Understanding What Underlies Conflicts


Political Science as a major and as a subject at Wheelock College is very different than how I have previously learned about Political Science and politics in the past. Instead of learning about the structures of different governments, legal documents, and how countries interact, coexist, or have conflicts, Wheelock takes a bottom up approach. The people affected by politics and governments are focused on, instead of government figures. Of course, these figures are still discussed, but not in as much depth as “regular” citizens. Similarly, this class about conflict resolution does not focus on the “important” or “top” political figures in the conflict, but on “regular” people affected, including people involved in rebel groups or organizations and people’s personal stories about living through conflict or war. This bottom up approach allows for an important way to look at conflict.

The Practice and Theory of International Conflict Resolution has put an emphasis on what underlies conflict throughout the course. When there is a conflict there is always a problem. The first question that should be asked when analyzing a conflict is “what is the problem?” This problem always falls into one of five categories. These categories are psychological needs that, if unmet, underlie conflicts. These needs are identity, security, control, recognition, and fairness. During a conflict, one or all of these psychological needs are not met. In order for a conflict to successfully end, these psychological needs need to be met.

Without this foundational understanding of what a conflict is and what causes conflicts, understanding and practicing conflict resolution would be unsuccessful and therefore impossible. This new knowledge and way of looking at conflicts has provided me with a different lens to look at politics and Political Science. As a Political Science major, I look forward to applying my knowledge in this course to my other Political Science courses as I continue my education at Wheelock College.

katie merrittKatherine Merritt ’17 of Peterborough, NH and majors in Political Science and Elementary Education. She is interested in learning about Political Science through the lens of Wheelock College and look forward to applying what I learn to my classroom when I am a teacher.

Learn more about Political Science and Global Studies at Wheelock College.