In our previous post, we discussed social stratification, its functions and dysfunctions. Social processes in rural society will be discussed in this article. Here, you will read about the major basic social processes which comprise: competition, conflict, cooperation, accommodation, assimilation and acculturation. After studying this topic, you are expected to have achieved the objectives listed below.

After studying this topic, you should be able to:

· discuss briefly the two forms of oppositionnamely competition and conflict

· write explanatory note on the term“Cooperation”

· outline vividly what is accommodation

· explain assimilation and acculturation.

Social Processes

Interaction among the people of a society occurs withinthe structure of society in certain specific forms, referred to as socialprocesses. Social interaction is, “society in action” and has been defined asthe “dynamic interplay of forces in which contact between persons and groupsresult in a modification of the attitude and behaviour of the participants”(Suntherland, 1961). Social interaction which assumes a repetitive pattern in aspecific direction becomes a social process. Social processes then refer to“repetitive forms of behaviour which are commonly found in social life”.

The interaction of people in the rural area is withinthe context of some dynamic processes. Sometimes the rural people join hands toaccomplish some tasks such as digging of a community source of water throughcooperation. The few community members who are hereby deprived of their usualsource of water for irrigating their farm might disagree with others on thisproposal. Their resistance might lead to open hostility or conflict. Farmerswho successfully grow their dry season vegetables by obtaining irrigation waterfrom other sources than that used by the community might attract the same groupof customers to buy their products through the process of competition. Whensome cultures coexist in a society through mutual adoption, they are able to dothis through the process of accommodation. One culture may absorb the otherthrough assimilation. When two cultures are blended, the process involved isacculturation. It is therefore important that a student of the rural societyshould understand how these and other rural social processes are operating.


Opposition and cooperation are twoimportant social processes.

Opposition is the struggle of one against the other inthe attempt to achieve something good, while cooperation is the unification ofthe efforts of one with the other in the attempt to attain a goal. Two forms ofopposition are distinguishable, namely competition and conflict. The two processes differ in the following ways:

  1. Competition iscontinuous, taking place in all places and situations where livingorganizations exist; conflict is intermittent arising in crisis situations;
  2. Competition isopposition without personal contact and attack; conflict frequently involvescontact and attack.
  3. Competition isoften unconscious; conflict is a conscious interaction;
  4. Competitiondoes not injure the opponent directly or necessarily change his status;conflict could result in both.
  5. Competitionoften proceeds with a high degree of orderliness conflict is characterized bypronounced disorderliness.

Competition is the social process or form of socialinteraction in which two or more individual or groups strive against each otherfor the possession or use of some material or non-material good. The focus isprimarily on the achievement of the objective desired by both and secondarilyon each other. The goal or objective by its nature, quality or quantity may besuch that only one can achieve, or secure it, making the competition moreintense.

According to Horton, 1964 competition is the strugglefor possession of material and /or non-material items that are in limitedsupply and has been defined as “the process of seeking to monopolize a rewardby surpassing all rival”. There is competition in nature among plants andanimals, and “survival of the fittest” is based on competition for commoditiesthat are in short supply. Those commodities may be material such as money,land, residences, or non-material as those that have prestige value, or givestatus and power, such as the executive position in government or industry,national champion, Member of Parliament or office bearer of a leading politicalparty, etc.

Forms of Competition.

Several sub-types of competition have been identified.Some of the more important are as follows:

  1. Absolute and Relative competition: Absolute competition exists whenthe goal is such that it can be achieved or secured by one competitor only at atime, and he is declared the victor. There is hence only one Olympic victor,one person who can be elected president of a country. All other competitorsmust be eliminated before one can claim victory. Relative competitions, on theother hand, are based on the degree to which a goal or objective may be achievedby competitors, there is thus competition for money, for other forms of wealthor for prestige, yet competitors do not expect to achieve all the money, wealthor prestige, but do strive to outdo others in securing more of thesecommodities.
  2. Personal and Impersonal Competition: In personal competition the focusor attention of each competitor is on other competitors whom he strives toeliminate as well as on the goal. Such personal competition often approachesconflict with rather a narrow dividing line. Impersonal competition, on theother hand, has no personal focus on individual rivals, striving instead to reacha goal rather than to defeat an opponent. For example, in a labour-managementdispute, each side competes over wagelabour seeking the maximum and managingthe minimum.

