What Is Conflict, What Does It Mean?July 1, 2021
The repulsion of opposites.
Heraclitus was the first thinker to put forward the concept of ‘conflict’ with the phrase ‘fight (Polemos)’ in ancient Greek philosophy. Heraclitus, who is considered the father of dialectic, was expressing the ‘war of opposites’ with this phrase. This conflict that Harekleitos sees in nature will form one of the three great laws, ‘the law of the unity and struggle of opposites’, discovered centuries later by the dialectical and historical materialist worldview in the unity of nature, society and consciousness.
Heraclitus correctly intuited that universal ‘development’ was attributed to this conflict and argued that conflict was the only factor that developed it. Empedocles had a similar understanding in Ancient Greek philosophy, while denying ‘becoming’, he approved ‘motion’ and said that motion consisted of the conflict of love and hate.
It is possible to find traces of the understanding of the unity of opposites against these conflicts in Greek mythology. The concept of Anteros is the mythological symbol of this union. In Greek mythology, Anteros expresses a very important contrast in his personality. It literally means ‘opposite love’ and was born by her mother, Aphrodite, for the development of her older brother, Sevgi (Eros). Eros grew up with Anteros and was only happy when he was with her. Eros would be happy if Anteros was with him and sad if he was away from him. The first mythological manifestation of Heraclitus’ concept of polemos is Anteros.
Conflict as a sociological term is expressed in terms of ‘class conflict’ and ‘social conflict’ in accordance with the dialectical and historical materialism understanding. The term conflict is sometimes used synonymously with the term ‘contradiction’. (Some translators express the same meaning with the idioms war, fight, struggle. In reality, fight or war is only a form of conflict specific to the irresistible opposition of social contradictions. The ongoing conflict also in social contradictions turns into fight or war only in the irresistible opposition of society.) . As a dialecticist put it, “development is the clash of opposites”. The process of development in nature, society, and human consciousness (i.e., human thought) occurs through the conflict of opposites that mutually deny each other. This conflict brings about the realization of new forms by destroying the negative aspects of the old forms and absorbing the positive aspects.
Conflict takes place in human societies in the most specific forms, in the sense of the word we clearly understand. In organic and inorganic nature, however, it always shows different forms that we cannot grasp in the literal sense. We cannot see the conflict in society in the development process of the apple we give it, for example. However, there is a conflict of its own in the development process of the apple. The basic dialectical law of nature, society and consciousness is this: the one is divided into many opposites, some of these opposites are hostile to each other, the opposites begin to contradict each other. One of the great masters of scientific philosophy says: “The contradiction is that something is both the same and not the same as itself,” that is, it remains the same and changes constantly. Here development is the opposition between ‘permanence’ and ‘change”. Permanence, that is, remaining unchanged, is relative and temporary; change is fundamental and constant.
Nature and society thrive on contradictions. However, not every contradiction has the power of development to reach a high level. ‘Conflict’ begins in conflicts that have the power to develop. Contradictions become sharper and conflict overcome by conflict reaches a high level. Development is not an automatic process. In order for the contradiction to be overcome and thus for development to take place, the contradiction must turn into ‘conflict’. Contradiction, which does not have the power of development (the wrong ones and those who have reached the objective truth N.) and cannot realize the conflict, is extinguished. For example, Turkey’s conflict between independence and slavery would have been insurmountable and extinguished had it not turned into a war of independence led by Atatürk. As a matter of fact, life continues as long as countless biological and social contradictions can be overcome through conflicts in individual human life, and if these ongoing contradictions are not turned into conflicts, death occurs. Hegel says in the first chapter of his Logic: “Where there is no power of contradiction, the being opposed dies because of this contradiction.”