difficulties in the of social conflict 1
Conflict Resolution, University ofMichigan
CLINTON F. FINK
I. THE CASE FOR A GENERALIST APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF CONFLICT The quest for scientific knowledge about social conflict has a long and complex history, closely interwoven with the entire history of social science. In many disciplines and from many viewpoints, great bodies of data have been collected, and countless generalizations, hypotheses, and theories have been constructed to account for social conflict phenomena. During the past dozen years, the problem of integrating this knowledge has received considerable attention, especially in the pages of new multidisKahn and Boulding, 1964; McNeil, 1965; Ciba Foundation, 1966; Stagner, 1967), and numerous theoretical works by representatives of several disciplines. Since theory is the principal means of integrating scientific knowledge, the construction of a general theory of social conflict is considered by some writers to be a desirable step. A typical argument in favor of general theory was offered in the first issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution: If intellectual progress is to be made in the study of international relations [it] must be made an interdisciplinary enterprise, drawing its discourse from all the social sciences, and even further.... Our belief in the fruitfulness of an interdisciplinary approach in this area is based on the conviction that the behavior and interactions of nations are not an isolated and self-contained area of empirical material, but part of a much wider field of behavior and interaction.... Conflict, which is perhaps the key concept in international relations, ... is a phenomenon studied in many different fields: ...
ciplinary journals (Journal of Conflict
solution, 1957-; Journal a f Peace Research, 1964-), multidisciplinary symposia (International Sociological Association, 1957; is part of the author’s research "Effects of Social Conflict," supported by research grants GS-697 and GS-1464 from the National Science Foundation. The present text contains the first two chapters of a projected longer work which will examine in detail the problems of classifying and describing social conflicts for scientific purposes, problems which must be solved by any general theory of conflict. For numerous stimulating discussions about these problems, and for helpful comments on earlier drafts, I am especially indebted to Jacques Bude, Elizabeth Converse, Lucille Doke, Ronald Edmonds, Mary Ellin Fink, H. Merrill Jackson, Martin Patchen, and Kendall 1
scientists. It occurs in many different situations: among members
economists, and by political
of a family, between labor and management, between political parties, and even within a single mind, as well as among nations. Many of the patterns and processes which characterize conflict in one area also characterize it in others.... It is not too much to claim that out of the contributions of many fields a general
theory of conflict is emerging. The isolation of these various fields, however, has prevented the building of these contributions into an integrated whole.... We welcome insights, theoretical models, and confirmatory tests from all spheres of conflict resolution; for we believe that only as all such areas are drawn on, can intellectual engine of sufficient the greatest problem of our time -the prevention of war. This same engine will move us toward greater knowledge and greater power in all areas of conflict-in the personality, in the home, in industrial relations, and so on [Editorial, JCR, March 1957, pp. 1-2]. we an
provide greater understanding of each particular kind of conflict than can be provided by the relevant special theory, and consequently to provide a better account of the entire domain...