Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Social Processes: Elements, Classification, Characteristics

As a socio-cultural being man lives in society. Society is a net­work of social relationship. Social relationships have a methodical system. It is impossible for men to live in isolation. They always live in groups. Due to his gregarious nature man establishes various types of relationships around him.

Man plays many roles within the society. He also performs many and varied social activities as per his nature, needs and roles. While performing these social activities or social actions he comes into contact with others. This contact or relation­ships with other changes the action of the individual into interaction. The behavior of each individual is affected by the behavior of oth­ers. This interaction is the basis of social life. Interaction refers to an action done in response to another action. Actions performed by a number of individuals are called interaction.

Society is rooted in inter­actions. Interaction is the basic ingredient of social relationships. The various social processes are the forms of interaction. The process of interaction, contact, forming and breaking down of relationships con­tinuously occurs in society. Behavior system grow out of interac­tion. Without interaction there would be no social life.

As members of society people have to act and behave in ac­cordance with some specific manner. They are always engaged in some sort of actions and interactions in the society. When the actions of the individual or individuals are influenced by the actions of other individual or individuals in a society and he in turn is exposed to their action that is called social interaction.

But every action is not social. When people and their attitudes are involved, the actions become social. Social interaction is the foundation of every society. It is the key factor in all social life. The very roots of society are based on social interactions. Both society and culture are the products of social interaction. Hence no society is possible without social interaction.

Social interaction refers to the entire range of social relationships. It is the reciprocal influence mutually exerted by humans through their stimulation and mutual response. Social interaction takes place between (i) Individual and individual (ii) Individual and group (iii) Group and group.

(1) According to Green, “Social interaction is the mutual influ­ences that individuals and groups have on one another in their at­tempts to solve problems and in their striving towards goals.”

(2) According to Eldredge and Merril, “Social interaction is the general process whereby two or more persons are in meaningful con­tact as a result of which their behavior is modified, however slightly.”

(3) According to Dawson and Gettys, “Social interaction is a process whereby men interpenetrate the minds of each other”.

Social interaction has four main aspects such as contact, com­munication, form and structure. Social interaction only takes place within a social structure. Various social processes are the forms of interaction. Social contact and communication are two important pre­requisites of social interaction.

(1) Social Contact:

Ordinarily coming together of two indi­viduals is contact. Kingsley Davis opines the form of contact be­comes social when the concerned people have some meaning in it and feeling of communication. In other words it constitutes human contact and interaction. According to Gillin and Gillin “Social contact is the first phase of interaction”.

Social contacts are always estab­lished through the medium of some sense organs. It is established through the medium of radio, telephone etc. and is strengthened by physical contacts like kissing, shaking of hands etc. Social contact can be positive as well as negative. Positive social contact includes co-operation, accommodation and assimilation while negative social contact includes hatred, jealousy and conflict.

(2) Communication:

Communication is another condition of interaction. Without communication there can be no contact. It is another aspect of contact. In communication an individual assesses the thoughts and feelings of another person and his behavior. The important means of communication are the language, radio, T.V. news­paper, gestures etc. through which social contact is established. The easiest way of communicating thoughts and feeling is through lan­guage. Language communication may be oral or written. But unwrit­ten and unspoken communication is also possible through signs and symbols.

Thus contact and communication are necessary for social in­teraction.

The system of social interaction is called social process. The fundamental ways in which people establish social relationship and interact are called social process. It refers to the repetitive forms of behavior which are commonly found in social life. Social interaction normally occurs in the form of accommodation, assimilation, coop­eration, competition and conflict. These forms of social interaction are also called as social processes.

These are the modes of social interaction. In society individuals continuously come in contact with one another. They cooperate and compete with each other for the realization of their respective aims and struggle for their rights. Hence social processes found continually in society.

There exists a very close relationship between social interac­tion and social process. We can’t understand one without help from the other. When social interaction through repetition leads to a result it is called a social process.

(1) According to Maclver, “Social Process is the manner in which the relations of the members of a group, once bought together, acquire a distinctive character”.

(2) According to Gillin and Gillin, “By social process we mean those ways of interacting which we can observe when individuals and groups meet and establish system of relationships of what hap­pens when changes disturb already existing modes of life.”

(3) Horton and Hunt opinion “The term social process refers to the repetitive form of behavior which is commonly found in social life.”

(4) According to Morris Ginsberg, “Social processes are the various modes of social interaction between individuals or groups in­cluding co-operation and conflict, social differentiation and integra­tion, development, arrest and decay.”

Elements of Social Process:

Social Process has the follow­ing essential elements.

