People work together, strive with one another, and have personal issues that drive conflict. This lesson defines the social processes of cooperation, competition, and conflict and discusses their similarities and differences.

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

Building a business had always been the biggest goal of Brady’s life. He wanted to start it on his own and make it a proposition of which he could be proud. He had learned how to use a smoker from his mother and had several good family spice rub recipes that he was going to use to start a barbecue place. He had help getting the restaurant started, and the day came when he was able to open his doors.

Before he got into the business, he checked the competition and determined the best place to locate. He had a good location in the town and no other barbecue restaurants within a couple of miles. Unfortunately, there was a long-established Chinese restaurant right next door. He began to have problems with the owner of that restaurant as soon as he opened, and the antagonism just got worse.

Brady was realizing his dream, but he was also beginning to realize that he couldn’t have opened without the cooperation of those who had helped him. He also saw that there was always going to be competition for customers and conflict with other business owners. Brady was in the midst of a class in social processes whether he wanted to be or not.

What Is Social Process?

The term social process describes a change that is consistent within a society over time. Though many of these processes have been defined, the processes of cooperation, competition, and conflict are three of the most common and stable within a society. These three processes, along with the others that have been defined, are seen as interactions between individuals within a society.

When people interact, there are a few outcomes that can happen. Among these possible outcomes are:

  • Cooperation, which is when two or more people have a common goal that they work together to accomplish.
  • Competition, which is when two or more people strive against one another to gain possession of some good or service.
  • Conflict, which is a deliberate action in which one individual attempts to thwart the will of another.

Direct cooperation is when people cooperate dependently, meaning they work directly together. Indirect cooperation is when people are working independently, separately, toward the same goal. Competition occurs in many endeavors such as athletics, business, and among nations. The concept of conflict is very broad and encompasses many different types of actions.

Intersections and Differences

Of course, these social processes do not always happen independently. People who are working together toward a common goal (cooperating) will often have a conflict until they resolve a difficulty in their decision making. In an athletic competition, there’s often a great deal of conflict between the opposing sides, but there is a great deal of cooperation among the members of each team.

The primary difference between cooperation and the other two is that cooperation is associative, meaning that people are working together, while conflict and competition are by nature dissociative, meaning that people are working against each other. While it may seem that conflict and competition are similar enough that there is no need for both terms, there are differences.

  • Conflict is directed toward another individual, but competition has no regard for the individuals involved.
  • Within competition there are many opportunities for cooperation, but conflict is the antithesis of cooperation.
  • Conflict happens in a single, short-lived event, whereas competition is a process that continues indefinitely.

It can also be said that many systems within society contain elements of both conflict and cooperation. No family is without conflict, but it endures due to the cooperation of its members.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review;

A social process is a change that is consistent within a society over time. There are many different types but cooperation (people working together toward a common goal), competition (people striving against each other to gain a product or service), and conflict (one individual opposing the will of another) are among the most common. The three social processes of cooperation, competition, and conflict are present everywhere in society, and it’s not uncommon to have one or more processes occurring at the same time.