Intractable Conflict: Benefits & Theory

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Intractable conflict is a conflict that cannot find resolution through any means. So how can there be benefits to that? This lesson will discuss the theory of intractable conflict and the good that can come of it.

Intractable Conflict

Intractable conflicts are immense disagreements that have had a long history, an inability to resolve issues over time, high stakes, and can result in violence, either physical or emotional. Conflicts like this are based in people's identities, which makes their resolution such a challenge. One current example of such a conflict is the fight for the rights of homosexual people. One side believes that homosexuality is wrong based on morality or religion, and the other side believes that homosexuality is a product of nature (just like heterosexuality). This argument has been going on for decades, and the resolution still has not happened because both sides feel they are completely right. Due to the resulting self-righteousness, the fight escalates, sometimes turning into protests and parades, but also sometimes turning into violence.

So how can this kind of conflict actually have benefits?

Benefits of Intractable Conflict

Although intractable conflict has obvious negative connotations (such as violence, hurt feelings, and an inability to move forward) there are also benefits, even in the largest and most severe conflicts. The first is in the common saying: ''The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'' When an intractable conflict is at its height, both sides will look for allies, creating connections and friendships that last for lifetimes. Intractable conflict also:

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