While the term conflict generally is associated with negative encounters, conflict itself is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. In fact, engaging in conflict can have positive effects on relationships and organizations. Conflict among people, institutions, organizations, nations and in all relationships are a normal, natural and inevitable part of life. In itself, it is to a great extent a necessary tool that enhances development and can be regarded as normal and a prerequisite under certain conditions.
In view if this, this paper will labor to clearly examine the conditions in which peace is said to be a normal phenomenon. The term conflict will exhaustively be defined from different school of thoughts and its kinds or types outlined, followed by cited conditions that advocate for the presence of conflict as being normal. Thereafter, a comprehensive conclusion will be drawn from the entire discussion. Conflict can be defined in many ways and can be considered as an expression of hostility, negative attitudes, antagonism, aggression rivalry and misunderstanding.
It is associated with situation that involve contradictory or irreconcilable interests between two opposing groups. The term conflict is derived from a Latin word that means to clash or engage in a fight. It is a confrontation between one or more parties aspiring towards incompatible means or ends, Miller (2005). ‘’Conflict is a multi-dimensional social phenomenon which is an integral feature of human existence, essential to the ongoing processes of history, to social change, and transformation,’’ International Alert et al. 1996, 3).
Swanstrom and Weissmann (2005) define conflict as being the result of opposing interests involving scarce resources, goal divergence and frustration. This is outside the traditional military sphere and is based on behavioral dimensions. The process begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affect, something that the first party holds in great esteem or importance. In the same sense three forms of conflict have been identified.
This implies that it has levels to influence namely; Interstate, which is the disputes between nation-states or the violation of the state systems of alliance; Internal conflict, is type of dispute that happens within a given society or part of the given society such as territorial disputes, and civil and ethnic wars; and State-formation, this is the battles over control of government. These are internationally recognized as challenges, which to some extent have been classified as a normal phenomenon as people are heterogeneous in their interests and desires, Wallensteen (2002).
Differences in interpretation of the conflict result from different orientations in an effort to resolve and overcome conflicts. One thing that different approaches agree on is that conflicts are essentially clashes among people. These clashes arise from differences of values and interests of opposing parties, those parties being individuals, groups or entire organizations, (Adler, 2002). Conflict also has a positive dimension as normal forms of social interaction which may contribute to the maintenance, development, change and overall stability of social entities.
Many social scientists hold that periods of change, be it economic growth or decline, political transitions, or social innovation are associated with conflict. A Dutch scholar by the name of Bonger, believed that theirs is a causal link between conflict and economic and social conditions. Existing institutions come under pressure and may be unable to control or integrate new forces, demands, and collective actors. Change is likely to be uneven and to create a sense of relative deprivation, injustice, and threat among the losers.
A recent example is the pressure mounted on the government of Chad in ensuring there is proper accounting procedures in the management of the country’s oil revenue. The activities of these organizations have been both positive and negative. From the positive side, they have been able to curb some of the excesses of governments in many developing countries, (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes [ACCORD], 2008). Traditional human rights theories seldom took conflict theories to exam the conflicts between different rights and social movements.
Under conditions that human rights are violated or a particular class in society feels their rights are not fully being exercised, conflict can be seen as a normal phenomenon. In 1997, the Taiwan feminism movement was separated by the sex worker’s issue. The major feminism groups denied sex could be seen as a right to work, but more tended to see it as a product by exploitation. To those support sex workers, they addressed sex workers have their rights to use sex or body as a work, and even further claimed that sex work is a radical sexual movement, (Ho, 2005).
In such a situation, conflict is normal and beneficial as it acts as a podium of debate and its advantages of fostering an awareness of problems that exist and leading to better solutions is clearly seen. Above all the norms of society are readjusted. The more diversified and heterogeneous a society becomes, the greater the probability of more frequent conflict as subgroups who live by their own rules break the rules of other groups (Best, 2004). Conflict is a natural part of relationships.
While relationships are sometimes calm and predictable, at other times events and circumstances generate tensions and instability. This phrase suggests that life gives us conflict, and that conflict is a natural part of human experience and relationships. Rather than viewing conflict as a threat, the transformative view sees conflict as a valuable opportunity to grow and increases our understanding of others and ourselves. Conflict helps us stop, assess and take notice. South Africa for example has a multiracial and multiethnic population. “Blacks constitute 77% of which the Zulu make up 22. % of the overall population,” (ACCORD, 2008, 15).
The liberation struggle during the years of white minority rule cemented the Blacks, Asians and coloured people together. The unity forged by the blacks, Asians and colored people under white oppression collapsed when state power was to be competed for by all groups. The conflict of power here is seen as a means of uniting these different groups for the purpose of achieving a common goal, (ibid, 2008). Furthermore, conflicts with some groups bring about fraternity. It maintains and revises the balance of power among antagonists.
When conflict breaks out, the former accommodation between the parties involved is rejected, the relative war of each group is tested and a new equilibrium can be established. Such arrangements in the balance of power thwart any one group from being dominant over other groups. As long as their power is continually challenged, members of the ruling group will be blocked from exclusive control of the social system. In most African states where the fight for independence was intense, most ethnic groups worked together to secure independence.
Conflict continually creates new norms and modifies old ones. It bringing about situations to which the usual rules do not apply, conflict stimulates the establishment of appropriate guides to action. Moreover, the threat of attack, preparation for war or any hostile challenge from outside can strengthen a group’s solidarity and cohesiveness (Galtung, 1990). Conflict within and between social groups disturbs habits of thought and behavior and creates an atmosphere for innovation and creativity. This is another positive attribute of conflict that can be regarded as normal is that it facilitates the ovement or flow of one generation to the next.
This is achieved in that society evolves over a period of time as values and norms of people continue to class and oppose each other within society. The changes may be positive hence benefiting humanity at large though in most cases these benefits are unanticipated and long-term. Finally, Weber contended that it will always exist, regardless of the social, economic, or political nature of society, and that it was functional because of its role in bringing disputes into the open for public debate.
Even though individuals and groups enjoying great wealth, prestige, and power have the resources necessary to impose their values on others with fewer resources, Weber viewed the various class divisions in society as normal, inevitable, and acceptable (Curran & Renzetti, 2001). However, it must be noted that if conflict is not managed, it pauses a great danger to humanity. If conflict is to be accepted as a normal phenomenon, it has to be managed or resolved quicker and more efficiently than letting it fester.
For Mial and Wood House (2001), by conflict resolution, it is expected that the deep rooted sources of conflict are addressed and resolved, and behavior is no longer violent, nor are attitude hostile any longer, while structure of the conflict has been changed. Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop emeritus of South Africa, is reported to have commented from within the situation of social revolution in South Africa that “without reconciliation, there is no future” (Wustenberg, 1998, 5).
It is therefore now right to conclude that peace is a normal phenomenon but not when it is poorly managed or resolved. Issues such as the rearrangement of the balance of power, readjustment of group norms and the maintenance of group unity have been examined as the product of conflict even though conflict can be destructive in nature. Contemporary understanding of conflict represents a belief that conflict is not only a positive force of one group, but it is also absolutely essential for achievement of the efficiency of the group.