Source: (2002) Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution. 18: 27.

Frequent themes in communitarian discourse in recent years point to the decline in participation by Americans in community activities and the fragmentation of American society. In this vein, it is often put forth that Americans are preoccupied with individual rights and economic self-maximization, to the detriment of the social nature of human existence. Some commentators have even identified the litigiousness of American society as a major factor in the over-emphasis on individual rights. Yet Ackerman argues that American systems of conflict resolution – both formal and informal – can in fact play important roles in advancing communitarian ideals. Many tools, both public and private, for peaceful conflict resolution can be employed to enhance social participation and to strengthen a sense of community, while also maintaining respect for individual autonomy. Hence, Ackerman focuses in this paper on the use of dispute resolution processes and techniques to build community.