from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A conflict (from Latin confligere , “to meet, to fight”; PPP : conflictum ) is when the interests , objectives or values of people , social groups , organizations or states are incompatible or appear incompatible ( intergroup conflict ) and these conflicting parties clash ( without "touch" it would be just a difference of opinion or different points of view). A distinction can be made between the structure of the conflict, the feelings accompanying the conflict (e.g. anger ) and the specific conflict behavior (e.g. physical aggression ).

The conflict research examines the development and course of conflicts and develop solution strategies to the actions to change in conflicts, to promote desirable developments and to limit undesirable.

Conflict situation

A conflict arises between two or more people or institutions or parties to the conflict (who?) And at least one cause of the conflict (what?) And a conflict behavior (how?).

Different categories are used to describe conflicts:

Involved and affected

A conflict can arise:

  • within a person (intrapersonal conflict) (e.g. remorse)
  • between two people, groups or states (interpersonal conflict)

One type of intrapersonal (also inner-soul) conflict is e.g. B. the tyranny of the should ( tyranny of the should ) according to Karen Horney . Here you make demands on yourself, the fulfillment of which you suffer in the long run.

Those involved are not always those affected. For example, in a conflict between two governments, the people are affected, or the children in a conflict between parents. Also, those involved are not always the culprits. For example, soldiers fight under the orders of their military superiors, or the father scolds the children because he is stressed at work.

A distinction is made between various intrapersonal conflicts within the framework of depth psychological or psychoanalytic therapy. To classify these conflicts, there is a semi-structured interview called Operationalized Psychodynamic Diagnostics , which contains a separate axis of conflict.

Conflict of interests

The subject of conflict is usually a conflict of interests. Behind this are often different values ​​that lead to different assessments, feelings and goals from which the conflicting parties derive opposing behavior. If no such conflict of interests can be found, there is often no conflict at all, but simply a misunderstanding due to missing, incorrect or misunderstood information.

Forms of conflict

In order to better understand conflicts, individual aspects are considered and processed. A conflict always consists of several interrelated aspects.

A distinction is made between intrapersonal conflicts and interpersonal conflicts. A distinction is also made between group conflicts (inter- and intra- group conflicts ) and organizational conflicts . A distinction is also made within these categories:

designation meaning category author year
Role conflict roles perceived as contradicting, e.g. B. Union and employers' association. A distinction is made between intra- and inter-role conflicts. intrapersonal
Distribution conflict perceived contrasts in relation to the use / realization of resources
Conflict of goals perceived contrasts in relation to intentions or interests. A distinction is also made between assessment conflict (conflict of goals) and assessment conflict (path conflict) interpersonal
Mean conflict The opponents of the conflict agree on the goal, but not on the means that should be used to achieve the goal. interpersonal
Strategy conflict Although there is agreement among the conflicting parties about the goal that is to be achieved, there are different opinions about the way to achieve a goal. In the argumentation, earlier approaches often have to be used because future developments and the probability of occurrence cannot be assessed. The strategy conflict is thus similar to the mean conflict, which is why the separation is presented rather unclearly in the literature. interpersonal
End-means conflict There is a lack of means to achieve a certain goal. There is also the goal-goal conflict and the means-means conflict.
Resource conflict You have limited resources to accomplish multiple goals and you have to decide which goal to use them for.
Acceptance conflict Another is not accepted in his role. This can be for personal reasons or because you don't trust him to do the job. In this way, an acceptance conflict can also be transferred to the function of a specific employee, especially when a new function is introduced. It can be assumed that every pioneering activity initially entails a lack of acceptance.
Qualification conflict
Legitimation conflict
Relationship conflict perceived opposites in relation to behavioral dispositions. Independently of this, there is still the term central relationship conflict topic ( ZKBT ) in psychodynamic theory .
Power conflict unequal distribution of power, e.g. B. Citizens and authorities
Status conflict People of different status are in conflict interpersonal
Leadership conflict A manager asserts their interests against the employees. interpersonal
Information conflict different information, e.g. B. wrong, insufficient, misunderstood
Conflict of interest A conflict of interest is a distribution conflict in which you compete for scarce goods. Conflicts of interest can be assigned to the conflict type game, because the point is to act in such a way that one expects maximum benefit, whereby voluntary cooperation is also possible (see game theory ). interpersonal Vilhelm Aubert 1972
Conflict of values ​​(Aubert) Aubert understands conflict of values ​​(also conflict of norms) to be a conflict in which one does not compete for scarce goods, in contrast to a conflict of interests. Because you cannot share values, compromise solutions are difficult here. Conflicts of values ​​can be assigned to the conflict type debate, because it is about convincing the other. In practice, conflicts of interest and values ​​are often mixed. They can also merge into one another. interpersonal Vilhelm Aubert 1972
Conflict of values (Gordon) different views on moral, religious, cultural or ideological beliefs or principles, e.g. B. fair trade. In contrast to the conflict of needs, the conflicting parties are not directly impaired in the satisfaction of their needs. interpersonal Thomas Gordon
Conflict of needs Different people have different needs and are concerned with meeting those needs. interpersonal Thomas Gordon
Motive conflict A person has several conflicting approach and avoidance goals. This is to be distinguished from the conflict of goals, in which several people have different goals. Conflicts of approach, ambivalence, and avoidance are all conflicting motives. If an original motif cannot be satisfied, motif shift can occur. intrapersonal Kurt Lewin 1948
Proximity conflict Synonyms: appetite conflict, appetite-appetite conflict intrapersonal Kurt Lewin 1948
Ambivalence conflict Synonyms: approach-avoidance conflict,

