Accommodation: Definitions, Nature and Other Details

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The antagonistic state of affairs produced by conflict is for a brief time and impermanent. Life cannot go long if individuals or groups are engaged in conflict continuously. It must be resolved as early as possible for making life peaceful and worth living.

The conflicting parties arrange for alternatives to conflict to bring about termination of hostilities or conflicting relationships and to enable some form of co-operation. The cessation of hostilities usually occur by means of two social processes of interaction—accommodation and assimilation.

The term 'accommodation' is derived from experimental psychology, where it denotes how individuals modify their activity to fit the requirements of external social world. Although accommodation has its origin in conflict situation, still it is radically different type of interaction. In a conflict situation there are always forces operating to its cessation because conflict does not continue indefinitely.

The forces making for peace, as those making for war, are continuously operative. The transition from a state of war to a condition of peace may come in numerous ways. After sometime conflicting parties come to certain terms. This state is known as accommodation.

Definitions:

Accommodation is a form of social interaction in which ‘we get used' to the factors that are likely to lead to conflict either by force of habit, or sheer inertia, or a desire to 'live and let live'. It simply means adjusting oneself to the new environment. For adjustment (physical or social), one has to adopt new ways of behaving.

In this process of adjustment, persons are required to take a sequence of steps by which they are reconciled to changed conditions of life through the formation of habits and attitudes made necessary by the changed conditions themselves. It involves conscious and tentative forms of subordination and super-ordinations. Now, we will cite some defini­tions of the prominent sociologists.

According to Gillin and Gillin (1948) "accommodation is the term used by sociologists to describe a process by which competing and conflicting individuals and groups adjust their relationships to each other in order to overcome the difficulties which arise in compe­tition, contravention or conflict".

J.M. Baldwin notes: "Accommodation denotes acquired changes in the behaviour of individuals which enable them to adjust to their environment."

Park and Burgess (1921) observe: "Accommodation is a natural issue of conflicts. In an accommodation the antagonism of the hostile elements is temporarily regulated and conflict disappears as a overt action. Even though it remains latent and may become active again with a change in the situation."

Accommodation is "a process of developing temporary working agreements between conflicting individuals" (Horton and Hunt, 1964).

Accommodation refers to "a permanent or temporary termi­nation of rivalrous parties to function together without open hostility atleast in some respects" (Cuber, 1968).

"Accommodation is a term used by the sociologists to describe the adjustment of hostile individuals or groups" (Ogburn and Nimkoff, 1958).

Nature:

Accommodation is both a condition and a process. As a condition, accommodation is the recognition and acceptance of a set of relation­ships that defines the status of person in the group or of the group in a more inclusive social organisation (Reuter and Hart, 1933). The state of accommodation does not represent a state of complete harmony.

It is rather an acceptance of conditions in order to avoid or terminate conflict. In reality, this state represents the fact of equilibrium between individuals and groups. Conflict, out of which accommodation directly or indirectly arises, does not entirely disappear in accommodation. It continues to exist as a kind of potential opposition. In some cases, conflict appears in a disguised or sublimated form.

Indifference, reticence and cynicism are some of the forms of accommodation. As a process, it refers to the adjustment by means of which overt conflict is resolved and competition restrained within fixed limits.

The glaring example is the adjustment between husband and wife that enables each to realise personal wishes in a measure and with a minimum of friction and to carry on a tolerable common life. The person, who goes to a new social situation, has to develop new habits and interests in accord with the new situation and his/her accommodation to it is then underway.

The example of Indian bride is most appropriate to cite here. In order to accom­modate herself in the family of her husband, she has to make many adjustments. For adjustment conscious efforts are made by persons to develop working arrangements among themselves and try to make their relations more tolerable.

Characteristics:

Form the above description; we may sum up the characteristics of accommodation as follows:

(1) It is the natural result of conflict (Park and Burgess, 1921). Even if conflict disappears as an overt action, it remains latent as a potential.

(2) It is a universal process.

(3) It is a continuous process. It changes with the changing environment.

(4) It is a state in which the attitudes of love and hate coexist (Ogburn and Nimkoff, 1958).

(5) It is generally a subconscious process.

(6) It is an agreement to disagree (Jones, 1949).

(7) It involves changes in habits, attitudes, patterns of behaviour, techniques, institutions and traditions etc. according to the changed conditions of life.

Forms/Methods:

Accommodation takes a number of forms. Some are deliberately planned; others arise as unplanned products of group interaction. It is brought in many different ways.

The more important of these are described below:

Yielding to Coercion:

Coercion means the use of force or the threat of force to terminate a conflict. It usually involves parties of unequal strength, the weaker party yields and submits itself to the wishes of the stronger group, because of the fear of being overpowered. This happens only when the parties are so unequal in power that resistance seems useless or impossible.

Compromise:

Compromise is the adjustment of the opposed wishes of people in which each contender gives up part of his demands. When all the parties are of equal strength or powerful enough so that none of them want conflict, they may compromise their differences. It involves a limited surrender by all groups in order to end or avoid conflict.

In compromise, each party agrees to make some concessions and yields to some demands of other in order to reach an agreement. In this type of accommodation the spirit of 'give and take' prevails. Politics may be seen as a continual round of shifting power positions and changing compromises. Illustrations of compromise in labour-management disputes are numerous. Family differences are often settled through compromise.

