Why Do We Battle?

Conflict Theory is based on the assumption that humans are self-oriented. As such, they desire power, prestige, and privilege making all other humans potential competitors for their resources. Furthermore, with Conflict Theory, there is a “thesis” which is the socially accepted idea, the “anti-thesis” which is the direct opposite, and the “synthesis” which is the combination of the two into a greater idea. Another way to look at this is that there is competition for scarce resources creating a conflict and the “synthesis” becomes the conflict resolution, when both sides no longer see the issue as competition for the scarce resources. Other terms related to this theory include consensus, negotiation, assertion, aggression, threats and promises.

One example of Conflict Theory can be seen in some cases of divorce. The scarcity of resources can be thought of as the children. The conflict comes into play when both parents vie for the attention and affection of their children. The term “Disneyland Dad” refers to the father that overcompensates for his children’s attention and affection by spending money on them, or taking them to places that either cost a lot of money or time, neither of which the mother can afford. The activities these dad’s spend with their children are fun and carefree, relinquishing the activities that carry responsibility to the mother. There may be threats by either spouse to one another or promises to the children or negotiation, or assertion on how the time with the kids will be spent, or even worse, aggressive acts, all as ways of trying to work out synthesis of the situation and a resolution to the conflict. I believe that all parties would agree that being in the middle of the conflict creates stress and unhappiness for all involved, especially the children.

This situation can occur in a marriage as well. It is often seen in the stage of the new parents. The baby needs and sometimes demands the attention of his or her parents. With a nursing mother, the baby requires her attention to feed and be cared for. If she is not careful, the new mother can become so wrapped up in the care and attention to the baby that her spouse is left alone, outside of the newly developing dyad. This can create conflict or in other words, the competition for the scarce resource of the mother. Until a synthesis can be determined, resolution to the conflict will remain at bay.

One of the major critiques of Conflict Theory includes the debate over whether conflict is a result of scarce resources as indicated in the theory, or an issue of power inequities. In the above examples, I see that assigning power or the idea to scarce resources as synonymous. I could argue just as easily that the father in the “Disneyland Dad” scenario has all of the power but none of the responsibility rather than vying for the attention of the children as the scarce resource. In the second example I could argue that the new mother has all of the power because she is deciding how to use her time rather than the idea of her as the scarce resource. I believe that it would be subjective to how the individuals are feeling.

Do we need to battle for power or for the scarcity of resources? Or can we become more mindful of our emotions, identify our need, and effectively communicate in order to avoid the battle altogether?