A New Conflict Theory of Public Equilibrium and Non-Equilibrium

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.11, 2019


A New Conflict Theory of Public Equilibrium and Non-Equilibrium



Yang Lihua, Chen Yifan and Zhou Zhiren


Conflict is a central topic common to research in political science, public administration, sociology and economics. However, existing classical conflict theory tends to emanate from the West; it not only lacks an indigenous Chinese character, but also fails to provide a systematic framework for understanding group conflicts in China. The reordering of classical group conflict theory enables us to propose a new theory of “public equilibrium and non-equilibrium” based on the logic of “control/resistance,” and to verify it through a large-scale survey. The new theory expounds the basic logic of the generation and resolution of group conflict; it can simultaneously explain the occurrence and non-occurrence of conflict and can also describe the whole process of the dynamic evolution of conflict through a unified formula, thus providing a new framework for understanding and resolving group conflicts in China. The new theory holds that group conflict is a process whereby different actors in an event reconstruct a new public equilibrium in circumstances where the old public equilibrium has broken down. Six core variables—relative satisfaction of public interest; public maintenance or readiness to cooperate; total social constraints; available public resistance; opportunities for public resistance; and total social stimulus—determine the size of the public equilibrium value and whether society is in a state of peace or conflict. When the public equilibrium value is greater than 1, overall social peace or conflict is basically resolved; if it is less than 1, conflict appears in society; and when it is equal to 1, it is on the edge of conflict. The occurrence, evolution and resolution of conflict is the result of the joint action of the six variables. Therefore, the current social transformation should aim to construct a highly flexible society, one that can accommodate the adjustment of public equilibrium. This new theory lays a foundation for further promoting the development of and empirical research on group conflict theory in China.