“Life is a series of interruptions and recoveries.” Thus, conflicts are bound to be there in life. Still the conflicting individuals and groups sooner or later are forced to find a way to reconcile their differences.
Husband and wife may quarrel for some petty or serious things at one time or another but most of the times they live together with mutual love and affection. Workers may go on strike today for some reason but they are bound to come back to work tomorrow after some settlement with the management.
Students may boycott their classes in the morning to register their protest against a particular policy of the college authority, but they may reconcile with the situation and return to the classes in the afternoon.
Similarly, war is followed by peace. It is in this sense of compromise or agreement reached by the conflicting individuals and parties that the sociologists have used the concept of accommodation.
Definition of Accommodation:
1. The famous psychologist J.M. Baldwin was the first to use the concept of accommodation. According to him, the term denotes acquired changes in the behaviour of individuals which help them to adjust to their environment.
2. MacIver says that “the term accommodation refers particularly to the process in which man attains a sense of harmony with his environment.”
3. Lundberg is of the opinion that “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.”
4. According to Ogburn and Nimkoff. “Accommodation is a term used by the sociologists to describe the adjustment of hostile individuals or groups.”
Characteristics of Accommodation:
1. Accommodation is the natural result of conflict:
Since conflicts cannot take place continuously they make room for accommodation. When parties or individuals involved in conflict do not relish the scene of conflict they sit down for its settlement. Such settlements, temporary or permanent, may be called ‘accommodation’. In the absence of conflicts the question of arriving at accommodation does not arise.
2. Accommodation may be a conscious or an unconscious activity:
Man’s adjustment with the social environment is mostly unconscious. From birth to burial man has to behave in conformity, with the normative order. The new born individual learns to accommodate himself with the social order which is dictated by various norms such as customs, morals, traditions, etc.
He would not become a full-fledged member of the group if he failed to adjust himself to the social environment. Thus, unconsciously the new born individual accommodates himself with his family, caste or race, neighbourhood, play-group, school, church, place of work, in brief, with the total environment. Life is full of such unconscious accommodative activities.
Accommodation becomes conscious when the conflicting individuals and groups make a deliberate and an open attempt to stop fighting and start working together. Example: warring nations entering into pacts to stop wars. Striking workers stopping strike after having an understanding with the management, etc.
3. Accommodation is Universal:
Accommodation as a ‘condition’ and as a ‘process’ is universal. Human society is composed of antagonistic elements and hence conflicts are inevitable. Since no society can function smoothly in a state of perpetual conflict, accommodation becomes necessary. Thus accommodation is found in all societies and in all fields of social life.
4. Accommodation is Continuous:
The process of accommodation is not confined to any particular stage in the life of an individual. It is not limited to any fixed social situation also. On the contrary, throughout the life one has to accommodate oneself with various situations. Further, as and when conflicts take place sooner or later accommodation would follow. Not only the individuals but also the groups within the society are obliged to accommodate among themselves.
5. The effects of accommodation may vary with the circumstances:
It may act to reduce the conflict between persons or groups as an initial step towards assimilation. It may serve to postpone outright conflict for a specific period of time, as in a treaty between nations or labour-management agreement.
It may permit groups marked by sharp socio-psychological distance to get along together. It may prove to be beneficial for the parties involved in it. Sometimes it may help the superior or more powerful party to impose its will on the weaker party.