Functions of Competition

  1. It constitutes oneway in which limited commodities in society are allocated, along with suchmethods as distribution on basis of urgency or need or rationing on the basisof available supply and number of individuals involved.
  2. Competitionserves to mould the attitudes of competitors in a particular way. Normallyunfriendly and unfavourable attitudes towards one another develop whenindividuals or groups compete
  3. It serves as ameans of maximum stimulation of individuals and groups. Provided it isculturally accepted and encouraged, competition can serve effectively toincrease productivity in business, in industry and in agriculture.

Limitations of Competition

  1. People maydecide not to operate on a competitive basis and, instead operate by fixingwork quotas, enforce promotion through seniority of service and use other meansthat enable them to avoid the rigours, tension and insecurity involved incompetition.
  2. People whoregularly face defeat in competition may simple withdraw from it; although thefrequent winner in competition may be encouraged and stimulated.
  3. Competitionserves to stimulate in only some kinds of activity, where the quantity ofoutput is of great importance and the tasks are relatively routine aduncomplicated.


  1. What iscompetition?
  2. The forms of competitionare (a)………………… (b) …………….. (c)………………. (d)………………………


Conflict refers to the struggle in which competingpartners, attempting to reach a goal, strive to eliminate an opponent by makingthe other party ineffectual or by annihilation. Victory is at expense of the opposingparty. Conflict has been defined as “the process of seeking to monopoliserewards by eliminating or weakening the competitors” (Horton, 1964).

Social conflict takes many forms in ruralareas. These are:

  1. Pasteural-agriculturalconflict
  2. Town-countryconflict
  3. Class struggle
  4. Inter-familyand inter-clan conflict
  5. Conflict overwages
  6. Conflict overland, and
  7. Person-to-personcommon conflict

The differences between conflict and competition lieschiefly in the focus and manner of achieving the goal. In competition theprimary focus is the goal, and interaction is according to culturally definedrules of behaviour and procedure. In conflict, the focus is on the annihilationor incapacitation of the opponent, so that the way is cleared for achieving ofthe goal.

There are several aspects of the process ofconflict that serve to clarify the concept:

  1. Conflict can beof two types, personal or individual, and corporate or group.
  2. Conflict tendsto be more intense when individuals and groups who have close relationshipswith one another are involved.
  3. Conflict iscumulative; each act of aggression usually promotes a more aggressive rebuttal.
  4. Groupspreviously in conflict may corporate to achieve a goal considered importantenough for them to unite despite their differences.
  5. The source ofconflict may not be easily identifiable
  6. Some societiesprovide “safety valves” or outlets for pent up emotions, in form ofcelebrations, festivals or organizations which have facilities for this purpose
  7. Conflictemerges as a result of opposing interests.
  8. Conflict hasbeen described as a temporary form of social interaction which gives way tosome form of accommodation, another form of social interaction
  9. Conflict hasboth disintegrative and integrative effects

The antagonistic state of affairs produced by conflictis impermanent, however, and cessation of hostilities usually occurs by meansof one of two social processes of interaction, accommodation and assimilation.


  1. Defineconflict.
  2. List the forms ofsocial conflict.


Cooperation means working together toward commonobjectives or goals. The word is derived from two Latin words-“Co”, meaning togetherand “operate”, meaning to work. Thus, where two or more individuals or groupswork or act together jointly in pursuit of a common objective, there isco-operation.