Appetence-aversion conflict

intrapersonal Kurt Lewin 1948
Avoidance conflict Synonyms: aversion-aversion conflict intrapersonal Kurt Lewin 1948
Identity conflict Perceived threats to one's own self-image or what defines someone as a person ( operationalized psychodynamic diagnostics ) intrapersonal

For example, an information conflict can be resolved by submitting required information. An identity conflict, on the other hand, requires a tangible and credible assurance of one's own right to exist. And both can be related to each other.

Causes of conflict

According to L. Mullins, the causes of interpersonal conflicts in organizations are:

  • Individual
    differences in
    perception Depending on the individual's previous history, level of knowledge, experience, mood and character, a situation is perceived or understood differently.
  • Infrequent or limited resources
    When the means to achieve their respective goals are needed by two or more parties, the restriction of disposal by others will lead to conflict.
  • Breakdown of the organization
    The breakdown of the organization by department names, responsibilities, authority, etc. separates the members of the organization. This separation alone can lead to conflicts, since the interests of this organizational unit are represented vis-à-vis others in a representative function.
  • interdependent work
    The performance of a work activity often depends on someone else's previous work.
  • Conflicts of roles
    A person assumes various roles, the exercise of which can conflict with the roles of others, for example a quality employee assesses the work of another.
  • unfair treatment
    Unfair treatment for all possible reasons, gender, language, appearance, age, health, race, religion, origin, ancestry can lead to conflict. It is essential to recognize that fairness and equality are not interchangeable; A disabled person cannot be treated in the same way as a non-disabled person, but it can be treated equally fairly.
  • Violation of the territory
    Every perceived violation of actual or ideal territory is perceived as a conflict. So if a person intrudes into someone else's personal area, gets too close to them or goes into their idealistic area - "muddles in my article", then a conflict is likely.
  • Change in the environment
    Changes in the environment lead to changes in the organization. Apart from the aforementioned causes of conflict, the change in the environment leads to insecurity and stress, which alone increases the likelihood of conflicts in the organization.

Rarely is one cause alone the reason for a conflict. Often there are cumulative effects over time, so that the analysis of the causes can be essential for the conflict resolution or the management of the conflict.

Conflict behavior and resolution

The social scientist Gerhard Schwarz has illustrated the various ways in which people react to conflict situations , sometimes based on Eric Lippmann , as follows:

  • Escape (evasion, avoidance)
  • Struggle (enforcement, destruction)
  • Subordination (adaptation, yielding, one-sided acceptance)
  • Delegation (of the problem to another instance)
  • Compromise (agreement with advantages and disadvantages on both sides)
  • Consensus (cooperation)

All of the behavioral patterns mentioned lead to a solution or resolution of the conflict, provided that the parties regain their ability to act. While the first-mentioned levels are confrontational in character, the last-mentioned levels represent forms of constructive conflict resolution - with consensus as the highest (to be learned) form.

Thomas (1976) sorts conflict types according to two dimensions: orientation towards one's own goal or orientation towards the goal of the conflict partner.

The aim of conflict management is an effective and lasting solution to the conflict. The first step is de-escalation (e.g. cessation of combat operations, reduction of open aggression). The second step is to initiate communication between the conflicting parties. In the third step, the actual conflict of interests is worked out and a mutual understanding of the conflicting parties for the interests of the other party is developed. To do this, it is necessary to understand and respect the underlying values. Only then can a win-win solution for the conflict be developed together. See also Harvard Concept .