Arbitration and Conciliation:

The techniques of arbitration, mediation and conciliation are generally used in arranging compromises. These involve the third party to bring about an end of the conflict between contending parties. Such techniques are often helpful in breaking deadlocks of hostile relations. The labour-management conflicts usually are resolved through the intervention of an arbitrator or a mediator.

The UNO frequently serves in the role of arbitrator at an international level. The great difficulty .with arbitration is the securing of a mediator who has the confidence of both sides in the controversy. Arbitration differs from mediation in that a definite decision is handed down by the arbitrators and the decision is regarded as binding. In the mediation, the suggestions made by the mediator have no binding force. Compromise is rarely an ideal solution because it does not last long.

Toleration:

Where compromise is unacceptable yet agreement not absolutely necessary, people or groups may use toleration as an alternative to conflict. In this form of accommodation, interacting parties may agree to disagree.

People accept each other's right to differ without demanding settlement. Each party holds its position, but respects the fact that the other party has an opposing viewpoint. Religious conflict, such as the demolition of Babri Masjid, is a classic example of this situation. Both parties to this issue 'tolerate' each other, despite the fact that the basic issue is not eliminated.

Conversion:

In this form of accommodation, one of the acting parties accepts and adopts the views of the other on the ground that it has been wrong and its opponent is right. Conversion is frequently related to religious beliefs but it may also occur in politics and other fields.

Rationalisation:

Accommodation through rationalisation involves plausible excuses or explanations for one's behaviour instead of acknowledging the real defect in one's own self. Recently, the American government has justified its attack on Iraq on the ground that Iraq has nuclear weapons.

Super ordination and subordination:

The fundamental pattern of accommodation is of reciprocal superi­ority (super ordination) and subordination. The whole web of relationships between two persons is commonly complex series of subordinations in which one or the other is subordinated according to the character of the situation in which they are jointly involved.

For example, in legal matters, the physician is subordinate to the lawyer whereas in medical matters the lawyer assumes the subordinate role. The organisation of all societies is essentially the result of such a type of accommodation. From family to larger groupings (political, economic or religious), we can see such types of relationships.

Accommodation by subordination is effective under two condi­tions. The first is that the dominant party should be so strong as to force the other to submit. The second condition under which subordi­nation as a form of accommodation may be successful is that relationships of subordination should be socially sanctioned as a part of the social structure and heritage of society.

The hierarchical structure of military organisation, with the clearly defined superior and subordinate ranks or the familial relationships between parents and children, are good examples of such type of accommodation.

Truce:

A truce is an agreement to cease rivalries interaction for a definite or indefinite period of time. The purpose is usually to give both parties time to review the issue in the light of proposals or suggestions for settlement. This form of accommodation is temporary, usually giving way to a more permanent form.

Displacement:

Displacement involves termination of one conflict by replacing it with another. Use of a 'scapegoat' is a displacement technique; the problem of a group (a nation or a village) may be blamed on an individual or on a minority or on imperialists, etc.

Institutionalised Means:

The structure of various societies may provide institutionalised means for release of tensions. They work as safety valves for resolving of hostility. These means may provide us a form of accommodation in bringing about termination of antagonistic relationships. Community sports, wrestling and other tournaments (cricket matches between India and Pakistan), special feast days, religious and other festivals are its few examples.

Accommodation and Adaptation:

Accommodation is to be differentiated from adaptation although both are forms of adjustment. Whereas 'adaptation' may be defined as structural change in the organism which takes place through biological variation and selection. The term 'accommodation' is reserved for functional changes in the habits and customs of persons and group changes which are transmitted socially rather than biologically.

Adaptation is a biological concept. Accommodation is an outcome of conflict, while the adaptation is a natural issue of compe­tition. Adaptation is an end result in the process of biological evolution. It refers to the biological process of selection which operates through a series of generations and tends to produce organic forces better and better fitted to their environing circumstances.

As a condition, it refers to the biological state of a species. Accommodation is not a selective process and involves no change in the organic type. It is a learning process that fits the person to the environing social conditions by way of changes in habits, senti­ments and ideas. As a process, accommodation is a mode of transition from one prior condition, usually one of conflict, to another. It involves a sequence of steps by which persons are reconciled to the changed conditions of life.

The distinction between accommodation and adaptation is well illustrated by Park and Burgess (1921) in the difference between domestication and training. Domestication is a specific type of adaptation. It is a matter of selection, through generations, of variants and the gradual production of a new biological form. Training, on the other hand, is a specific form of accommodation. The tamed animal acquires a set of habits that allow it to live in associ­ation with man; it undergoes no organic change in so doing.

Importance:

Accommodation is one of the familiar and commonplace facts of everyday life. The situation into which a child is born is never one that satisfies the wishes of his original nature. He has to accept the arrangements that characterize the particular group and culture.

Such accommodations are a part of the social heritage. They are accepted without question by the persons born and reared in the society. All through the life, the process of accommodation goes on, changing the person to the changing surroundings. It involves changes in habits, attitudes, patterns of behaviour, techniques, insti­tutions and traditions etc., according to changed conditions of life. Society can hardly go on without accommodation.

It checks conflicts and brings unity between opposing elements. Our society is by and large a complex of competing interests. It is also a fact that the competing individuals or groups are not always having equal power and resources. One may dominate and the result is conflict at many a time. It may be harmful to both the opposing parties if the conflict is not checked and hence accommodation comes to play. Besides, accommodation creates a background for another social process, namely, assimilation.


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