Cooperation may be brought about by several motivatingfactors and by situations involving such factors. The more important have been identifiedand listed as follows:

  1. Personal gain
  2. Common motives
  3. Situationalnecessity
  4. Achievements ofgoals of greater values

Forms of cooperation:

The forms of cooperation are as follows:

  1. Cooperationthat results from loyalty or adherence to the same objective
  2.  “Antagonistic Cooperation”, often occurring inlabour disputes when management and labour agree to discuss differences
  3. Cooperationthat results from mutual dependence
  4. Cooperationthat results from efforts to compete with others in order to achieve the goalbefore them
  5. Cooperationthat is enforced as a result of subordination
  6. In addition tothe above there are three other types of cooperation, based on differences ingroup attitudes and group organizations.
    1. Primary Cooperation: The group and individual fuse sothat the group engulfs all or nearly all of the individual’s life. An example ofsuch cooperation is the daily routine of life in a monastery, where cooperationis itself considered a value.
    1. Secondary Cooperation: Such cooperation, characteristicof modern western society, is highly formalized and specialized and occupiesonly part of an individual’s life. Examples of such secondary cooperation are abusiness office, an industrial concern or a factory.
    1. Tertiary Cooperation: Tertiary cooperation is insecurebecause of latent conflict underlying it. Common means of achieving separategoals by two antagonistic parties are involved. Thus, two otherwiseantagonistic political parties may cooperate to oppose a third party. Once theparty is defeated their cooperation may cease.

Whatever may be the type or form, cooperation is goaloriented, and is the most pervasive and continuous of the social processes. Itsurrounds man, often in ways of which he is not aware, exerting its influenceon his everyday behaviour in relation to others in society.


  1. Whatis cooperation?
  2. List the factors thatcan bring about cooperation.


Accommodation is the adjustment by a person or groupto a conflict or threat, resulting in the recognition and acceptance of therelations which define the status of a person or persons in the group or alarger social organization. According to Horton, 1964 accommodation is “aprocess of developing temporary working agreements between conflicting individualsor group”. The conflicting parties arrange for alternatives to conflict tobring about termination of hostilities or conflicting relationship and toenable some form of cooperation.

Thus, accommodation may be viewed both as a process ofsocial interaction as well as the result of social interaction, and it is oneof the important and inevitable outcomes of a social situation of competitionor conflict. Accommodation, then refers to “permanent or temporary terminationof rivalrous parties to function together without open hostility at least insome respect”. (Cuber, 1968).

Forms of Accommodation.

Accommodation may be achieved in various ways and takeseveral forms. The more important of these are as follows:

  1. Compromise. In acompromise, each antagonistic party agrees to make concessions that allow themto reach an agreement. This “give and take” continues until all parties aresatisfied.
  2. Conversion: In this form ofaccommodation, one of the interacting parties accepts and adopts the views ofthe other. Conversion is frequently related to religious beliefs. Those who acceptand adopt the religious beliefs and views of others are referred to asconverts.
  3. Tolerance: In this form ofaccommodation, interacting parties agree to disagree. Each party holds its ownposition, but respect the fact that the other party has an opposing view point.They “tolerate” each other, despite the fact that the basic issue is not eliminated.
  4. Arbitration. When contendingparties do not settle differences among themselves, arbitration is frequentlyemployed – the problem is submitted to a mutually agreeable third party whoacts as a mediator, capable of studying the issue objectively. Arbitration maybe formal, such as in a court of law, and conflict may be terminated on thebasis of the court decision. However informal arbitration using an objectiveperson is usually sought.
  5. Truce. A truce is anagreement to cease rivalrous interaction for a definite or indefinite period oftime. The purpose is usually to give both parties time to review the issue inthe light of proposals or suggestions for settlement.
  6. Subordination and Super Ordination. Subordination as a form of accommodation serves tostructure relationships between a victor and the conquered at the end of aconflict. Temporary subordination – super ordination arrangements may in somecases operate as a form of accommodation. If one party achieves advantageswhich make its ultimate victory inevitable, an arrangement similar tocompromise – differing in that order may be agreed upon.
  7. Displacement. Displacementinvolves termination of one conflict by replacing it with another. Use of a“scape goat” is a displacement techniques; the problems of a nation or avillage may be blamed on an individual, on a minority or on “imperialists” or“colonial policy”, etc.
  8. Institutionalised “Safety Valves for Release of Hostility”. The structure of various societiesmay provide institutionalized means of release of tensions, which may serve asa form of accommodation in bringing about termination of antagonistic relationships.Community sports, wrestling and other amusements, special feast days, religiousand other festivals at various times of the year are examples. While havingtheir own objectives, these events may also serve to provide catharsis for antagonisticfeelings and to release tension, thus easing pressures that lead to conflict.