(i) Sequence of events

(ii) Repetition of events

(iii) Relationship between events

(iv) Continuity of events

(v) Special Social results

Classification of Social Process or Types:

Sociologists are not unanimous regarding the classification types or forms of social processes. It has been classified differently by different sociologists. Some sociologist classified it into two types such as:

(i) Conjunctive social process

(ii) Disjunctive social process

E.A. Ross had prepared a list of 38 kinds of social process.

Blackinar and Gillin classified social processes into six categories.

Park and Burgess classified it into four fundamental types of interaction such as competition, conflict, accommodation and assimi­lation.

L. Von.Wiese and H. Buker classified social processes into 650 types.

But inspite of all these classifications social processes can broadly be categorized into two types such as associative and disso­ciative process. Famous German Sociologist George Simmel first dis­cussed about these two processes.

However we will discuss major types of social processes under two broad headings. They are:

(a) Associative process

(b) Dissociative process.

Associative processes are also called the integrative or conjunctive social processes which are essential for the integration and progress of the society. The major types of associative processes are the following. Co-operation Accommodation Assimilation Acculturation

Dissociative social processes are also called the disintegrative or disjunctive social processes. Although these processes hinder the growth and development of society, their absence results in stagnation of society. Few important types or dissociative processes are:





Let us discuss these processes briefly one by one:


Co-operation is the most fundamental associative social process. The term “Co-operation” has been derived from two Latin words: ‘Co’ means ‘together’ and ‘Operari’ meaning ‘to work’. Hence co­operation means working together or joint activity for the achievement of common goal or goals. So it is a process in which individuals or groups work unitedly for the promotion of common goals or objectives. It is a goal oriented social process. It is very important as the human society and its development have been possible with co-operaticn.


Co-operation is clearly defined by many scholars. Some of the definitions are given below:

(i) A.W. Green:

Co-operation is “the continuous and common endeavour of two or more persons to perform a task or to reach a goal that is commonly cherished.”

(ii) Fair Child:

“Co-operation is the process by which the individuals or groups combine their effort, in a more or less organised way, for the attainment of common objective.

(iii) Merrill and Eldrege:

“Co-operation is a form of social interaction wherein two or more persons work together to gain a common end.”

C.H. Cooley has summerised co-operation in the following terms: “Co-operations arises when men see that they have a common interest and have, at the same time, sufficient intelligence and self control to seek this interest through united actions : Prescribed unity of interest and the faculty of organization are the essential facts in intelligent combination.”

It is evident from the above definitions that co-operation is a process of social interaction in which two or more individuals or groups combine their efforts to achieve certain commons ends and objectives.


(i) The Indians irrespective of their caste, race, creed, religion etc. differences fought against the British unitedly to achieve independence.

(ii) The Indian agriculture is mainly based on the co-operative spirit of the farmers.

Conditions of Co-Operation:

The process of co-operation involves two important elements. They are:

(a) Common end or purpose.

(b) Organised effort.

The achievement of common end calls for the organised efforts of individuals or groups such efforts should be pre­planned and properly organised. It is not possible for people to promote the process of co-operation without these two essential elements.

Characteristics of Co-Operation:

Followings are some of the important characteristics of co- operation.

(a) Continuous Process:

It is a continuous process. There is continuity in the collective efforts in Co-operation.

(b) Personal Process:

This is a process in which the individuals and the groups personally meet and work together for a common objective.

(c) Conscious Process:

In the process of co-operation the organised individuals or the groups work together consciously.

(d) Universal Process:

Co-operation is also a universal social process. Because it is found every where in all periods of time.

(e) Common Ends:

Common end can be better achieved by co-operation which is essential for the welfare of both individual and society.

(f) Organised Efforts:

Co-operation is a process of social interaction which is based on the organized efforts of individuals and groups.

Type of Co- Operation:

Different Sociologists have classified co- Operation in different some of the important types of co- operation are the following.
(a) Direct Co-operation:

In the process of Co-operation when individuals and groups co-operate directly with each other, that is called direct co-operation. There exists direct relationship among individuals and the groups. It permits the people to do like things together because the nature of work itself calls for the participation of men or groups in a together situation. It brings social satisfaction. It makes the difficult tasks easy.


Travelling together, playing together, worshipping together are few important examples of direct co-operation.

(b) Indirect Co-operation:

In the process of co-operation when people do things individually and indirectly for the achievement of common goal that is called indirect-co-operation. Here the goal is one or common, but the individuals perform specialized function for its attainment. This co-operation is based on the principles of division of labor and specializations of functions. So in modern society indirect co-operation plays important role as the present technological age requires specialization of skills and functions.


In a factory or industry all the workers do separate job to produce common things. In an another example, the construction of a building or house is possible as the carpenters, plumbers and masons are engaged in different activities.

Classification given by A. W. Green are the following.

(a) Primary Co-operation:

In this type of co-operation there is an identity of interests but no self interest among those who co­operate. Every member is conscious of the welfare of all. It owes its origin to personal satisfaction. It is present in primary groups like family, neighbourhood and children’s play group. Here there is an identity or ends of interest and all the members in some way or the other, derive benefit from primary co-operation.

(b) Secondary Co-operation:

This type of Co-operation is found in the secondary groups. In these groups the individuals co­operate with each other for the achievement of some self interest. This is the characteristic feature of modern civilized society which are very much witnessed in political, economic, religious, commercial, educational and other groups. It does not provide equal benefit to all its members.

(c) Tertiary Co-operation:

Primary and secondary co­operation is the characteristic of individual person while tertiary co­operation characterizes the interaction among various social groups, large or small. These groups make certain adjustment voluntarily with each other under certain compelling circumstances. The attitude of groups co-operating with each other are selfish and opportunistic in the extreme. For example, in an election when two political parties co-operate with each other to defeat the rival party, it is called tertiary co-operation.

Role and Importance of Co-operation:

Being a universal and continuous social process, co-operation plays dominant role but it is very much essential for the welfare of the society as well. So the role of co-operation may be discussed from two angles. They are:

(a) From individual point of view.

(b) From the point of view of society.

Role of Co-operation from individual point of view:

(1) Man can fulfill his basic and fundamental needs such as food, clothing and shelter by co-operation. It also fulfils many psychological needs of human beings.

(2) It is not possible for individuals to reach his respective goals without the active co-operation of other members in society.

(3) Co-operation is the foundation on which our social life is built up. The existence of society and the survival of human beings depend upon the co-operative spirit and mutual aid of men and women.

(4) With the solid and active co-operation of his fellow beings, man can lead a happy and comfortable life.

Role of Co-operation from the point of view of Society:

Co-operation is also equally important from the social point of view.

(1) It helps society to progress. Progress can be better achieved through united action. Progress in science, technology, agriculture, industry, transport and communication etc. has been possible with co-operation.

(2) It is the main spring of collective life. It builds society, it conserves society. In a democratic country, co-operation has become a necessary condition of collective life and activities.

(3) It provides solution for many international problems and disputes. Because co-operation as a process of integration has the quality to bring end to different problems through united activities.

(4) Progress is granted permanence only by co-operation. Because conflict inspires the individual to progress, but he does so only if he gets co-operation.

So it may be concluded that co-operation is very indispensable for individual as well as social life.


Accommodation is another important associative social process. It is, infact a sort of co-operation among people after their conflict comes to an end. Because conflict cannot continue for an indefinite period. It must be resolved at some stage or other. The end of conflict directs the way for accommodation.

The term accommodation refers to understanding, adjustment or agreement. It is a process of getting along inspite of differences. It is a way of inventing social environments which helps people to work together whether they like it or not. It consists in the avoiding and delaying of conflict with disagreeable circumstances. Here the contending forces are adjusted to balance. It is the very foundation of a social organisation. So without accommodation, society cannot maintain its balance. Accommodation is a condition or state of mental and social understanding. For example, the workers of an industry or a factory may go on strike today for some reason but they are bound to come back to work tomorrow after some settlement with the management. In an another example, the husband and wife may quarrel for serious things at one time or another but most of the times they live together with mutual love and affection.


Some of the important definitions of accommodation are given below.

(1) Maclver and Page define that, “Accommodation refers particularly to the process in which man attains a sense of harmony with his environment.”

(2) Ogburn and Nimkoff say that, “Accommodation is a term used by the sociologists to describe the adjustment of hostile individuals or groups.”

(3) According to Gillin and Gillin, “Accommodation is the process by which competing and conflicting individuals and groups adjust their relationship to each other in order to overcome the difficulties which arise in competition, contravention or conflict.”

(4) According to George A. Lundberg, “Accommodation has been used to designate the adjustments which people in groups move to relieve the fatigue and tensions of competition and conflict.”

(5) In the opinion of Biesanz, “In one sense, accommodation is the basis of all formal social organization”

It is evident from the above definitions that it is the basis of all formal social organizations.


From the above definitions, the following characteristics of accommodation may be pointed out.

(a) Universal Process:

It is found in all societies at all time in all fields of social life. Since no society can function smoothly in a state of perpetual conflict, accommodation becomes necessary.

(b) Continuous Process:

This process is not limited to any fixed social situation. It follows sooner or later as and when conflict takes place. The continuity of accommodation does not break at all.

(c) Both conscious and unconscious Process:

Accommodation is a conscious process when the conflicting individuals or groups make efforts consciously to get accommodated to situations. But accommodation is mainly an unconscious activity.

(d) End-result of Conflict:

The hostile individuals or groups realize the importance of accommodation only after they get involved in some kind of conflict. If there is no conflict, there can be no question of accommodation.

(e) It is a Mixture of love and hatred:

According to Ogburn and Nimkoff, accommodation is the combination of love and hatred. Love leads to co-operation while hatred leads to conflict.

Forms or Methods of Accommodation:

Accommodation takes place in different ways and accordingly assumes different
forms. Some of the important forms or methods of accommodation are:


(a) Yielding to Coercion:

Most of hostile individuals or groups yield to physical or some kind of power exhibit the spirit of accommodation in order to end a conflict. For example-the weaker party submits to the stronger one out of fear and the stronger party can pressurise the weaker party by its superior strength. For example, an act of this kind happens after a war between two nations comes to an end.

(b) Compromise:

The conflict between the hostile individuals or groups having equal strength comes to an end through compromise in the process of accommodation. This is based on the principle of give and take. Here the involved parties have to make some sacrifices voluntarily for each other. So it is a kind of voluntary accommodation. When the conflicting parties realise that the continuation of conflict would cause sheer waste of their time, energy and money, they automatically want a kind of accommodation which is called compromise.

(c) Tolerance:

Tolerance is a method of accommodation in which two or more contesting parties tolerate each other with sympathy and try to understand the view point of others. They patiently bear the differences that exist between them. For example, the co- existence of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. in Indian society is due to the method of tolerance. This is the best form of accommodation.

(d) Arbitration:

When the hostile individuals or groups have equal strength and are determined to stick to their view point, there is intervention of third party, who acts as their arbitrator or mediator. The decisions of the arbitrator are binding on the parties concerned. For example, the conflict between the labour and management is resolved through the arbitration or arbitrator.

(e) Conciliation:

This is another method of accommodation in which the third party only gives some suggestions in order to terminate a conflict. But the acceptance of these suggestions is not the binding force. It is up to the discretion of the contending parties.

(f) Conversion:

This form of accommodation involves a sudden rejection of one’s beliefs, convictions and loyalties and the adoption of others. As a result of which the convincing party is likely to accept the view points of other party. In consequence, the party which has been convinced is quite likely to abandon its own ideas or beliefs or religion or claims in preference for the view point of the other side with which it tries to identify itself. For example- Ordinarily conversion is thought of only in connection with religion.

(g) Sublimation:

This is a method which involves the substitution of non-aggressive attitudes and activities for aggressive ones. In this method the conflicting groups give vent to their tendencies of aggression that is harmless to anyone else and also obviates conflict. For example-Mahatma Gandhi conquered violence and hatred by love and compassion.

(h) Rationalization:

In this method the contending parties try to justify their action on the basis of some imaginary ideas to avoid conflict. Hence, one blames others for one’s won fault. By ascribing one’s failures to others instead of accepting one’s defects, one can retain self respect. For example, sometimes the students believe that failure in the examinations is due to the defects in the valuation of answer scripts; they do not see the fact that their preparations for examinations are quite inadequate.

Accommodation is a significant integrative social process. It is not only useful to the individuals or groups but also to the entire society.

(i) Society functions smoothly with accommodation. It checks conflict and maintains co-operation among the individuals and groups which is essential for social life.

(ii) It helps the individuals and groups to adjust themselves to changed functions and statutes which are brought about by changed conditions. It helps them to carry on their life activities together even with conflicting interests.

(iii) The realisation of people that they should lead a happy and comfortable life has become possible only through accommodation.

(iv) It is the very foundation of a social oganisation. Because it consists in the avoiding and delaying of conflict with disagreeable circumstances. The contending forces are adjusted to balance in this process. Hence, society maintains its balance.


Another integrative or associative social process is assimilation. It is also one form of social adjustment. It is a process whereby persons and groups acquire the culture of other group in which they come to live, by adopting its attitudes and values, its patterns of thinking and behaving, in short, its way of life. It is more permanent than accommodation. We reach this stage of assimilation only after accommodation.

Assimilation makes the dissimilar individuals or groups similar because it is a process by which individuals or groups come to share the same sentiments and goals. For example, in India, the religious tolerance among the different religious groups is the most appropriate one as they have assimilated many points of each other’s culture into their own and have made them integral part of their own social conduct.


Some of the definitions given by eminent scholars are the following:

(i) In the opinion of Bogardus, “Assimilation is a process whereby attitudes of many persons are united and thus develop into a united group.”

(ii) Ogburn and Nimkoff defines assimilation, “As the process whereby individuals or groups once dissimilar become similar, that is, become identified in their interest and outlook.”

(iii) Biesanz and Biesanz hold the view that, “Assimilation is the social process whereby individuals or groups come to share the same sentiments and goals.”

(iv) Hurton and Hunt say that, “The process of mutual cultural diffusion through which persons and groups come to share a common culture is called assimilation.”

(v) In the words of Park and Burgess, “Assimilation is a process of interpenetration and fusion in which persons and groups acquire the memories, sentiments and attitudes of other persons or groups and, by sharing their experience and history, are incorporated into a common cultural life.”

From the above definitions it may be concluded that assimilation takes place when individuals come into close contact with other culture in a slow and gradual manner. It results in the promotion of cultural unity which leads to social integration.


From the above definitions of assimilation the following characteristics have been pointed out. They are:

(i) Universal Process:

Assimilation as a process of integration is present in every society, all the times. Hence universal in nature.

(ii) Unconscious Process:

Usually the individuals or groups involved in the process of assimilation are unconscious of what is taking place. Unconsciously one assimilate himself with others.

(iii) Slow and Gradual Process:

The process of assimilation cannot take place suddenly. Rather it takes time. It depends upon the nature of contacts. If it is primary, assimilation is natural and rapid. If it is secondary assimilation is slow.

(iv) It is a two-way Process:

It is based on the principle of give and take. When one cultural group is in contact with another, it borrows from it certain cultural elements and incorporates them into its own culture. So it affects both.

(v) It is confined to multiple fields:

The process of assimilation is not confined to a single field but it is confined to multiple fields. In the religious field, for example, it may take place when an individual or a group of individuals of a particular religious background get converted into some other religious set or group.

Role and Importance of Assimilation:

(a) In this integrative social process, the individuals or groups acquire the culture of other group in which they come to live by adopting its pattern of thinking, behaving, its attitudes and values.

(b) As assimilation is a cultural and psychological process. It results in the promotion of cultural units.

(c) It plays a very significant role in the development of human personality.

(d) It brings similarity among dissimilar individuals or groups.

(e) It brings change in old culture, customs, traditions, folkways, mores, morals, law and religion etc.

Factors contributing towards assimilation or Factors promoting assimilation:

There are some factors which facilitate the process of assimilation are given below.

(i) Toleration:

When the people of one culture tolerate the spread of another culture irrespective of their differences toleration takes place. Here, people of different culture maintain balance by developing contacts, by participating in common social and cultural activities. So toleration is an essential condition for promoting assimilation which is in turn helpful in unity and integrity of the community.

(ii) Intimacy:

The development of close social relationship makes the process of assimilation natural and its degree becomes high. But when social relationship is not so close and artificial, the process becomes slow. So intimacy is another condition for assimilation.

(iii) Cultural Equality:

If there are striking similarities between the cultures, then there is no bar for assimilation to take place. When the degree of intimacy and toleration becomes high, it facilitates the growth of this process.

(iv) Equal Economic Standard:

Difference in economic standard hinders assimilation. But individuals or groups having equal economic standard can easily establish intimacy which intern avoids jealousy, hatred and conflict. Here assimilation progresses.

(v) Amalgamation:

When individuals or groups come into close contact to one another, amalgamation takes place. For example, the matrimonial relationship between the Hindus and Non- Hindus facilitate the process of assimilation.

Factors hindering assimilation or harmful to assimilation:

There are some factors which are harmful to the growth of assimilation or the factors which obstruct the process of assimilation. These factors are explained below.

(i) Isolation:

Individuals who live separately or feel isolated cannot establish good social relationship with others in the society. So due to lack of close or intimate relationship, the process of assimilation is hampered or even it does not take place.

(ii) Cultural Differences:

Differences in culture also hinder assimilation. The cultures having different religion, race, languages, customs, traditions do not have close relationship with each other. If assimilation takes place there, it is very difficult for its continuity.

(iii) Differences in economic standard:

Difference in economic standard encourages the feeling of inferiority and superiority. There occurs the feeling of high and low. People with the feeling of superiority decline to establish social relations with those having a sense of inferiority. So differences in economic standard stand as an obstruction in the process of assimilation.

(iv) Physical Differences:

Differences in physical characteristics like colour of the skin, growth of human body and other physiological features act as hindrances to assimilation. For example, the differences in the physical features of the black and white hinder assimilation among them.

(v) Domination and Sub-ordination:

Intimate social relation is very much essential for assimilation. But assimilation is absent or is hampered when one group dominates the other. It lacks social relationship.


The most important fundamental dissociative social process is competition. It is a form of opposition or social struggle. It is a contest among individuals or groups to acquire something which has limited supply or insufficient in quantity and not easily available. It is characterized by non-co-operation. Here the competitors forces their attention on the goal or the reward they are struggling to achieve but not on themselves. They try to achieve the goal by methods other than force or fraud.

Generally in our society there is competition for getting jobs. The people who are already employed desire for better jobs. There is no competition for sunshine, water, fresh air etc. which are treated as the free gift of nature.

When there is a shift in interest from the objects of competition to the competitors themselves, it is called rivalry or personal competition. But when the individuals or groups compete with each other, not on personal level but as members of group, competition is impersonal.

Definition of Competition:

There are many definitions of competition given by different scholars. Some of the important definitions are given below:

Park and Burgess define Competition as “an interaction without social contact.”

E.S. Bogardus define Competition as “a contest to obtain something which does not exist in a quantity sufficient to meet the demand.”

Majumdar says that “Competition is the impersonalized struggle among resembling creatures for goods and services which are scarce or limited in quantity.”

Horton and Hunt opine that, “competition is the struggle for possession of rewards which are limited in supply, goods, status, and power, love anything.”

H.P. Fairchild states that, “Competition is the struggle for the use or possession of limited goods.”

From the above definitions it may be concluded that competition is a process in which individuals or groups try to obtain thing or things which have limited supply and which they cannot achieve or share collectively.”

Features of Competition:

Competition as a disintegrative social process has the following characteristic features:

(1) Universal Process:

It is the most universal social process present in all societies, whether civilized or uncivilized, rural or urban, traditional or modern in all periods of history and among all classes of people like doctors, engineers, workers, students and farmers etc.

(2) Continuous Process:

Competition is a continuous process as it never comes to an end. If one process of competition ends then another process of competition stands there. The desire for status, power and wealth in an ever increasing degree makes competition a continuous process.

(3) Unconscious Process:

The individuals or the groups who are involved in the process of competition do not bother about themselves but they are primarily concerned with the achievement of goal or reward. Hence competition takes place on an unconscious level.

(4) Impersonal Process:

Those who take part in competition do not know one another at all. They do not compete with each other on personal level. They focus their attention on the goal or reward which they are trying to achieve. They do not have any contact whatsoever. According to Ogburn an Nimkoff, “Struggle is personal competition.”

(5) Always governed by norms:

Nowhere competition is unregulated. It is always and everywhere governed by norms. Competitors are expected to use fair means to achieve success.

Forms of Competition:

Competition as a universal social process is found in all fields of social life. In our day to day life we come across many types or forms of competitions. Some of the important competitions are the following.

(i) Political Competition.

(ii) Social Competition.

(iii) Economic Competition.

(iv) Cultural Competition.

(v) Racial Competition.

(i) Political Competition:

This type of competition is found in the political field. For example, during election each and every political party competes for getting majority. This is not only found at national level but at international level. Also there is keen competition between nations who are wedded to different political ideologies.

(ii) Social Competition:

To get high social status usually this social competition is mostly observed in open societies where individual’s talent, capacity, ability as well as merit are given weightage.

(iii) Economic Competition:

In economic field economic competition is fairly observed. It is the most vigorous form of competition. It is reflected in the process of production, distribution and consumption of goods. In the economic field men compete for salaries, jobs and promotions etc. They generally compete for higher standard of living. This economic competition is not only present at individual level but also at group level.

(iv) Cultural Competition:

Cultural competition is present among different cultures. When two or more cultures try to show their superiority over others, this type of competition takes place. Here arises cultural diversities. For example, in the modern society there is cultural competition between the Hindus and the Muslims. In the ancient period, there was a strong competition between the cultures of Aryans and Non-Aryans.

(v) Racial Competition:

Like cultural competition, racial competition is found among the major races of world. When one race tries to establish its supremacy over other races, it gives birth to racial competition. For example the competition between Negroes and the whites is the bright example of racial competition.

Role and Importance of Competition:

Competition plays a significant role not only in the life of persons but also for the groups and societies. Some sociologists say that it is even more basic than the process of co-operation. Hobbes had remarked that the struggle is the basic law of life. Rousseau and Hegel also corroborated their views. Later on, in Darwin’s theory of evolution, the principle of “Survival of the fittest” also stressed the importance of competition in society. The importance of competition may be discussed under two broad headings.

They are:

(a) Positive Role

(b) Negative Role.

(a) Positive Role:

It includes the positive functions of competitions. They are:

(i) The role and status of the individual members in the society is determined by competition. Thus it assigns individuals their places in the social system.

(ii) It protects the individuals from direct conflicts and provides a solution to the problem of limited supply and unlimited demand of goods in a peaceful way.

(iii) It furnishes motivation in the desire to excel or obtain recognition or to win an award.

(iv) Fair competition is conducive to economic as well as social progress and even to general welfare as it spurs individuals and groups or to put in their best efforts.

(v) It provides social mobility to the individual members of the society. It helps them to improve their social status.

(vi) The division of labor and the entire complex economic organization in modern life are the products of competition.

(b) Negative Role:

Apart from the positive functions, competition also performs some negative functions.

(i) Unfair use of competition causes a great deal of wastage in the economic field.

(ii) Sometimes competition leads to exploitation when it is unrestricted.

(iii) Unhealthy competition creates psychological and emotional disturbances which is harmful to the society.

(iv) If competition becomes uncontrolled it takes violent form, i.e. conflict.

So from the above discussion we come to know that healthy and fair competition should be encouraged instead of unfair and unrestricted competition.


Another significant dissociative social process is conflict. It is an ever present process in human society. Whenever a person or persons or groups seek to gain reward not by surpassing other competitors but by preventing them from effective competition, conflict takes place. In other words, it is a competition in its more hostile and personal forms. It is a process of seeking to obtain rewards by eliminating or weakening the competitors. It is seen that conflict makes an individual or group try to frustrate the effort of another individual or group who are seeking the same object. It implies a struggle or fight among individuals or groups for a particular purpose or a number of purposes.

For example, the movements like Civil Disobedience, Non- Co-operation and Satyagraha launched by Mahatma Gandhi against the Britishers in India before Independence are conflict. Even in today’s society conflict is found in every sphere like caste, religion, language, culture and so on. Thus it is considered as a universal social process.


Some of the important definitions given by the sociologists are stated below:

Kingsley Davis defines Conflict, “as a modified form of struggle.”

Maclver and Page state that, “Social conflict included all activity in which men contend against one another for any objective.”

A.W. Green says, “Conflict is the deliberate attempt to oppose, resist or coerce the will of another or others.”

Majumdar defines that, “Conflict is an opposition or struggle involving an emotional attitude of hostility as well as violent interference with autonomous choice.”

Gillin and Gillin state that, “Conflict is the social process in which individuals or groups seek their ends by directly challenging the antagonist by violence or threat of violence.”

From the above definitions, it is clear that individuals or groups involved in conflict try to oppose, resist or coerce each other deliberately. It is the opposite of co-operation. It is a process which leads two or more persons or groups to try to frustrate the attempts of their opponents to attain certain objectives. Examples:

(i) The conflict between nations leads to national conflict.

(ii) The conflict between different political parties leads to political conflict.

(iii) Caste conflict, class conflict and racial conflict etc.

Features of Conflict:

From the above definitions the following characteristics may be noted.

(i) Universal Process:

Conflict is found in all societies in all periods of time. The degree and the form of conflict may vary from society to society and from time to time but it is present in all types of societies.

(ii) Conscious Process:

This is a process in which the conflicting parties are very much conscious in causing loss or injury to persons or groups. They attempt to fight or oppose and defeat each other consciously.

(iii) Personal Process:

The chief aim of conflict is to cause harm or to bring loss to the opponents. The conflicting parties personally know each other. So in this form of struggle to overcome the opponents, the goal is temporarily relegated to a level of secondary importance.

(iv) Intermittent Process:

Conflict is not as continuous as competition. It is an intermittent process. It takes place suddenly and comes to an end quickly. It never continues for ever due to the occasional occurrence of conflict.

(v) Conflict is based on violence:

Sometimes conflict takes the form of violence. Violence is harmful to the growth of the society and retards the progress as it creates a number of problems.

If conflict occurs non-violently, it maintains peace in the society which is helpful for its development.

Causes of Conflict (Why does conflict take Place?)

Conflict is a deliberate process. It does not occur spontaneously. Although it is a universal social process, its causes vary from individual to individual, group to group and from time to time. It is caused not by single factor but by multiple factors.

The famous population list Malthus says that it is caused by the means of subsistence increase in arithmetical progression and increase of population in geometrical progression. It implies that conflict arises only when the population of a country increases and the means of livelihood decreases. It results in the scarcity of the means of subsistence which leads to conflict.

Let us discuss some of the important causes of conflict.

Types of Conflict:

Conflict is found in many forms in all the societies. Some of the important classification of conflict given by different scholars are the following.

(i) Classification of Maclver and Page:

According to Maclver and Page there are mainly two types of conflict.

(a) Direct Conflict.

(b) Indirect Conflict.

(a) Direct Conflict:

In this type of conflict the conflicting individuals or groups try to harm each other directly to attain the goal or reward at the expense of their opponents even by going to the extent of injuring or destroying their rivals. Direct conflict may be of two types.

(i) Less Violent.

(ii) More Violent.

Sometimes direct conflict takes less violent form. So it is less harmful. For example litigation, propagandistic activities etc.

More violent form of direct conflict is more harmful, for example war, riots, revolutions etc.

(b) Indirect Conflict:

When the conflicting parties try to frustrate the efforts of their opponents indirectly it is called indirect conflict. The keen competition among the parties automatically takes the form of indirect conflict. For example, when two manufacturers go on lowering the prices of their commodities till both of them are declared insolvent is indirect conflict.

(ii) Classification of Gillin and Gillin:

Gillin and Gillin have given five types of conflict. They are:

(a) Personal.

(b) Racial

(c) Political

(d) Class

(e) International.

(a) Personal conflict takes place on personal level due to selfish nature of man. It takes place among the members of the same group when there is clash in their aims and ideas. For example, the conflict between two qualified persons for a common post.

(b) Racial conflict takes place among different races of the World. Some of the races feel superior to other races and some others feel inferior. So the feelings of superiority and inferiority causes racial conflict. For example, the conflict between Whites and Negroes.

(c) Political conflict is found in the political field. When the different political leaders or the political parties try to gain power in democratic countries it is called political conflict.

(d) Class conflict is present among the different classes of the society. Our modern society has been characterized by classes which are based on power, income, education etc. Although class is an open system conflict takes place among different classes due to the difference in power, income, prestige etc. For example, the conflict between the proletariat and bourgeoisie according to Karl Marx led to class struggle.

(e) International conflict takes place between different nations. When the nations try to achieve common objective by suppressing each other international conflict takes place. For example, the conflict between India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir Issue.

(iii) Classification of George Simmel:

According to George Simmel there are four major forms of conflict. They are:

(a) War

(b) Feud

(c) Litigation

(d) Conflict of Impersonal Ideals.

(a) War is a type of direct conflict. When all the efforts of the different nations fail to resolve the conflict, war takes place. This is the only solution to bring peace.

(b) Feud is another type of conflict which takes place among the members of the society. So it is also called intra-group conflict. It differs from society to society in degrees. It is also sometimes referred as factional strife.

(c) Litigation is judicial by nature. In order to redress the grievances and to get justice people take the help of judiciary which is called litigation. For example, for a piece of land when two farmers take the help of judiciary. Litigation takes place.

(d) Conflict of Impersonal Ideals-when the individuals do not aim at achieving personal gain but for some ideals it is called the conflict of impersonal ideals. Here every party tries to justify the truthfulness of its own ideals. For example, when a political party tries to show that its ideals are better than that of other political parties. This conflict takes place.

Importance of Conflict:

Although conflict is a form of struggle or fight, it is essential both for the individuals and society. It performs both constructive as well as destructive functions. Conflict is constructive in the sense when it is helpful in the smooth running of the society. It is destructive when it hinders the peaceful atmosphere and retards the progress of the society.

The chief functions of conflict may be discussed under two broad headings. They are:

(i) Positive functions

(ii) Negative functions.

Positive Function:

The positive functions are purely constructive in nature.

(a) Conflict increases fellow feeling, brotherhood and social solidarity within groups and societies. For example, inter-group conflict promotes intra-group co-operation.

(b) Conflict helps in the exchange of cultural elements when comes to an end.

(c) It changes the status of the group or society which comes to be regarded as super power.

(d) When conflict is over, the parties give up old values and accept new ones. It brings changes in old customs, traditions, folkways and mores.

(e) Sometimes conflict helps in increasing the production which adds to the national income.

Negative Function:

The negative functions are called the destructive functions. Some of the negative functions of conflict are given below.

1. In the process of conflict, the defeated party becomes psychologically and normally down.

2. Time, money and energy of the conflicting parties get exhausted.

3. Uncontrolled conflict brings violence which leads to destruction of lives and properties of the countless individuals.

4. Social solidarity is adversely affected by conflict. It hinders national integration.

5. Sometimes conflict leads to inter-group tension and disrupts group unity.

6. Conflict diverts members’ attention from group objectives.

From the above discussion we come to know that conflict has both positive and negative importance. Its positive functions are more important than the negative ones. Moreover, conflict plays a very important role in consolidating a group internally.