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Is conflict inevitable in all cultures? 

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Unfortunately, being part of the same culture does not preclude people from having conflicts with each other. The desire for self-preservation and one's own comfort takes priority over shared cultural traditions and values.

If you look at history, however, it is evident that most of the big conflicts take place between different cultural groups—right wing versus left wing; Christians versus Jews; natives versus colonists and the like.

The existence of human emotions like greed, jealousy and anger mean that conflict will always be part of life. The conflicts that happen within cultural groups are likely to on a smaller scale than conflicts that take place between cultural groups. They will be around petty issues as opposed to the deep ideological rifts that create intercultural conflicts.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Yes, conflict is inevitable in every society, and much of social science is concerned with what to about this. How does a social group or culture best channel the inevitable aggressions that arise between individuals and groups vying for the same goods or benefits?

Rene Girard, a French philosopher and literary critic, has argued in that all humans suffer from a mimesis of envy, by which he means we inevitably want something as soon as somebody else wants it. For example—and he leans heavily into Shakespeare to support this—once one man desires a woman, another man will want her too: this is precisely because the first man considers her desirable. Girard contends that envy and desire are derivative emotions that arise precisely from living in social groups and observing what other people have or want.

This, he says, will inevitably lead to conflict: in a monogamous society, for example, only one man can "get" the desired woman. He argues that earlier societies dealt with these social tensions by first having human sacrifice in which everyone else in the group could vent their aggressions on one "guilty" member of the group who was blamed for causing the tensions. Later, this turned into animal sacrifice, and in Christianity, this refers to the sacrifice of Jesus.

Girard's is just one theory that explains human social conflict and aggression. There are many other ideas, and humankind continues to work on this problem.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Yes, conflict is inevitable in every society.  This does not mean that conflict always has to be at high levels, but it is not possible to have a society without conflict.  The major reason for this is that people in a culture or a society will inevitably divide themselves into groups and these groups will eventually come into conflict.

In the US, for example, we divide ourselves into racial and ethnic groups.  We tend to believe that people of different races are in some way different from one another.  We tend to believe that people of different races have different political and economic interests.  This brings us into conflict on racial and ethnic grounds.

But conflict will exist even in the absence of racial and ethnic diversity.  People in other societies (and in our own) will divide themselves on the basis of class.  People tend to believe that the rich and the poor or the poor and the middle class have different interests.  Because they believe this, the classes will come into conflict with one another.

People in every society will find ways to divide themselves into “self” and “other.”  This will inevitably lead to some degree of conflict.

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