Cultural conflict

Cultural conflict is a type of conflict that occurs when different cultural values and beliefs clash. It has been used to explain violence and crime.

Wider definition[edit]

Jonathan H. Turner defines it as a conflict caused by "differences in cultural values and beliefs that place people at odds with one another".[1] On a micro level, Alexander Grewe discusses a cultural conflict between guests of different culture and nationality as seen in a British 1970 sitcom, Fawlty Towers.[2] He defines this conflict as one that occurs when people's expectations of a certain behavior coming from their cultural backgrounds are not met, as others have different cultural backgrounds and different expectations.[2]

Cultural conflicts are difficult to resolve as parties to the conflict have different beliefs.[3] Cultural conflicts intensify when those differences become reflected in politics, particularly on a macro level.[3] An example of cultural conflict is the debate over abortion.[3] Ethnic cleansing is another extreme example of cultural conflict.[4] Wars can also be a result of a cultural conflict; for example the differing views on slavery were one of the reasons for the American civil war.[5]

Narrow definition[edit]

A more narrow definition of a cultural conflict dates to Daniel Bell's 1962 essay, "Crime as an American Way of Life", and focuses on criminal-enabling consequences of a clash in cultural values.[6] William Kornblum defines it as a conflict that occurs when conflicting norms create "opportunities for deviance and criminal gain in deviant sub-cultures".[6] Kornblum notes that whenever laws impose cultural values on a group that does not share those views (often, this is the case of the majority imposing their laws on a minority), illegal markets supplied by criminals are created to circumvent those laws.[6] He discusses the example of prohibition in the interbellum United States, and notes how the cultural conflict between pro- and anti-alcohol groups created opportunities for illegal activity; another similar example he lists is that of the war on drugs.[6]

Kornblum also classifies the cultural conflict as one of the major types of conflict theory.[6] In The Clash of Civilizations Samuel P. Huntington proposes that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

Influence and understanding[edit]

Michelle LeBaron describes different cultures as "underground rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments, and ideas of self and other".[7] She states that cultural messages "shape our understandings" when two or more people are present in regards to relationships, conflict, and peace.[7] LeBaron discusses the influence of culture as being powerful and "unconscious, influencing conflict and attempts to resolve conflict in imperceptible ways".[7] She states that the impact of culture is huge, affecting "name, frame, blame, and attempt to tame conflicts".[7] Due to the huge impact that culture has on us, LeBaron finds it important to explain the "complications of conflict".[7] First, "culture is multi-layered", meaning that "what you see on the surface may mask differences below the surface".[7] Second, "culture is constantly in flux", meaning that "cultural groups adapt in dynamic and sometimes unpredictable ways".[7] Third, "culture is elastic", meaning that one member of a cultural group may not participate in the norms of the culture.[7] Lastly, "culture is largely below the surface", meaning that it isn't easy to reach the deeper levels of culture and its meanings.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jonathan H. Turner (1 September 2005). Sociology. Prentice Hall. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-13-113496-6. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b Alexander Grewe (17 October 2005). "I'm sick to death with you..." or External Character Conflicts in Fawlty Towers. GRIN Verlag. p. 10. ISBN 978-3-638-42885-9. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Jonathan H. Turner (1 September 2005). Sociology. Prentice Hall. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-13-113496-6. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  4. ^ Margaret L. Andersen; Howard F. Taylor (1 January 2012). Sociology: The Essentials. Cengage Learning. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-111-83156-1. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  5. ^ Michael Fellman (19 April 1990). Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War. Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-19-506471-1. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e William Kornblum (31 January 2011). Sociology in a Changing World. Cengage Learning. pp. 191–192, 195, 197, 205. ISBN 978-1-111-30157-6. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Culture and Conflict". Beyond Intractability. Retrieved 2013-04-21.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hazel Rose Markus; Alana Conner (2014). Clash!: How to Thrive in a Multicultural World. ISBN 978-0142180938.