Accommodation: Definition, Forms and Methods of Accommodation in Society!
Conflict, as we have seen above, is a continuous though intermittent social process but life cannot go long if groups are engaged in conflicts. Conflicts are exhausting if not annihilating.
These must, therefore, be resolved for making social life peaceful. Accommodation is resolution of conflicts which generally means adjusting oneself to the new environment. Adjustment may be to the physical or social environment.
Adjustment to the former takes place through organic or structural modification transmitted by heredity and is termed adaptation, while adjustment to the latter is achieved by an individual through the acquisition of behaviour patterns transmitted to him socially and through the adoption of new ways of behaving, and is termed accommodation.
Thus animals lower than man adjust themselves most frequently through adaptation; man does so chiefly through accommodation as he lives in a truly social environment. Accommodation is a social process, adaptation is a biological process.
According to J. M. Baldwin, accommodation denotes acquired changes in the behaviour of individuals which enable them to adjust to their environment.
Some of the definitions of accommodation are the following:
(i) Reuter and Hart:
As a process, accommodation is the sequence of steps by which persons are reconciled to changed conditions of life through the formation of habits and attitudes made necessary by the changed conditions themselves.
“The term accommodation refers particularly to the process in which man attains a sense of harmony with his environment.”
(iii) Ogburn and Nimkoff:
“Accommodation is a term used by the sociologists to describe the adjustment of hostile individuals or groups.”
“The word accommodation has been used to designate the adjustments which people in groups make to relieve the fatigue and tensions of competition and conflict.”
(v) Horton and Hunt:
“Accommodation is a process of developing temporary working agreements between conflicting individuals or groups.”
(vi) H. T. Mazumdar:
“Accommodation is a non-violent response or adjustment (a) to a stubborn situation which cannot be changed, or (b) to a situation which has changed as a result of violence and hostility, or as a result of new rules and requirements.”
(vii) Gillin and Gillin:
“Accommodation is the process by which competing and conflicting individuals and groups adjust their relationship Lo each other in order to overcome the difficulties which arise in competition, contravention or conflict.”
(viii) Sutherland and others:
“Accommodation is the process by which those once in conflict can work together in common enterprises.”
(ix) Anderson and Parker:
“Accommodation is the achievement of adjustment between people that permits harmonious acting together in social situations.”
(x) Mack and Young:
“The word accommodation has been used in two senses to indicate a condition of institutional arrangement and to indicate a process. As a condition, accommodation is the fact of equilibrium between individuals and groups. As a process it has to do with the conscious efforts of men to develop such working arrangements among themselves as will suspend conflict and make their relations more tolerable and less wasteful of energy.”
(xi) Park and Burgess:
“Accommodation is a natural resolution of conflicts. In accommodation the antagonism of the hostile element is for the time being regulated and conflict disappears as overt action although it remains latent as a potential.”
Distinction between Acclimatization and Naturalisation:
Park & Burgess mention two types of adjustments-adjustment to new natural conditions and adjustment to new social conditions. The first involves coming to terms with a new climate, type of soil etc. and is often referred to as acclimatization.
The second includes adjustment to a new social milieu; that is, new folkways, mores and institutions and is usually called naturalisation. Thus in acclimatization, the person has Lo change more or less physiologically, a process which we have termed above as adaptation; and in naturalisation, he has to undergo changes in attitude and behaviour which fundamentally involve psychological modification.
The following characteristics of accommodation may be pointed out:
(i) Accommodation is the natural result of conflict. If there were no conflicts, there would be no need of accommodation.
(ii) Accommodation is mainly an unconscious activity.
(iii) Accommodation is universal.
(iv) Accommodation is a continuous process.
(v) Accommodation is a mixture of both love and hatred.
Forms or Methods of Accommodation:
Accommodation is social adaptation that involves the invention or borrowing of devices whereby the one ethnic group develops modes of life, economic and otherwise, that complements or supplements those of the others. It is primarily concerned with the adjustment issuing from the conflict between individuals and groups.
In society individuals have to resolve their conflicts sooner or later. This compromise reached by conflicting parties has been termed “accommodation” by the sociologists. As Park and Burgess stated, in accommodation the antagonism between conflicting elements is temporarily regulated.
This is why summer referred to accommodation as “antagonistic co-operation.”
Accommodation or resolution of conflicts may be brought about in many different ways and accordingly may assume various forms, the most important of them being the following:
1. Yielding to coercion or admitting one’s defeat:
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 because has been over-powered or because of fear of being over-powered. An armistice or peace treaty following a war is an example of this form of accommodation.
In the case of actual outbreak of hostilities and use of force, conflict comes to a close when one of the antagonists achieves a clear cut victory over the other. The loser has to choose between submitting to the terms of peace imposed by the victor or continuing the conflict with the risk of being eliminated altogether.
