature, and that one of the most seminal analyses a conflict analyst can engage in deals with these images.

John Burton is one of the leading figures in the field of conflict and conflict resolution theory who introduced the notion of 'problem-solving workshop conflict resolution' to Internationa Relations in the late 1960s. The thesis focuses on how Burton applies human needs thinking to conflict and conflict resolution theory. It examines also what kind of 'model of man' is included in his theory. It is argued that Burton's biologically-based image of human 'being' leads him to deny culture its constitutive role in conflict and conflict resolution. In other words, Burton's conception of universal human needs which function as motives of behaviour offers a potent way to defuse contextualism. As a consequence, problem-solving workshop conflict resolution is thought by Burton to be essentially the same for all peoples of all cultures.

In the second half of the thesis a social constructionist image of human 'being' which clearly challenges Burton's views, is introduced. It studies how social groups and institutions distribute knowledge, define reality through shared typifications and use language. Moreover, it is argued that reality as well as needs and identifies are socially and culturally constructed. Given this notion of human existence, the thesis claims that problem-solving workshop conflict resolution can be best understood to be an attempt to find a shared reality between the parties in conflict.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86377
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: International relations; Facilitators
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:55 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 17:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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