Social Scientist. v 4, no. 45 (April 1976) p. 72.

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Understanding Human Conflict


CONFLICT HAS become a key concept in international relations. A great number of books have been written on the nature and structure of conflict, containing divergent views as to what causes it. Briefly, in the past, great importance was attributed to man's physical environment and its influence upon his behaviour. It was strongly believed that natural environment exercised deterministic influence on culture and individual character and that climate, natural resources,1 water or food supply^ played a decisive role in determining the social and political characteristics of the people.2

In the past hundred years or so, the rapid technological progress has, if not altogether eliminated, considerably reduced the influence of geographical variables on human behaviour. Also the concept of environment which in the past exclusively signified the natural features of earth, has been broadened enough to include non-physical (man-made) features, such as language, culture, religion, ideology and social laws. It is argued that, this man-made environment8 or the 'secondary environment' as some authors call it4, has nearly replaced or e overshadowed9 the original (physical) environment. The construction of a modern city, the development of means of mass communications and the creation of weapons of mass destruction, only to name a few elements of this second environment, have affected fundamentally the physical, mental and other characterstics of the people,

There are two conceptions of man and accordingly two approaches to the study of social conflict phenomena. Broadly, the psychoanalysis (political ^realists' as well) believe that man is conditioned by his psycho-biological development and that aggression is rooted in his nature. The change in social conditions, according to them, will not affect his

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