At Bloody Shovel, Spandrell blogs:
… Which leads me to this article ["Mistake vs. Conflict"] by Scott Alexander. He elaborates on an idea by one of his ingroup about their being two ways of looking at things, “mistake theory” and “conflict theory”. Mistake theory claims that political opposition comes from a different understanding of issues: if people had the same amount of knowledge and proper theories to explain it, they would necessarily agree. Conflict theory states that people disagree because their interests conflict, the conflict is zero-sum so there’s no reason to agree, the only question is how to resolve the conflict.
… Mistake theory and Conflict theory are not parallel things. “Mistake theory” is just the natural, tribalist way of thinking. It assumes an ingroup, it assumes the ingroup has a codified way of thinking about things, and it interprets all disagreement as a lack of understanding of the obviously objective and universal truths of the ingroup religion. There is a reason why liberals call “ignorant” all those who disagree with them. Christians used to be rather more charitable on this front and asked for “faith”, which they also assumed was difficult to achieve.
Conflict theory is one of the great achievements of the human intellect; it is an objective, useful and predictively powerful way of analyzing human disagreement. There is a reason why Marxist historiography revolutionized the world and is still with us: Marx made a strong point that human history was based on conflict. Which is true. It is tautologically true. If you understand evolution it stands to reason that all social life is about conflict.
Or it can be about setting up systems to reduce conflict, such as having separate countries or, horrors, separate country clubs.
The fight for genetical survival is ultimately zero-sum
Ehhh … we have a lot more people around today than in 10,000 BC.
and even in those short periods of abundance when it is not, the fight for mating supremacy is very much zero-sum, and we are all very much aware of that today. Marx focused on class struggle for political reasons, which is wrong, but his focus on conflict was a gust of fresh air for those who enjoy objective analysis.
Incidentally the early Chinese thinkers understood conflict theory very well, which is why Chinese civilization is still around, the oldest on earth.