Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: In about 3500 words the entry defines conflict as one of the possible forms of interactions among individuals, groups, organizations and collectivities, and it is opposed to the notion of cooperation.
Among the various types of conflict - which can be distiguinshed according to its dimensions, intensity and goals - the entry focuses on social and political conflict.
Studies on conflict employ two competing interpretations. The first one views conflict as a threat to societal equilibrium: this pespective was adopted by Comte, Spencer, Pareto, Durkheim and Parsons. The second one considers conflict normal and a source of change and improvement: Marx, Sorel, Mill, Simmel, Dahrendorf and Touraine belong to this school. Marx, in particular, focuses on the class struggle, which he considerd to be the last of all conflicts.
In between these two extreme interpretations, functionalism views conflict as a disturbing element to the functioning of the system, i.e. a disfunction.
In the attempt to identify its causes and effects, the entry mentions Dahrendorf's and Touraine's reflections, which emphazise the need to analyze conflict within historical forms of society. Indeed, conflict is intrinsic to the very structure of society, political systems and international organizations. It is a persisting element driving social, political and international change. Also the type of political system and of government may bear on the type of conflict solving, such as suppression, resolution or, more frequently, regulation through institutionalization.
In the conclusion, the entry argues that the major phenomena in post-industrial societies are, on the one hand, the decrease of conflict intensity and, on the other hand, the emerging of new conflicts led by collective or social movements.