Paradox of 'Neutrality' in Mediation: An Analysis under High Power-Distance versus Low Power-Distance Cultural Dichotomy


The issue of defining the interventionist role of mediators in the mediation process is a highly contentious issue in the literature. Since the debate has taken place around the interventionist role of a mediator— that is often argued a breach to the concept of ‘neutrality’, the mediation literature reflects a semantic quandary on mediators’ neutrality. However, taking a departure from the state of perplexed dichotomous position, this paper adapts a postmodernist approach of ‘multiple truths’ to consider the fluidity of this concept under different cultural contexts. Further, the Power Difference Index (PDI) developed by Hofstede is employed to demonstrate how cultural expectations on mediators’ neutrality may vary across cultures. Under this analytical framework, it argues that the concept of ‘strict neutrality under facilitative orientation’ is culturally located in low power distance (Western) societies and thus may not suite in high power distance (Eastern) cultural context, as exists in Bangladesh. Hence, this paper analyses the notion of mediators’ neutrality under a different philosophical frame that cuts across the limits of the dominant-traditional view of mediator’s strict neutrality. To substantiate this argument, it rather adopts the emerging concept of ‘expanded’ neutrality to legitimize the practice of evaluative mediation that is both culturally coherent and functionally appropriate for resolving disputes in Eastern context including Bangladesh. The result of this is to unveil a space for the evaluative mediators to legitimately intervene in the process that is loath in Western mediation practices, yet culturally ingrained in Eastern context.

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