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11-28-12 Daniel Lieberfeld

Presentation Archives

Academic Year 2012-2013

MEETING:  November. 29 (Thurs.), 2012, 4:30-6:00PM, 207 College Hall, Berger Gallery, Duquesne University.  This is the next event for our theme of Migrancy.

Title:  Reconciliation After War: The Role of Political Leaders

Presenter:  Daniel Lieberfeld, Ph.D., Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy, Duquesne University

Bio:  Daniel Lieberfeld teaches courses on peace studies and conflict resolution at Duquesne's Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy.  His research and teaching focuses on political, cultural, and psychological factors that contribute to destructive conflicts and methods of preventing and resolving conflicts.  After several years of working on the macro-political causes of war and peacemaking, he was drawn to the question of why certain leaders have chosen to pursue post-conflict policies that prioritize reconciliation over retribution toward adversaries. 

He is developing this work into a book concerning how and when individual political leaders can promote settlements and post-conflict peacebuilding in cases of protracted, violent civil conflicts and how political leaders' personal and philosophical traits may affect their policy choices regarding peacemaking and reconciliation.  The book uses qualitative and inductive methodology to analyze biographical data and to compare traits of several "reconciliation oriented leaders" and "reconciliation averse leaders" and their influence on conflict outcomes. 


Talk description: The talk describes research-in-progress that draws on my previously published studies of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela’s policies after the Civil War and the conflict in South Africa and post-conflict policymaking in Chile.  These analyzed biographical data to identify elements of individual leaders’ personality traits and political philosophies that correlate with reconciliation orientation. 

            The influence of individual leadership should be examined qualitatively, since assessing influence and understanding psychological origins requires descriptive detail and historical nuance that larger-n, quantitative studies do not provide.  The analysis is based on structured, focused comparison of cases defined by three criteria: 1) leaders held positions that empowered them to make and implement policy on conflict and peacemaking in civil wars and insurgencies; 2) their record of reconciliation orientation was of long standing—including, for example, negotiation, conciliation, and reconciliation initiatives toward adversaries inside and outside their own parties; 3) leaders had policy options other than reconciliation regarding adversaries.

            The focused-comparison method seeks plausible interpretations of cases consistent with available data, with plausibility depending on consideration of alternative explanations.  Each case study considers alternative explanations for policy choices, particularly those highlighting structural incentives rather than individual agency.  Additional analytic leverage is sought from cases of counterexamplary“reconciliation-averse leaders,” who opted for contentious/punitive policies toward adversaries.

The research uses biographic data to induce personality traits and political beliefs typical of reconciliation oriented leadership.  As D. K. Simonton notes, “biographical materials [not only] … supply a rich set of facts about childhood experiences and career development [but] … can offer the basis for personality assessments as well.”