The exercise of personal power or the application of state law (e.g. through the punishment of misconduct or the distribution of rights and obligations) do not lead to a solution to the conflict. Because only the interests of one are enforced against those of the other: the more one wins, the more the other loses ( zero-sum game ). The loser will take revenge, react to an uninvolved third party, or be personally harmed.

Conflicts can often only be resolved through a balance of interests (consensus).

It is often difficult to distinguish a real consensus from “lazy” compromises , avoidance strategies , repression or other pseudo-solutions based on feelings of fear , guilt , shame or inferiority or taboos that avoid open discussion of the conflict issue or the conflict partner (according to Rupert Lay , see below). In contrast, a “cleaning thunderstorm” can be much more constructive.

The decisive factor for dealing appropriately with a conflict situation is whether or not a constructive continuation of contact with the other is desired after clarification:

There is no point in investing in a cooperative conflict resolution (perhaps only to be “right” or “not wrong”) if you are not interested in the continuation of contact made possible by this. The same applies if the other person signals through their behavior that they are not interested in continuing the contact.
It can be more peaceful for everyone involved to simply state the persistence of a conflict, accept it and leave it at that.

Actual solutions to conflicts range from discussions between those involved - such as mediation or collective bargaining - to violent disputes - such as in interstate wars or domestic civil wars . In between are the variants of legal or judicial clarification, which by no means have to take the form of mud fights, but can be handled as a professional delegation of the problem to lawyers in order to relieve themselves of the time-consuming and energy-consuming clarification procedure.

Strategies in conflict resolution
little willingness
to cooperate
great willingness
to cooperate
high enforcement

"Win-win" cooperation
low enforcement
Avoidance of
Give in

In order to resolve conflicts, Ruble and Thomas examine the possible strategies in the event of a conflict in the adaptation by Whetten and Cameron. The strategies are based on the position between two conflicting parties and are therefore dependent on the situation and person. They represent the relationship in a two-dimensional model :

expresses the desire to assert one's position against the resistance of others. One wins at the other's expense. A win-lose strategy is being pursued.
means that the conflict will not take place and the situation will remain unchanged. In this situation it is likely that both sides will lose ( lose-lose ).
Give in
means that the conflict is resolved, but the one who gives in loses ( lose-win ).
Working together
is the best way to achieve win-win results, because here both sides can fully contribute their position and work out a result in which both parties win.

The compromise is found at the intersection of the four strategies. Depending on the perception, compromises are therefore often judged differently; they are often associated with the feeling that you have not achieved the best possible result.

The matrix can be used to assess conflict situations, but also to develop a strategy by adapting a position of the conflict to the position of the opposing party. This often leads to a standstill ( lots-lots ), which can then be changed through negotiation in the direction of cooperation.

Areas of conflict

Areas in which conflict often occurs:

Political conflict

In political science , conflict is defined as a "conflict of interests (difference in position) about national values ​​of some duration and range between at least two parties (organized groups, states, groups of states, state organizations) that are determined to decide in their favor." ( Conflict barometer 2003). They are the subject of research in international peace and conflict research .

Social conflict

Social conflict is an important field of work in sociology , especially the sociology of conflict .

Mental conflict

In psychology , a distinction is made between inner-soul (intrapersonal) and interpersonal (interpersonal) conflicts. The inner-soul conflicts have been described in different ways, for example, in the context of psychoanalytic theory:

“In psychoanalysis, one speaks of conflict when there are opposing internal demands in the subject. The conflict can be manifest (for example between a wish and a moral demand, or between two contradicting feelings), or it can be latent and in a distorted form in the manifest conflict, or it can express itself in the formation of symptoms, behavioral disorders, character disorders, etc. Psychoanalysis regards the conflict as constitutive for humans [...] "

- Laplanche & Pontalis : The Vocabulary of Psychoanalysis

Krause (1998) also differentiates between intra- and inter-structural conflicts. For example, an inter-structural conflict could exist between id and superego. An infrastructural conflict could be a contradiction between two super-ego claims. A motivational psychological approach that differs somewhat from psychoanalysis comes from Kurt Lewin , who describes various constellations of motivational conflicts.

Interpersonal conflicts arise in relationships of various types and depths and usually come to light in the context of interpersonal communication .

