Alternatives to Conflict

Alternatives to Conflict:

Dahl says that “in a general way, people who conflict in pursuing their goals confront three kinds of alternatives (a) Deadlock, (b) Coercion, and (c) Peaceful adjustment. Although these are often mixed together i.e. concrete conflicts, it is useful to distinguish them analytically”.

(a) “Deadlock” according to Dahl exists so long as each person continues to block the other and neither changes his behaviour. Deadlock is likely to occur whenever people disagree and the outcome of the deadlock (often the status quo) seems tolerable.

(b) Every state uses coercion to secure compliance with the policies of the government. Coercion has been a common practice in the relations among states in international politics. War or the threat of war has frequently been used as an alternative to stalemate or peaceful adjustment. Civil wars and revolutions also involve coercion; each side resorts to coercion to impose its will on others. Even today in large parts of the world civil strife, guerilla war, revolutionary struggles, violence and suppression of political opponents by physical force are normal and commonplace political practices.

(c) “The major alternative to deadlock or coercion”, according to Dahl, “is a peaceful adjustment. In a peaceful adjustment of a conflict, the parties perceive an alternative more profitable than either deadlock or coercion, and adjust their behaviour in a way that will bring it about”. However, as Dahl says, “Except to pacifists who advocate absolute adherence to non-violence peaceful adjustments is not necessarily the “best” solution into every case. Indeed few advocates of non-violence are prepared to extend their programme to cover all situations”.

Dahl concludes, “The chances for peaceful adjustment, as opposed to coercion, are somewhat higher under systems of polyarchy than under non-polyarchy systems”. He further says that some forms of coercion are excluded or minimized in polyarchies by definition. A regime that imprisons the leaders of all opposition parties or suppresses critical newspapers, for example, is not a polyarchy by definition. In polyarchies, conflicts really are more likely to be settled peacefully and coercive methods of handling conflicts really are less likely than in non-polyarchies.


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