Conflict Management : Two Extreme Approaches : Agonology versus Satyagraha

We live in a conflict-ridden environment and we do not know what to do about it.

Is it wise to neglect issues and allow conflicts to go on indefinitely in the hope that the conflicts will resolve themselves…?


Musings of a Veteran By Vikram Karve

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:


We live in a conflict-ridden environment and we do not know what to do about it.

It seems that we are confused.

There are so many conflicts going on right now.

There are conflicts constantly happening all over the world.

There are internal security issues — and law and order problems — within the country.

Politicians and Political Parties are perpetually in a state of conflict with each other.

There is antagonism and ill-will between sections of society.

There is an environment of rancor and bitterness everywhere.

For example — look at the acrimony between Military Veteran Ex-Servicemen and Civilian Bureaucracy (“Babus”) — or for that matter the bad-blood between the Defence Services and the Civil Services.

In other places too — there is increasing resentment between various cadres of employees.

In the corporate world — there is conflict between competing businesses.

There is an increase in “gender conflict” too — at home, at work, and in society — and this leads to violence against women at both the domestic and societal levels.

It seems that these conflicts are allowed to fester — because we seem confused — and do not know how to deal with all these issues.

You cannot neglect the issue and allow conflicts to go on indefinitely in the hope that the conflicts will resolve themselves.

If you adopt this approach — conflicts will aggravate — and things may worsen to such an extent — that you will have to pay a heavy price.

Conflicts have to be resolved.

And — in order to resolve conflict — can you afford to “look the other way”…?

Is it wise to be indifferent — and hope for the best — and wish that the immortal panacea — “Time” will resolve conflicts…?

Should you hope for some divine miracle to solve your conflicts…?

Can you afford to be complacent in the hope that someone else will resolve your conflicts for you…?

You have to deal with and resolve your own conflicts yourself.

You cannot “outsource” this — because outsourcing conflict resolution may create an even bigger problem — as history has shown.

How do you resolve conflicts..,?

Which conflict-resolution approach do you adopt…?

There are contrasting approaches to resolving conflict — and all conflict-resolution methods lie in between the two extreme theories of conflict resolution.


The two extreme approaches to resolving conflict are:



Agonology employs a strategy of deceit.

The objective is to defeat the opponent by using whatever means — violent and non-violent — which may be expedient.

The cardinal principle of Agonology is to make the opponent’s position as difficult as possible.

Escalate the conflict — especially if it creates more difficulties for your opponent than you.

Strike first at the opponent’s most vital parts.

Attack the opponent frontally and internally.

Make the enemy bleed externally and internally by giving him a “thousand cuts”.

Destroy and degrade his resources — and if possible — subvert his resources and try to use his own resources against him.

Deceive your opponent — never disclose your “true” intentions, motives and tactics.

Commit “irrational” acts from time to time to confuse your opponent.

Go in for the “kill” — at the earliest favourable opportunity.

Push your opponent against the wall — into a tight corner — and leave your opponent with only one way out — and that is — to surrender to your wishes.

Yes — create a situation so that your enemy has to surrender to your wishes.

Make him resolve the conflict on your terms without any “give and take”.


Gandhian Satyagraha employs a “truth” strategy.

In this context — “Truth” means a resolution of the conflict without compromising your own cardinal principles, beliefs and values.

The objective of Satyagraha is to achieve an agreement with the opponent acceptable to both sides by engaging him in a search for “truth” — using only nonviolent means.

The basic premise of Satyagraha is to engage your opponent by non-violent means in a search for “truth” — which will lead to a mutually favourable solution — and result in amicable resolution of the conflict.

Satyagraha is based on ethical principles.

You never take undue advantage of your opponent’s difficulties.

You try to cool down the conflict — and search for avenues of cooperation on honorable terms — in a spirit of “give and take”.

You protect the opponent’s person and his resources.

You do not take any actions that will make your opponent “lose face”.

You never lie — you never hold anything back — and you keep your opponent informed of your actions.

You reduce your demands to a minimum — consistent with “truth”.

You try your best to extend areas of rationality in searching for a mutually acceptable solution.

You launch direct action only after exhausting all efforts to achieve an honorable settlement — but all your actions are strictly non-violent.


Agonology and Satyagraha are two extreme contrasting approaches to resolving conflict.

You cannot swing from one extreme to another — as this causes confusion — and exacerbates the conflict — rather than mitigate it.

For each conflict — you have to formulate a specific conflict resolution strategy

You may — at first — take a middle-of-the-road approach.

If you can resolve the conflict — it is well and good.

Otherwise — you will have to move towards one of the extremities — and decide between Agonology and Satyagraha.

Dear Reader:

Do tell us — for the various intractable “unresolvable” conflicts going on in our present-day scenario — which approach do your suggest — Agonology or Satyagraha…?

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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger