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  A situation involving struggle among two or more protagonists. Within geography, studies of struggles characterize not only political geography but also much social and economic geography; many of the patterns that geographers analyse are the outcome of conflicts, which then provide the context for further conflicts.

Much study of conflict focuses on the activities of the state, which fall into three main types. First, those controlling the state apparatus operate the \'police power\', which enables them to restrict individual freedoms in order to promote what they identify as the \'general good\'. (In some arguments, this is a necessary state function, since individuals operating freely are unlikely to achieve what is in their own, let alone society\'s, best interests: see tragedy of the commons.) Urban land-use zoning is a good example of the police power in operation, whereby an individual owner\'s freedom to use a piece of land for any purpose is constrained to those purposes considered best for the community as a whole.

Secondly, the state is frequently called upon to arbitrate in conflicts and to identify and ensure a resolution. Those which are resolved — usually through its quasi-independent judicial apparatus (see law, geography of) — involve either two or more parties who claim a legal transgression (such as breach of contract) or the state itself claiming that individuals have violated a law or regulation.

Finally the state acts to defend its sovereign territory (see sovereignty; territoriality) against external aggressors and, in certain circumstances, to extend it, which will probably involve military activity: the description and analysis of such conflicts is at the core of the study of geopolitics.

Many of the conflicts involving the state are over the occupation and use of land, including concerns over sustainable development: issues of conservation and preservation are central to many such conflicts at all spatial scales (see law of the sea, for example). Land use is also a source of conflicts among neighbours — for example between the residents of a district who wish to protect its character and those promoting alterations to it, with potential externalities that could affect people\'s properties and levels of living (see Cox and Johnston, 1982).

Empirical studies of conflicts and their outcomes tend to focus on their appearance only, with little appreciation of the contexts in which they have emerged. Increasingly, however, conflicts over the environment and land use are being studied within a theoretical structure provided by the understanding of capitalism in which the fundamental conflict is between the two main economic classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but within which there are many others involving fractions of the two classes and even fractions of the same class. Many conflicts involve the manipulation of space and the use of nature to promote wealth accumulation, as illustrated by Massey\'s (1996) study of the conflicts between employers and their labour forces in the restructuring of British industry and Clark\'s (1988) analysis of the role of trades unions in the reorganization of the American space economy.

At the international scale, the growing intersection of studies in political geography and international relations is providing a structure for analysing the geography of conflicts between countries. Taylor (1989, 1996), for example, has linked the changing geography of uneven development to the rise and fall of particular nation-states as world powers and has related the pattern of conflicts, and the geopolitical transitions that may follow their resolution, to the Kondratieff cycles which characterize the operation of the capitalist economy (see world-systems analysis; on international conflict resolution, see regime theory). (RJJ)

References and Suggested Reading Clark, G.L. 1988: Unions and communities under siege. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cox, K.R. and Johnston, R.J., eds, 1982: Conflict, politics and the urban scene. London and New York: Longman. Massey, D. 1996: Spatial divisions of labour: social structures and the geography of production. London: Macmillan. Taylor, P.J. 1989: Political geography: world-economy, nation-state and community, 2nd edn. London and New York: Longman. Taylor, P.J. 1996: The way the modern world works: world hegemony to world impasse. Chichester and New York: John Wiley.



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