After thinking about Russell Korobkin’s thought provoking critique of Integrative Bargaining (Sean, thanks for the comments), my mind wandered back to an interesting exchange b/w my co-blogger Andrea and Russ. When Russ took the podium, he said he was ready to duck to avoid the rotten fruit and vegetables soon to be headed his way, and Andrea was warming up her arm. At first it seemed like they had distinctly differing takes on what constitutes distributive bargaining. After some back and forth it was clear to me that Russ thinks Integrative Bargaining is very narrow and equates it to the opposite to distributive bargaining. Andrea, on the other hand, sees the term as including the distributive aspects of negotiation. My favorite part of the exchange was when the two of them realized their differences and Russ said something along the lines of “if that’s integrative bargaining, then there is no room for any other theories.” Watching this discussion unfold, it’s clear to me that we still have some basic definitional problems in negotiation theory that still have to be resolved. The sooner we come to some mutual understanding on language, the better.
It’s not surprising that this would occur. The Integrative Bargaining literature fails to include much discussion of the distributive aspects of negotiation, which causes many of its proponents to see the distributive portion of the negotiation as too competitive or too unseemly. Rather than try to understand it, some of us law profs equate it with (gasp) the hard bargaining that we despise. As a result, some of us either avoid the topic or gloss over it. Those of us who fall into this camp truly are doing our students a disservice. Remember every negotiation has a distributive side to it, and it deserves as much attention as everything that leads up to it.