Conflict is for human systems, competition led to extremes. K. KRIPPENDORFF defines conflict as: "A state of affairs in which two or more parties claim possession of something not all can have simultaneously" (1986, p.16).
Conflict seems to be a normal result of the presence of two or various systems vying for the same resources, particularly when these are scarce. While it may lead to the destruction of one of the antagonists, it generally ends through a process of reciprocal adaptation through the establisment of some regulating mechanism, which of course has to be paid for and must thus be cost-effective if it is to persist. The repetition of such processes at different levels leads to the apparition of a stratified hierarchy of regulators, a phenomenon quite apparent in any complex system.
Conflict may appear anew if some modification in the environment turns out to be favorable to some of the competing systems and unfavorable for others.
Conflict also presents an evolutive aspect.
When some modification intervenes in the nature or behavior of a system, as interacting part of a suprasystem, new reciprocal adjustments become generally unavoidable as a result of the propagating impact. This, frequently results in new conflicts, which in turn lead to new processes of reciprocal adaptation.
Conflict can also appear between percepts, concepts, models, etc… constructed by different observers.
R. ROSEN states: "In each specific case, it appeared that the roots of the conflict lay not so much in any particular objective situation, but rather in the fact that different models of that situation had been adopted by the different parties in the conflict. Consequently, different predictions about that situation were made by these parties, and incompatible courses of action adopted thereby. Therefore, a general theory of policy making (or, as I would argue, a general theory of modelling) would have as a corollary a theory of conflict and I hoped of conflict resolution" (1991 c, p.543).
This has also been expressed by J. WARFIELD as the
Law of inherent conflict
"No matter what the complex issue, and no matter what the group involved in its study, there will be significant inherent conflict within the group stemming from different perceptions of the relative significance of the factors involved in the complex issue" (1991, p.200).
WARFIELD even states that in most cases, all participants will be wrong in some sense. The roots of this situation are in cognitive and emotional differences. It could also be related to differences in mindscapes, in MARUYAMA's sense.
The real systemic problem with conflict is thus: How can we convince people (even honest ones, not to speak of the others !) to discuss in a critical way their own viewpoint, to try to reach consensus and to negociate more or less satisfactory solutions. It is really a problem in applied social methodology.
More recently the conflict solving problem has been tackled by the Austrian sociologist G. SCHWARZ (1999)
This author proposes a process of conflict solving that takes in account the generally observed conflict situations.
1- escape: "run away"
2- destruction: "kill your opponent"
3- submission: "subordinate your opponent"
4- delegation: an independent authority (judge) decides the solution
5- compromise:an arrangement between the two positions
6- consense: seeking for a dialectical synthesis
According to Schwarz these six levels form a kind of order or learning process. Of course the learning can be cut short at any of the three first stages. If not, the process can take place
a) as a progress in an inter-individual conflict
b) as a progress in the consciousness of conflicts in a person or organization
c) as a progress of the social abilities of mankind as a whole to manage conflicts
(As quoted from G. OSSIMITZ, 2000, p. 2)
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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