Ethical conflict

The ethical conflict that arises both in society and in the private sphere between incompatible norms is one of the central and most controversial subjects of philosophical ethics , in all philosophical systems of all times worldwide. Ethics and, above all, its practical side, morality, are in themselves not consistent systems or systems that can only be attached to specific "hard" characteristics, even if rationalism claims this and utilitarianism even claims this situation in the sense of a harm-benefit balance practically used for his system by seeing the maximum human happiness as decisive in such conflicts of norms . In the form of descriptive value relativism , philosophical relativism has drawn the conclusion that there are no absolute ethical norms at all. Ultimately, when resolving such conflicts of norms, which arise especially in the case of justice problems, at some point only the autonomous decision of conscience according to Immanuel Kant remains as the last resort when choosing between two evils or, if necessary, also the "moral intuition ", the equilibrium of thought and the coherence according to John Rawls in A theory of justice ( A theory of justice ), which results from the combination of cultural knockouts rational thought and emotional responses and completely out of the unconscious feeds. As with all types of conflict, interests also often play a not insignificant role here, as noted, for example, by Kant in the critique of judgment . The role of such conflicts of norms in the emergence of religions that dogmatically dissolve them is the subject of scientific debates.

Ethical conflicts still exist today. They are often socially relevant and then turn into political conflicts, in which religious, economic, social and ethnic factors often play a role. Current examples are: euthanasia , abortion , stem cell therapy , pre-implantation diagnosis (PGD), torture , combating terrorism, for example by shooting down a hijacked airplane or accepting collateral damage , just war in the same context, the question of justified resistance , such as those especially in liberation theology , the justifying state of emergency, for example with the final rescue shot, in which, as in many of these conflicts, the principle of double action is effective, which has both a good and a bad side.

Last but not least, there are fundamental ethical problems and conflicts in connection with globalization , the international financial crisis and the debates about coping with climate change , when third world countries, for example at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, placed the polluter pays principle in the foreground of the political discourse and derive ethical conclusions from this with regard to the financing of the countermeasures.

Internal company conflicts

If conflicts arise within companies, this can result in costs for the company ( conflict costs ). This topic has been neglected for a long time. Conflicts were considered a soft topic because the costs that arise as a result of conflicts in companies are difficult to capture empirically. Yet the cost is there and it is high.

Institutionalizing Conflicts

The institutionalization of conflicts is understood to mean the settlement or settlement of a conflict when it has been passed on to an institution (Dahrendorf 1974). For the individual, it is believed in the realization of freedom through institutions. However - this is the criticism of this approach - the mechanisms of bondage that emanate from institutions seem to be forgotten. This lack of freedom lies in the unequal manorial distribution structure of rights and offers. This paradox persists in modern social conflict.

The transfer of conflicts to institutions can work if the conflicting parties do not face each other as irreconcilable enemies and if the subject of the conflict is negotiable in the sense of a compromise. The parties to the dispute are judged by persons not involved in the conflict. The emotional and material components of the conflict are separated from one another. The institution or instance uses rules that are mutually recognized by the conflicting parties. They must recognize each other's differences and observe an ethic of self-limitation. “On the other hand, are the conflict materials indivisible or non-negotiable, in the sense of sacralization or an either - or, as in the case of ethnically heated identity conflicts or irreconcilable distribution conflicts with zero-sum games, in which nothing but the profit of one party is offset by the loss of another party Conflicts cannot be processed within the framework of institutional mechanisms, then a limit is quickly reached beyond which they only have a disintegrative effect. "

Conflicts can be institutionalized strongly or weakly. The feud, a weakly institutionalized conflict, has on the one hand many rules that are recognized by the conflicting parties (e.g. existence of a legitimate reason for the feud, formal announcement, etc.), i.e. all signs of institutionalization; on the other hand, the conflicting parties themselves take care of the conflict (none social differentiation ); The emotional and factual components of the conflict are not separated: friends of the respective conflict parties not only have the right, but even the duty to stand by, which incidentally creates further conflicts.

According to Marx , the history of socialization is nothing more than a history of class struggles, with conflict being the driving force. However, the class struggle cannot be pacified institutionally, since its goal is not the physical but the social annihilation of the opponent. H. the downfall of a class: All owners of means of production are to be expropriated and thus robbed of the basis of their material and social exploitation possibilities. Going further or differently Lenin : If the proletariat is not yet 'far enough', the class struggle can be pursued by a cadre party (this institutionalization turned out to be successful for Russia as well, but in the opinion of the critics it became the Bolshevik party the class dominating the means of production ).

