Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Conflict is a state of opposition between two parties.
In political terms, "conflict" refers to an ongoing state of hostility between two groups of people.
Conflict as taught for graduate and professional work in conflict resolution commonly has the definition: "when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other's goal-seeking capability".
One should not confuse the distinction between the presence and absence of conflict with the difference between competition and co-operation. In competitive situations, the two or more parties each have mutually inconsistent goals, so that when either party tries to reach their goal it will undermine the attempts of the other to reach theirs. Therefore, competitive situations will by their nature cause conflict. However, conflict can also occur in cooperative situations, in which two or more parties have consistent goals, because the manner in which one party tries to reach their goal can still undermine the other's attempt.
Types and Modes of Conflict
A conceptual conflict can escalate into a verbal exchange and/or result in fighting.
Conflict can exist at a variety of levels of analysis:
- intrapersonal conflict (though this usually just gets delegated out to psychology)
- interpersonal conflict
- group conflict
- organizational conflict
- community conflict
- intra-state conflict (for example: civil wars, election campaigns)
- international conflict
Conflicts in these levels may appear "nested" in conflicts residing at larger levels of analysis. For example, conflict within a work team may play out the dynamics of a broader conflict in the organization as a whole. (See Marie Dugan's article on Nested Conflict. John Paul Lederach has also written on this.) (I'll come back to give hypertext links to those later.)
Theorists have claimed that parties can conceptualise responses to conflict according to a two-dimensional scheme; concern for one's own outcomes and concern for the outcomes of the other party. This scheme leads to the following hypotheses:
- High concern for both one's own and the other party's outcomes leads to attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions.
- High concern for one's own outcomes only leads to attempts to "win" the conflict.
- High concern for the other party's outcomes only leads to allowing the other to "win" the conflict.
- No concern for either side's outcomes leads to attempts to avoid the conflict.
In Western society, practitioners usually suggest that attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions lead to the most satisfactory outcomes, but this may not hold true for many Asian societies.
Several theorists detect successive phases in the development of conflicts.
Examples of Conflict
Class warfare Class conflict forms an important topic in much Marxist thought.
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