Evolution of Conflict Analysis

By analyzing and deducing commonalities between human and natural animal behavior, ethology and evolutionary history have derived conclusions concerning the instinctual drive. Ethologists argue that distinct species' behavior patterns have a significant genetic basis. All species, including humans, result from an evolutionary process in which a mix of mutational causes and natural selection decides survival fitness.

In his book “On Violence,” Konrad Lorenz claims that human aggression results from an inclination for aggression. This hostility in humans is shared by most other animals and has evolved as a result of helping them survive over time. According to Freud, humans may have inherited violent tendencies from many previous generations through natural selection.

Traditional Approaches to Conflict Analysis

Traditional approaches to conflict analysis were based on the belief that conflicts were inherent in human nature and could be resolved through force. These approaches were primarily used in the military and political spheres, focusing on achieving victory over the opponent. Sun Tzu's Art of War is a classic example of a traditional conflict analysis approach. This approach emphasizes the importance of knowing one's enemy, seeking to exploit the opponent's weaknesses and the use of deception and psychological tactics to gain an advantage.

In the 20th century, traditional approaches to conflict analysis evolved to include diplomatic and economic strategies. The use of diplomacy and economic sanctions to resolve conflicts became prevalent during this time. The Treaty of Versailles, signed at the end of World War I, is an example of a diplomatic approach to conflict resolution. The treaty aimed to end the war and establish a lasting peace by imposing penalties on Germany and its allies.

Contemporary Approaches to Conflict Analysis

Contemporary approaches to conflict analysis are more empirical and interdisciplinary. One critical development has been the shift away from viewing conflict as an isolated event or phenomenon and toward understanding it as a systemic and structural feature of society. This has led to the development of conflict analysis frameworks such as the Conflict Triangle, which emphasizes the importance of understanding the interplay between actors, issues, and contexts in any given conflict situation.

Another significant development has been the recognition of the role of identity in shaping conflict. Scholars such as Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner have emphasized the importance of nation-building and creating shared identities to reduce conflict. Other scholars, such as Samuel Huntington, have argued that identity conflicts will likely become more prevalent as globalization erodes traditional identities.

In addition to these theoretical developments, contemporary conflict analysis has also benefited from advances in technology and data analysis. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other data visualization tools have allowed scholars to map and analyze conflict patterns with greater precision and accuracy than ever before. At the same time, social media and other digital technologies have enabled conflict actors to communicate and coordinate their actions more effectively, creating new challenges for conflict analysis and management.

The Human Relations School and the Emergence of Behavioral Approaches

The Human Relations School emerged in the 1930s and marked a significant departure from traditional conflict analysis approaches. This approach focused on understanding the psychological and emotional factors contributing to conflict. The Human Relations School was concerned with understanding the impact of social, cultural, and economic factors on human behavior.

The emergence of behavioral approaches to conflict analysis in the 1950s marked a significant shift in the field. Behavioral approaches seek to understand the underlying causes of conflict by analyzing human behavior. These approaches used empirical research methods to identify the factors contributing to conflict.

The Emergence of Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies

The 1960s marked a significant turning point in the development of conflict analysis. The emergence of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and other social movements led to a renewed focus on conflict resolution and peace studies. These approaches focused on understanding the root causes of conflicts and identifying strategies for resolving them.

The Emergence of the Third-Party Intervention Model

The Third Party Intervention Model emerged in the 1970s and marked a significant departure from traditional approaches to conflict analysis. This model emphasized the importance of third-party intervention in resolving conflicts. The model suggested that a neutral third party could help to resolve conflicts by facilitating communication, identifying common interests, and helping the parties to develop solutions that meet their needs.

The Emergence of Constructivism and Critical Theory

The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of Constructivism and Critical Theory in conflict analysis. Constructivism focuses on the role of social constructions and perceptions in conflict. This approach suggested that conflicts arise due to differences in perception and interpretation of reality. On the other hand, Critical Theory emphasizes the role of power and social structures in conflict. This approach suggested that conflicts arise due to unequal power relations and the domination of one group over another.

The Emergence of the Complexity Approach

The Complexity Approach emerged in the 21st century and marked a significant departure from traditional and behavioral approaches to conflict analysis. This approach emphasized the complexity and unpredictability of conflict. The complexity approach suggests that conflicts arise due to the interaction of various factors, including social, economic, political, and environmental factors. This approach called for interdisciplinary and holistic approaches to conflict analysis.

Conflict has been a pervasive feature of human society since time immemorial, but how it has been understood and analyzed has evolved significantly over time. In the early days, conflict analysis was typically grounded in philosophical or religious beliefs, with little attention paid to empirical evidence or scientific inquiry. However, with the emergence of modern social science disciplines in the 19th and 20th centuries, the study of conflict gradually became more systematic and rigorous. Today, conflict analysis is a multidisciplinary field that draws on insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science, among other disciplines.


The evolution of conflict analysis has been marked by a gradual shift from intuition, speculation, and personal experience, toward a more systematic and empirical approach. While traditional approaches to conflict analysis were often based on philosophical or religious assumptions about human nature and the nature of conflict, contemporary approaches are more interdisciplinary, grounded in social science research, and focused on understanding the systemic and structural nature of the conflict. As technology and data analysis continue to advance, conflict analysis will likely continue to evolve and adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

Updated on: 14-Mar-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started