The Benefits Of Conflict (A Study)


By: Donald L Swanson

conflict has its own advantages and can be productive.”

–From “Benefits of Conflict” [Fn. 1].

The “Benefits of Conflict” study shows how international conflicts “can be beneficial” for the countries in conflict.

Moreover, the study’s findings and conclusions may have merit in the context of inter-personal relations and mediation as well.

What follows is a summary of the study and its findings and conclusions.

“Conflict” Defined

A “conflict” is a clash of interests—often driven by a sense of:

  • grievance;
  • scarcity;
  • inequality;
  • cultural or moral differences; or
  • the distribution of power.

“Conflict” possesses a negative connotation.

Longing for Peace

People often long for an no-conflict environment, and the modern world sees the future of international relations like this: in perpetual peace.

Note: John Lennon expresses the longing for peace like this:

“Imagine there’s no countries; It isn’t hard to do; Nothing to kill or die for . . . ; Imagine all the people; Livin’ life in peace; You may say I’m a dreamer; But I’m not the only one; I hope someday you’ll join us; And the world will live as one.”

Creating Change

Unfortunately, however, conflict is a part of human interactions at all levels, and conflict has the capacity to change things sharply and irrevocably.

Without conflict:

  • behavior and relationships stay the same; and
  • there is no revelation of problems or encouragement to find solutions.

With conflict:

  • new ideas arise;
  • an opportunity arises to verbalize demands;
  • parties attempt to set limits; and
  • solutions can arise.

Realities of Conflict

Conflict-related realities include:

  • each social system and social interaction contains elements of tension and potential conflict;
  • every conflict is potentially dangerous;
  • sometimes conflict is inevitable; and
  • sometimes there is no way, other than through conflict, to solve existing problems.

Benefits from Conflict

Benefits from conflict can include, according to the study:

  • Solidifying a loosely structured group. In a disconnected group, conflict with another group creates an ability to integrate. For example, cohesiveness of the Jewish population in Israel might be connected to an unending dispute with the Arabs.  
  • Creating technological progress.  The rise in wages, from trade union activity, leads to a substitution of capital investment for labour.  For example, the extreme mechanization of American coal mining results, in part, from militant unionism in the coalfields of the United States.
  • Creating new means for profit. Conflict frequently creates material rewards and enables disputants to enhance their own power.  For example, Iran’s economy has suffered under sanctions over Iran’s nuclear power program . . . but:
    • Iranian elites have actually profited from the situation by a forced diversification of the Iranian economy and by a devaluation of the currency—enabling them to export non-oil goods at competitive prices; and
    • Higher costs of military spending create employment and economic benefits throughout the economy.

Third Party Profit from Conflict

A down-side of conflict is often this: a third party gains from the dispute, with aspirations that are detrimental to the parties in conflict.

Examples include:

  • Belarus strengthens Russia’s positions, when Belarus exerts economic and political authority and creates conflict in the region. In return, Russia supports Belarus. As a result, the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko (known as the “last dictator” in Europe), “is now totally dependent on Putin for his survival in office.”
  • The U.S. arms industry provides weapons to disputing parties.


The study concludes with the following:

  • Conflict can change something sharply and irrevocably;
  • Without conflict, relations between parties can be frozen, regardless of whether those relations are fair and productive;
  • Conflict can reveal deep-seated issues and encourage disputing sides to find solutions; and
  • Conflict has a positive side in almost every situation.

The “Benefits of Conflict” study focuses on international conflicts—between countries. 

However, the study’s findings and conclusions appear to have merit in the context of interpersonal relations and mediation as well.


Footnote 1.  The study is titled “Benefits of Conflict,” is authored by Yelisaveta Andakulova at University of Vienna, and is published by Academia Letters, Article 2479 (2021).

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