Defining the Contours of Contention: Facets of Intractability in Social Issues Management

Luke Capizzo, Erich Sommerfeldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The contentious issues endemic to many cases within social issues management practice share a common feature: intractability, or the perception of being unsolvable. This study takes steps toward clarifying and defining the concept of intractability as part of strategic communication engagement with contentious challenges, asking how practitioners make meaning of ostensibly intractable issues. Data from in-depth interviews with 41 practitioners provide a detailed examination of the engagement challenges with such issues. This research extends social issues management theory by defining four facets of intractability through which contentious issues can be understood and categorized: degree of intractability, issue type (natural or situationally driven), issue locus (internal or external), and practitioner identity involvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-374
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Strategic Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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