When the combatants are of equal strength neither may be able to prevail over the other, they attain accommodation by agreeing to a compromise. In compromise each party to the dispute makes some concessions and yields to some demand of the other.
The ‘all or nothing’ attitude gives way to a willingness to yield certain points in order to gain others. “A compromise is by its nature a crazy quilt in which everyone can identify his patch, he can find consolation for his disappointment by reflecting that everyone else is disappointed too.” The settlement of the parliament disputes involves accommodation of this kind.
3. Arbitration and Conciliation:
Accommodation is also achieved by means of arbitration and conciliation which involve attempts on the part of the third party to bring about an end of the conflict between the contending parties. The labour management conflicts, the conflict between the husband and the wife and sometimes even the political conflicts are resolved through the intervention of an arbitrator or a mediator in whom both the parties have full confidence. In International Law mediation or arbitration is a recognized mode of settling international disputes.
Difference should, however, be noted between Mediation and Arbitration. Mediation is the technique of bringing estranged individuals together and creating in them the willingness to consider the possible settlement of their difficulty. The mediators may even suggest a basis for settlement in case the contestants themselves seem to have no common meeting ground.
The suggestions made by the mediator have however no binding force. Arbitration differs from mediation in that a definite decision on the issue is handed down by the individuals who serve as arbitrators, and the decision is regarded as binding on the contestants.
Toleration is the form of accommodation in which there is no settlement of difference but there is only the avoidance of overt conflict. In toleration no concession is made by any of the groups and there is no change in basic policy. It involves acceptance of some state of affairs definitely objectionable; to the accepting group but for some reasons not deemed possible or/and advisable to dispose of in a more conclusive manner.
Each group however must bear with the other. Toleration is best exemplified particularly in the field of religion where the different religious groups exist side by side, each according some rights to the others which it claims for itself.
The co-existence of states with radically different economic and social systems such as communist and capitalist systems is another example of toleration. The differences in such cases cannot be resolved as they involve irreconcilable ideologies.
Conversion involves conviction on the part of one of the contending parties that it has been wrong and its opponent right. Accordingly it may go over to the other side and identify itself with the new point of view. This process thus consists of the repudiation of one’s beliefs or allegiance and the adoption of others. Ordinarily conversion is thought of only in connection with religion but it may also occur in politics, economics and other fields.
Accommodation through rationalisation involves plausible excuses or explanations for one’s behaviour instead of acknowledging the real defect in one’s own self. One thus justifies one’s behaviour by ascribing his failure to discrimination against him instead of admitting lack of ability.
Not only individuals but groups also try to justify their action on purely imaginary grounds. Nazi Germany, for example, had advanced the reason for starting Second World War that the Allies were planning to destroy Germany. Similarly, Americans had justified their participation in it by announcing that they wanted to free the world from fascism.
7. Super-ordination and Subordination:
The most common accommodation is the establishment and recognition of the order of super-ordination and subordination. The organisation of any society is essentially the result of such a type of accommodation. In the family the relationships among parents and children are based in terms of super-ordination and subordination.
In larger groupings whether social or economic the relationships are fixed on the same basis. Even under a democratic order there are leaders and followers who give order and those who obey. When individuals ordinarily accept their relative positions as a matter of fact, accommodation is said to have reached a state of perfection.
This is what happens in slave and caste system. When the conflict between the two groups is resolved by the conquest of the one and subjugation of the other, the two groups become accommodated so that the subjugated persons accept their inferior state and as the time passes, the latter begins to accept their position as quite natural and just. So deeply rooted does this conviction become that the existing order of things is regarded as the only proper one.
When accommodation has reached such a state the perpetuation of the condition no longer depends upon external force rather on the feelings and attitudes of the inferiors themselves. Their status becomes a matter of pride to them. Furthermore, such accommodation results in harmony and relations of friendship and sympathy between the superior and the inferior.
This fact is fully illustrated in the case of the Negroes in the South in the times of the American Civil War. The household Negroes were so well adjusted to their slave status that they remained loyal to their masters and did not desert them during the war which was fought to liberate them. Even when they were made free many of them continued to be loyal to their former masters for the remainder of their lives as they could not become accommodated to a free status.
Universality of Accommodation:
Since conflict disturbs the integration of the group and since social stabilities are required for social order, therefore, in all societies efforts have been made to bring about the resolution of conflicts between antagonistic groups. Society can hardly go on without accommodation. Accommodation checks conflicts and enables persons and groups to maintain co-operation which is the sine qua non of social life.
Moreover, it enables the individuals to adjust themselves to changed conditions. Thus, it not only reduces or controls but also maintains the necessary security of a social order without which it may be difficult for the individuals to carry on their life activities together.
So many different interests and points of view are represented in our heterogeneous, complex society that accommodation is required if social life is not to be greatly disturbed. Society is essentially the result of accommodation.