Research Activities
On the Concept of “Conflict”
First Joint Seminar
■Speaker :Pauline Kent, Associate Professor, Faculty of Intercultural Communication, Ryukoku University
■Place :Meeting Room E2, Shieikan, Fukakusa Campus, Ryukoku University
■Date :10th July 2005 13:30-15:30
■Number :05000101
Discussant: Professor Takeshi Hamashita, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

1.Abstract of Presentation

The concept of “conflict” has a broad range of connotations. Simply defined, a conflict takes place between two or more people or groups, when they have different objectives and try to obstruct one another from attaining these objectives. A conflict, or a situation of confrontation or rivalry, can develop into a war if it becomes heated and violent. Therefore conflicts should be seen as a process of progression. Social scientists also take notice of the fact that conflicts can both divide and unite society and thus have both positive and negative aspects.

When thinking about conflict resolution, it is important to take into consideration this double nature of conflicts. Looking back at the development of the conflict theme in sociology, discussions on how to eliminate conflicts began in the United States in the mid 1950s, and conflicts were seen as states of deviation and social dispersion. Therefore a theory known as the consensus model that emphasised the importance of harmony and peace came to occupy a central position in sociological studies on conflicts. A conflict entails momentum towards unity and organization. In other words, it can play an important role in the operation of society. When it heightens a social tension, it will simultaneously have the effect of generating momentum towards lessening the tension, as it will induce people to try harder to understand others in the society. It has been argued that in this way, conflicts can have the positive effect of strengthening the fabric of society.

2. Summary of Discussion

The following important points were made during the discussion: (1) conflicts should not only be characterized as everyday occurrences; (2) conflicts in political and regional relations are inherently of a local nature. As such, they define the basic nature of the relationships that emerge there, and manifest themselves as elements of local culture; and (3) area studies and cultural studies can provide useful knowledge about conflicts and negotiations in carrying out a comprehensive study on the societal mechanisms and institutions for conflict resolution. It was further suggested that peace should not be posited as the antithesis of conflict. Rather the issue of conflict should be reconsidered from historical, political, and economic perspectives.