Examining the Round Table Talks From the Perspective of the Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation: Observations and Insights


  • Nurit Shnabel


This commentary analyzes the democratization process triggered by the Polish Round Table Talks using the framework of the Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation, which conceptualizes reconciliation as a social exchange transaction in which perpetrators gain moral-social acceptance, whereas victims gain power. I argue that the talks allowed the restoration of communists’ moral-social identity, and Solidarity’s power and voice. I further argue that to complete such a transaction, both parties must believe that they would gain more through compromise than through violence. They must also overcome the “magnitude gap”; namely the systematic discrepancy between victims’ vs. perpetrators’ estimation of the severity or immorality of the same transgressions or social arrangements. Finally, as is the case for any exchange transaction, people may question its benefits. When doing so, however, they might take the non-violent nature of the transition to democracy for granted—due to “the hindsight bias.” Taking into account that the alternatives were probably worse may contribute to undermining conspiracy theories about “dirty dealings” between the parties, and commemorating the legacy of the Round Table Talks as an inspiring moment in history.