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Realistic Conflict Theory

Realistic Conflict Theory

Author: Marlene Johnson
Description:

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand Realistic Conflict Theory as one way of modeling and describing conflict

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Tutorial

Notes on "Realistic Conflict Theory"

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People often get into conflict because they believe there are limited resources, and they have to fight another party of your group to get what they need. There is a term for that, and it's called Realistic Conflict Theory. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk about that theory of modeling and describing conflict in this tutorial.

So, let's start by defining Realistic Conflict Theory. What is it? Well, Realistic Conflict Theory is a theory of conflict that explains conflict as a result of competing goals for and competition for limited resources. Competition for limited resources. Let's define a limited resource. So, we're clear about what that is. A limited resource is a physical or other resource existing in limited quantities that must be divided between users.

Now, these limited resources could be real, or we might perceive that they're real. So, here are some examples of a conflict that would be based on this real or perceived idea that there's a scarcity of resources. It could be maybe in a national scale over oil, you have two nations fighting it out or threatening to fight each other because they believe there's a scarcity of oil, and they're going for the same resource of oil, perhaps in the same part of the world. That would be one example.

Another example could be right here at home. We have people lining up in stores to get the latest product, whatever it is, electronic product. It could be something else. Long lines are forming because this is the new hot item, and there's only so many of them, and you want to be in line to make sure that you get yours. That's another idea here. Another example rather. A limited resource or perceived limited resource that people are in competition over.

So, there is usually this tug of war because people assume there won't be enough. This is called a zero-sum, and I want to define that for you. Zero-sum. So, zero-sum is an assumption that for one party to gain, the other must lose, yielding a net gain of zero.

So, if I'm going to be getting this latest product standing in line, you're behind me, and well, you're going to have to lose because I'm getting there first. So, it's that assumption. That's what zero-sum means. Now, the only way that you could overcome this is if there is a superordinate goal. So, I have superordinate goal here, right below zero-sum.

A superordinate goal is a mutual goal seen by two parties as more important to achieve jointly than meeting either of their individual goals. So, what would that look like in a particular situation? Well. For example, you could have some land around say, a lake, in a highly desirable area to live, and many people are buying to get a piece of that land. Right on lakefront property.

And so this is considered a scarce resource in the community, and people are buying for this limited lakeshore property. And more and more development is going up and fairly soon it becomes clear that they are over developing this land, and the actual lake that everybody wants to live right next to is becoming come polluted there aren't enough-- --I mean the fish are going away, and it's not becoming the piece of property or the environmental experience that everybody expected to have if they moved there. They're actually ruining the land.

So, people come together, and decide perhaps we need to have some zoning restrictions here. We need to look at a better way of developing this land. We need to cut back. And the need to preserve the land becomes a superordinate goal that supersedes meeting any one person's individual goal or desire to live right on that lake. So, that will be one example.

Here's one more. You're at work and your boss has decided to give a bonus to the worker who produces the best, and unfortunately what this is leading to is lot of competition and people are working together so they revisit this bonus, and decide they're going to do it on a team basis. There is a big bonus that will be divided equally if the team can reach a certain goal, which now encourages the team working together. There's a higher need here, to preserve unity among the workers to get them to work together to meet the company goals, and the individual bonus wasn't quite doing that.

It was encouraging competition, not cooperativeness, which was the superordinate goal here. Now, it's important to see that conflict resolution processes in and of themselves are superordinate goals because the goal of the process is to get parties in conflict together, to come through the conflict, reach resolution, and come to a decision that meets the needs of both parties, find a superordinate goal through that process.

So in closing, I want to thank you for being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Superordinate Goal

    A mutual goal seen by two parties as more important to achieve jointly than meeting either of their individual goals.

  • Zero-Sum

    An assumption that for one party to gain, the other must lose, yielding a net gain of zero.

  • Limited Resource

    A physical or other resource existing in limited quantities that must be divided between users.

  • Realistic Conflict Theory

    A theory of conflict that explains conflict as a result of competing goals and competition for limited resources.