The divorce is a highly institutionalized conflict resolution, because both parties hereby give their emotionally charged disputes on a court whose rules they accept, of course. Divorce is a sector where mediation has come a long way. Family mediation relates to conflicts in marital, illegitimate and post-marital relationships. In the event of divorce, she has the goal of shared parental responsibility. This form of mediation enables parents to organize their post-marital relationships. Mediation is recognized as an independent process of conflict resolution.

Literary studies

In literary studies , conflict means either the constellation of protagonist and antagonist , representing different values ​​or opposing social classes, or, as an inner conflict of a character, the opposition of different duties or of duty and inclination, such as u a. in ancient or classical drama .

See also


  • Thorsten Bonacker: Social- scientific conflict theories. An introduction. Opladen 2005.
  • Susanne Buckley-Zistel: Ethnographic Research after Violent Conflicts. In: Journal of Peace, Conflict and Development. 10, 2007 ( PDF).
  • Lewis A. Coser : Theory of Social Conflict. 1965 (several editions).
  • Ralf Dahrendorf : Paths from Utopia. Munich 1974.
  • Friedrich Glasl : Conflict Management. 8th, updated and supplemented edition. Haupt / Free Spiritual Life, Bern / Stuttgart 2004.
  • Siegfried Großmann (theologian) : Conflicts are opportunities. Creatively relieve tension in everyday life and in the community. Oncken, Wuppertal / Kassel 1998, ISBN 3-7893-8017-2 (25 conflict resolution approaches from the Bible and human sciences are presented)
  • Karl Kreuser , Thomas Robrecht, John Erpenbeck : Conflict Competence: A Structural Theory Consideration . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-531-18317-6
  • Hans-Jürgen Krysmanski : Sociology of the conflict. Materials and models. Reinbek 1971, ISBN 3-499-55362-7 .
  • Rupert Lay : Crises and Conflicts. Causes, process, overcoming. Heyne, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-453-53125-6 .
  • John Paul Lederach : From Conflict to Reconciliation. Dream boldly - act pragmatically. Neufeld Verlag, Schwarzenfeld 2016, ISBN 978-3-86256-068-4 .
  • Karlheinz Messelken: Political Terms in Modern Sociology. A critique of systems theory and conflict theory. Dissertation . West German publishing house, Cologne / Opladen 1968.
  • Frank R. Pfetsch, Rüdiger Bubner: Conflict (= Heidelberg yearbooks. 48). Springer, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-540-27078-7 .
  • Jörg Rössel : The classical conflict theory put to the test: determinants of the intensity and violence of conflicts. In: Swiss Journal for Sociology. 28, 2002, pp. 47-68.
  • Jörg Rössel: Conflict. In: Jens Beckert, Milan Zafirovsky (Ed.): International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology. Routledge, New York / London 2006.
  • Gerhard Schwarz : Conflict Management. Recognize, analyze and resolve conflicts. 9th, expanded edition. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 2014, ISBN 978-3-8349-4598-3 .
  • Fritz B. Simon : Introduction to the systems theory of conflict. Carl-Auer Verlag, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-89670-746-8 .
  • Thomas Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Moral action between life and death. omega publishing house Siegfried Reusch e. K., Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-933722-14-0 .

Relevant, but not received in sociology (unlike in philosophy ) is the machology (lit .: "combat science") of the philosopher and chess grandmaster Emanuel Lasker .

Web links

Wiktionary: conflict  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  33. ^ Herbert Pietschmann : From dealing with scientific conflicts. Movement on the water front. In: Würzburg medical history reports. 24, 2005, pp. 425-433.
  34. Conflict Barometer 2003 of the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research ( ).
  35. Jean Laplanche, Jean-Bertrand Pontalis: The vocabulary of psychoanalysis (=  Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft . Volume 7 ). 1st edition. tape 1 . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1973, ISBN 3-518-27607-7 , pp. 256–257 (French: Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse . Translated by Emma Moersch).
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  37. overall presentation cf. Zoglauer: Deadly conflicts. on ethics as a whole, see Anzenbacher: Introduction to Ethics. especially pp. 72-80, 110-134.
  38. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 300-303.
  39. Anzenbacher: Introduction to Ethics. Pp. 97-109.
  40. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 288-292; Anzenbacher: Introduction to Ethics. Pp. 265-289.
  41. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 282-287, 293 ff.
  42. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 296-299.
  43. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 134-175.
  44. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 178-203.
  45. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 26-62.
  46. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 64-82.
  47. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 85-131.
  48. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 206-247.
  49. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 206-249; Anzenbacher: Introduction to Ethics. P. 182.
  50. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. Pp. 51-54.
  51. Zoglauer: Deadly Conflicts. P. 96 ff.
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