OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Conflict Emergence

by Paul Wehr

Opening Page | Glossary | Menu Shortcut Page


Every conflict begins with a latency period (a period when the potential for conflict exists, but it has not yet developed). Latent conflict may exist for very long periods before it becomes visible and the conflict actors are conscious of it and behave accordingly. (Deutsch 1973) In fact, it may never emerge. An alienating social structure tends to suppress the emergence of social conflict. Marx (1978) saw capitalism alienating workers from their labor and from one another, inhibiting open class conflict. That alienation was masked by a culture shaped by the ruling class for the maintenance of its position. (Gramsci 1971) When race was added to political, economic and cultural control in a society, as in the colonized world, obstacles to conflict's emergence were even more considerable. (Fanon 1968 ) In Collins view (1975), social life is above all a struggle for power and status regardless of the type of structure. An inevitable power differential between groups, and between individuals, produces latent conflict in all social relations. But Collins (1992) also points out that the power of those higher on the power differential ladder is restricted in a number of important ways. Those restrictions permit the lower-power actor considerable freedom of action. 

Transforming latent into manifest conflict is problematic.  As conflict emerges, it produces considerable confusion. Interaction of the conflict parties changes, sometimes radically and abruptly. Levels of unpredictability, uncertainty and emotion rise. Unwise and costly decisions are made from a lack of understanding of what is occurring. Since how a conflict emerges largely determines how costly it will subsequently be, those involved must have the clearest understanding possible of what is going on.  Can a conflict be resolved in its latent stage through structural reform? If not, will the emergence process be characterized by less or more costly conflict methods? How can the opposing parties do the conflict most economically and least harmfully? 

Links to Examples:

John Paul Lederach -- Building Peace, Introduction and Framework
In this summary, Lederach explains how bringing up and confronting latent conflict is part of the peacemaking process.

Links to Related Problems

Not My Problem

Links to Related Treatments

Conflict Group Formation

Conflict Mapping

Option Identification

Supporting Literature:

Randall Collins, Conflict Sociology , New York: Academic Press, 1975; Randall Collins, Sociological Insight , New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; Ralf Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society , Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959; Morton Deutsch, The Resolution of Conflict , New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973; Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth , New York: Grove Press, 1968; Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks , New York: International Publishers, 1971; Karl Marx, "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844," in Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader , New York: W.W.Norton, 1978.


Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu