East European Communities: The Struggle for Balance in Turbulent Times

By David A. Kideckel | Go to book overview

8
Changing Conflicts
and Their Resolution
in Polish Communities Today

Jacek Kurczewski

Attention to conflicts is present throughout the history of social sciences though opinions on the social consequences of conflict vary. An influential minority holds, however, that conflicts have positive social effects that outweigh all of their other disruptive and disintegrative effects. This position is explicitly assumed by Polish experts who advise local communities. For instance, Grazyna Gesicka writes:

Appropriately "played" conflicts may have even positive influence on development of a group. A conflict situation in itself is not dangerous. It becomes dangerous...only when it is accompanied by lack of integrative capacity. It is possible to change conflict from zero-sum game into "integrative bargain", that is, situation in which parties define together the common interests zone ( Gesicka 1993:22).

Most recently, Hirschman ( 1994) argued that democratic market society lives on the "steady diet of conflicts" that it learns to manage, in contrast to Communist society that suppresses overt expression of conflicts but ends up in stagnation. However, these "peaceful contradictions," as Hirschman calls them in a knowing reference to Marxist distinctions, are conflicts centered around divisible issues, the so-called "more-or-less conflicts." They stand in marked opposition to "either-or" conflicts around non-divisible issues, and which may not be handled so easily or effectively. Nonetheless, Hirschman's distinction between the nature and treatment of social conflict in communist and capitalist society

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