General Sources of Conflicts

Human conflicts are everywhere and everywhere. They exist in every society and every region of the earth. There are numerous sorts, stages, and manifestations of conflict. Every disagreement does not have a single source. There are as many forms and levels of conflict as there are sources of conflict. Disputes can have multiple causes or sources. Understanding and comprehending the underlying sources and primary causes of conflicts is critical to minimizing their frequency and intensity and, ultimately, seeking a resolution. Because wars frequently cause destruction and are thus costly affairs, sources of conflict are natural foci for reforms and improvements that purport to decrease or eliminate conflict.

If the source of the conflict is a psychological condition known as "tension," tension reduction is an appropriate method. If the source of the conflict is ignorance, as in some non-realistic conflicts, education will minimize or reduce the 'cause' of such conflicts. A meaningful and long-term solution to the conflict can only be devised once one knows the reasons and causes of various conflicts. Only until the core causes of conflict are identified, and the grievances of opposing parties are addressed will conflict resolution efforts bear fruit. As a result, we must understand the broad and specific causes of conflict.

General Sources of Conflicts

There are specific public sources that cause conflicts −

Aggressive Human Nature

Many social psychologists and scientists feel that conflict is mainly caused by human nature. They claim that humans have innate/inherent characteristics such as aggression, hunger for power, position and authority, love of war, etc. Sigmund Freud proposed that conflicting tendencies coexist harmoniously in the unconscious mind of every human being. Conflict arises when overt, verbal, symbolic, or emotional responses required to achieve one motivation conflict with those required to fulfill another. A conflict scenario emerges when a person is motivated to engage in two or more mutually exclusive activities. As a result, psychological notions such as animosity, aggressive impulses, or antagonistic attitudes impact conflict. Some researchers believe that conflict has both unconscious and biological roots. They question if communities - and humans - have fundamental, endemic features that lead them, more or less unconsciously, to participate in the conflict.

Socio-economic and Political Inequalities

Since Aristotle's day, the links between economic disparity and war have been established. Aristotle argued in Politics that 'inferiors [slaves] revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior.' 'Inequality is the mother of all uprisings,' he continued. In the Federalist, James Madison described disparity in property distribution as the "most common and lasting" source of strife. Poverty can be both a cause and an effect of human rights violations. In other words, while human rights breaches frequently cause poverty, poverty is often a cause of human rights violations. All human rights and efforts to eradicate extreme poverty are mutually reinforcing. The safeguarding of human rights is critical to reducing extreme poverty. Human rights must underpin all attempts to eradicate poverty. In this age of globalization, underprivileged people and poor/underdeveloped nations are more marginalized. Indeed, global economic integration creates opportunities for people worldwide, but it also widens the gap between the poorest and wealthiest countries. Many of the poorest countries must be included in the increased prospects for international trade, investment, and new technologies. Consequently, in modern times, globalization is developing as a significant source of conflict at several levels (intrastate and interstate).

Denial of Human Rights

Disputes can arise from arguments over rights or denial of rights. Human rights proclaimed in the International Declaration of Human Rights may be included or more precisely defined in national or state constitutions or legislation. In these circumstances, the problem (or conflict resulting from the denial of rights) is not easily negotiable: people need to negotiate about their religious convictions or sacrifice their fundamental rights. They are fighting for them. Every dispute has a human rights angle/dimension at its root.

Sources of Conflict: Theoretical Perspectives

Some of the major theories are −

Frustration-Aggression Complex

Frustration-aggression Dollard and his colleagues created ideas of human conflict in psychology. Lewin expanded this notion further. According to this notion, frustration begets aggressiveness. Urbanization, mass media, particularly television, and other forms of information enable individuals to become aware of the higher levels of living enjoyed by people in developed, industrialized civilizations. Individuals in poor or underdeveloped countries get frustrated when their hopes and goals are not met owing to a lack of technology and resources. The frustration-aggression complex refers to conflict or violence that arises as a result of such frustration.

Relative Deprivation Theory

Second, if one influential segment of a society appropriates a larger share of the society's resources and possibilities, the rest of that society feels comparably disadvantaged. Such an imbalance is most common during times of relative affluence or advancement. If the rewards of progress are not equitably dispersed throughout all component sectors of society during the development process, those substantially deprived of their rightful rights resort to violence to redress their concerns. As the gap between imagined expectations and actual entitlements widens, conflict or violence ensues.

Modernization Process

Disputes are also strongly tied to the process of modernization. Most emerging countries go through this period of transition from tradition to modernity. The imbalance between political, social, and economic institutions during the transition era leads to political violence or conflict. During the transition era, new work ethics and value systems sometimes clash with time-honored traditions, resulting in contemporary, developed economic institutions coexisting with traditional concepts of politics and society. Tensions arise as a result of such inconsistency between multiple institutions in society or between institutions and processes within a sphere (such as politics). For example, political modernization entails allowing new social groups to participate in politics.

Nevertheless, institutions that reflect political modernity occasionally continue to function based on primal affinities. Consequently, political violence/conflict in transitional societies stems from a failure to establish institutions responsive to the need for involvement by new groups. It is widely thought that conflict or violence increases during the start of the modernizing process, peaks in societies at mid-points of development, and declines as modernization gains momentum.

Conflict as an Inherent Process of Social Change

In their conflict theory, Lewis Coser and Ralf Dahrendorf emphasize using conflict to address societal conflicts and sustain interpersonal relationships. They are following in the footsteps of Karl Marx and Georg Simmel. For them, conflict is a natural manifestation of societal change because some groups benefit more than others during this process. Conflict resolution is especially noticeable in pluralistic, open societies since it allows citizens to express freedom and challenge established norms and institutions. Others, such as Frantz Fanon and George Sorel, believe that conflict and violence are the only tools accessible to downtrodden people in their fight against oppression and exploitation.

In his classic book, The Wretched of the Earth (London, 1965), African radical scholar Frantz Fanon stated that colonized people resort to violence to free themselves from the chains of colonial power. He claimed that the rebirth of the marginalized and neglected would depend on their "commitment to violence" against the imposed "structural violence" of an unequal and cruel society. Sorel, a French radical, spoke about how disputes may be regenerative. He believed a class might discover its identity and resuscitate itself via violence and strife. This is in direct contrast to what Mahatma Gandhi had declared about 'the therapeutic consequences of non-violence.' Gandhi also stated that exploitation is the most severe form of violence.


The identification and comprehension of conflict sources and causes are critical to reducing the occurrence of disputes. Conflict resolution will be more straightforward if the sources and underlying reasons are addressed, as well as the grievances of opposing parties. Conflicts do not stem from a single source. There are numerous sources of contention. Three key sources are mentioned under the heading of general causes. These are aggressive human nature, socioeconomic and political inequities, and human rights denial.

Updated on: 14-Mar-2023


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