THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR? COMMUNITY AND MEDIATION IN THE UNITED STATES

DEBORAH ROSE BASKIN, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The everyday lives of neighbors, families and friends have become filled with pressures and tensions that have made peaceful coexistence increasingly difficult. Concerns over the disruptive potential of ongoing interpersonal disputing have been translated into alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that use such conciliatory techniques as mediation. Although these programs differ considerably in terms of guiding ideologies, they share broad-based support by proponents who hail these reforms as humanitarian and progressive. However, they harbor within them contradictions which emanate from both internal inconsistencies and external pressures which have not, as yet, been adequately documented by researchers in this area.^ The dominant trend in research on community mediation has been evaluative. The result has been an overly narrow perspective that focuses primarily on existing networks of dispute-processing, program caseloads, dispute-processing speed, cost and user satisfaction. Thus, it neglects to inquire into the larger context in which community mediation programs exist; a context that may actually determine their meaning and ultimate success.^ This dissertation differs from dominant research in that it examines disputes and dispute-processing on two levels: the macro level of social structure and the micro level of social interaction. That these two instances are related is demonstrated through the application of Neo-Marxist crisis theory to ethnographic materials that were derived from observations of disputants during both mediation and court processing, interviews with key informants and participation in the daily activities of two mediation projects. It is in this way that we can try to understand the emergence of community mediation at a time when face-to-face interactions threaten broader structural patterns of social regulation.^ The analysis suggests, then, that community mediation constitutes part of a solution to the problematic of social reproduction wrought by the decay in other modalities of regulation. The disputes themselves are seen as rooted in the generalization of a privatistic culture, itself a product of such decay. Hence, the problem for community mediation and the disputants is not the people next door, but the entire institutional matrix which is filled with pressures and tensions that impinge upon everyday life. ^

Subject Area

Public policy

Recommended Citation

BASKIN, DEBORAH ROSE, "THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR? COMMUNITY AND MEDIATION IN THE UNITED STATES" (1984). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8417260.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8417260

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