Fundamentals Seminar 4:  Core Conflict Elements

While we originally conceived as each of our seminars being separate and having separate audiences, we have come to realize there is often a lot of overlap, and materials in other seminars and blogs are likely to be of interest to those seeking fundamental knowledge about each of the fundamental seminar topics.  For that reason, we have reformatted the fundamentals seminar to include such cross-ver material. 


Guy and Heidi Burgess make a distinction between core conflict elements that explain what the conflict is "really about," and "overlay elements" which are factors that lie over the core elements, making them more difficult to see and resolve.  Some of the core conflict elements are explored below.

This relates to Conflict Frontiers Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) Challenge  1--Figuring Out What Is Going On..

Essays in this Seminar Include:

  • Core and Overlays Part 1 -- An examination of the Burgess's theory of core and overlaying factors which contribute to conflict intractability. This video focuses primarily on the core conflict elements.
  • High-Stakes Distributional Issues -- A further discussion of one of the Burgess's core factors driving intractability.
  • Inequality -- Inequality was a key driver of intractability when this article was written--it is even more so now. 
  • Moral or Value Conflicts -- Value conflicts cannot be dealt with as if they were interest-based conflicts, although that's how mediators are often taught to handle them.
  • Identity Issues -- Identity has long been identified as a driver of intractability. This essay explains why, and what can be done to address these conflicts. 
  • Status and power struggles -- Another core driver of intractability--the fight over social status never seems to end, as is discussed in this Fundamentals Post. 
  • Rich / Poor Conflicts -Inequality was a key driver of intractability when this article was written--it is even more so now.
  • Oppression -- Written by well-known conflict scholar Morton Deutsch, the entire series is more relevant today than ever.
  • Humiliation -- While commonly used, humiliation is extremely destructive--to its victims, and also, often, to the person or group doing the humiliation as well.

Related Conflict Frontiers Posts

  • Identify the Core Issues -- Wonder why conflict mapping matters?  This video shows how it can totally change your approach to a conflict.
  • Mapping the Continuum between Democracy and Authoritarianism -- First things first, what do we mean by authoritarianism and how does it relate to democracy.
  • The Red/Blue Cultural Divide -- In the first of a set of posts, we will explore how conflict mapping (and later, the other action steps) can be used to address a real-world problem--in this case the core moral conflict in the U.S. and elsewhere between right-leaning "traditionalists and left-leaning "cosmopolitans over cultural, social, and political change.
  • The Purple/Gold Distributional Divide -- This will look at another core aspect of the authoritarian populism problem:  the distributional conflict between four major groups: the "1%"; the "99%", the "left behinds", and the "protected classes"--a U.S. legal term for race, color religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, and veteran status.
  • Red, Blue, Gold Interactions, Destructive Polarization and the Peacebuilding Imperative -- Using a triangular, graphical map of the above, interlocking conflicts, this post will explain how things have polarized into an all out left versus right conflict and outline how peacebuilding strategies could constructively "repolarize" the conflict as a struggle between the authoritarians and those who want to make democracy work.
  • The Divide and Conquer Authoritarian / Plutocratic Threat   -- One example of overlay issues is understanding how the cultural and distributional core conflict issues are being exacerbated (and sometimes initiated) by authoritarian "wannabes" for selfish purposes unrelated to the core issues of the parties.

Related Knowledge Base Essays

  • Causes of Intractable Conflicts -- Intractable conflicts such as between Israel and Palestine are rarely just about surface issues such as land or religion. At the core of most intractable conflicts is a tangle of issues threatening the most vital interests of the parties. This essay describes some of the common causes underlying many intractable conflicts.
  • Power -- Power, also, is more complex than it seems. This explains the difference between power sources, power strategies and when to use what.
  • Distributive Justice -- When people believe that their situation is not equal to that of other people like them, they feel a sense of injustice. Distributive justice is the attempt to create a fair and equal division of society's wealth and status.
  • Unmet Human Needs -- Human essentials go beyond just food, water, and shelter. They include all those things humans are innately driven to attain, such as love, dignity and safety. Some theorists argue that most intractable conflicts are caused by the drive to satisfy unmet needs.

Related Thing YOU Can Do to Help Posts

Related Beyond Intractability In Context Blog Posts