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What Do Plaintiffs Want? Reexamining the Concept of Dispute

NCJ Number
Justice System Journal Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1984) Pages: 151-178
S E Merry; S S Silbey
Date Published
28 pages
The alternative dispute resolution movement has been heavily influenced by a particular vision of conflict, known as the dispute processing paradigm, which describes disputing behavior primarily in terms of instrumental, optimizing decision strategies.
An ethnographic study of attitudes and behaviors of disputing in three small American neighborhoods suggests that some categories of conflict are managed within a framework of cultural beliefs about appropriate or virtuous ways of behaving: how to fight or whether to fight, how to respond to insults and grievances, how to live with one's neighbors. Attention to the various forms of social action and its cultural construction helps to explain some of the recurring questions in the implementation of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as the persistent low rate of voluntary usage. (Publisher abstract)