Morton Deutsch - Parent of the Field
One of the leading social psychologists of his generation – a generation that more or less founded that discipline – Morton Deutsch’s contribution to the peace and conflict research field has also been profound and extensive, both through his own research and through his mentoring of a whole generation of younger scholars and practitioners.
Mort Deutsch’s work in the field has ranged from classical experimental studies - as in his path breaking book on The Resolution of Conflict; Constructive and Destructive Processes - through policy orientated works that have attempted to place alternatives before policy makers – his edited collection of papers on Preventing World War III – to magisterial summaries of the current state of knowledge in the field – his 2000 CE work The Handbook of Conflict Resolution; Theory and Practice [with Peter Coleman].
There is scarcely an aspect of the field that his work has not touched yet, as his biographer Erica Frydenburg has expressed it, “…many professionals working in the area of mediation and most young psychologists, remain unaware of his great contribution to social and organizational psychology…” (1) She could have added, “ in the areas of mediation and negotiation, as well as within the whole field of conflict analysis and resolution!”
Perhaps Mort Deutsch’s legacy is best exemplified by the generations of students he has taught and mentored. They now occupy many of the most prestigious positions within the field of peace and conflict research and particularly work in those areas where the insights of psychology are most appropriate. As is revealed in the interview that follows, Mort has mentored nearly 70 Ph.D. students, over 60 of them at Teachers College in Colombia University where he has worked for over 50 years.
The interview that follows thus involves a record of the parallel development of two fields, as much as being the personal recollections of one of the pioneers in peace and conflict studies. It covers the foundation and growth of the field in the 1950s and 1960s as well as its later struggles and setbacks before its final respectability at the end of the 20th century. In all of this, Morton Deutsch has definitely and definitively played the role of a parent.
1. See Erica Frydenburg. Morton Deutsch: A Life and Legacy of Mediation and Conflict Resolution. [Brisbane; Australian Academic Press; 2005]