Whither Ripeness Theory?




Pruitt, Dean G.

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School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution


Ripeness theory, in its most common version, concerns the psychological states that encourage parties who are involved in severe conflict to move into negotiation—either bilateral or mediated. This monograph first summarizes ripeness theory as it stands today, while drawing on the writings of I. William Zartman, the founder of this field, and several other international relations scholars. Then it presents a critique, which recasts this important theory in conventional psychological terms; uses the language of variables rather than necessary states; and focuses on the psychological states of individual actors rather than on joint psychological states. The recast theory, which is called “readiness theory,” argues that an actor’s readiness for conflict resolution is a function of both motivation to end the conflict and optimism about the success of negotiation. This revision appears to (a) fit more historical cases than the original; (b) be more heuristic in the sense of suggesting testable theoretical propositions; and (c) have greater reach, thus casting light on concession making, agreement, compliance, and third-party activation.