  1. Defineaccommodation.
  2. Differentiatebetween compromise and Conversion.


Assimilation has been referred to as the fusing orblending process, whereby cultural differences tend to disappear andindividuals and group once dissimilar become similar. Assimilation impliescomplete merging of divergent cultural groups within a society and has been definedas “a process of mutual cultural diffusion through which persons and groupsbecome culturally alike” (Horton, 1964).

The process takes place when two different culturesmeet, with the dominant culture assimilating the other. Thus, immigrants to theUnited

States of America from different cultures of the worldundergo assimilation into the American culture as they get increasingly “Americanized”.

Retarding and Conducive Factors ofAssimilation.

Various factors both facilitate and retard the processof assimilation. They are as follows:

Retarding Factors

  1. Extremedifferences in cultural background: When two cultures share many commonelements, assimilation is accelerated; the absence of such factors acts as abarrier to the process.
  2. Prejudice:Stereotypes and ethnocentrism both can operate as barriers to assimilation.Prejudgement by the dominant group of the other cultural group or individualcan result in prejudices that form serious impediment to assimilation.
  3. Physicaldifferences: Discrimination on the basis of physical differences presents aformidable barrier to assimilation. Physical differences are extremely visibleand can be eliminated by generations of intermarriage between the culturalgroups concerned. When physical differences arise as a barrier, cultures maylive together in a symbiotic relationship.

Conducive Factors:

Assimilation is accelerated by the absence of theabove retarding factors and the presence of all such conditions and factorsthat favour and facilitate contact and participation by individuals and groupsin common social and cultural life in society (Sutherland, 1961).

Forms of Assimilation:

Different kinds of assimilation have been identified,but three kinds are listed as follows:

  1. A socializedindividual in one culture may later move to another culture. In course of timehe becomes assimilated into this second culture.
  2. Two culturesmerge into a third culture which, while somewhat distinct, has features of bothmerging cultures. Examples, rural and urban cultures which are radicallydifferent in western and developing countries are, with rapidly increasingcommunication, merging as differences continue to disappear although they stillexist.
  3. In small groups– even in the family between husband and wife – assimilation may bring about asimilarity of behaviour. The tendency is to conform to the others behaviourpattern and differences in time may largely disappear.


  1. Whatis assimilation?
  2. What are the retardingfactors to assimilation?


Closely related to the sociological concepts ofassimilation and accommodation is the concept of acculturation, referring tothe changes in culture that results from continued contact between twocultures. This is the acquisition of new cultural traits by individuals orgroups and utilization of these in their new patterns of living.

Acculturation refers specifically to changes in theirculture – their behaviour (knowledge, attitudes, and skills). Thus beforeassimilation between groups occurs, acculturation must take place. It does not follow;however, that acculturation invariably leads to assimilation.

Acculturation does not imply movement toward acompleted process or condition, or that individuals will move toward acceptanceof each other. Both implications do exist in assimilation. Acculturation,infact, may be in process when groups are in conflicts, each learning from the other.Cultural changes in turn may give rise to the need for accommodation involvingreadjustment of relationships of affected groups, rather than assimilation

Acculturation has no biological connotation includedin it. Whereas, to some sociologists, assimilation involves some biologicalmixing of a people with his new culture. Introduction and diffusion of new agriculturaltechnologies is a form of acculturation in many societies, because it involvesblending the culture of the country from where the technology was developedwith that of the recipient society, in relation to the specific farm practice.For instance, the introduction of the hybrid maize into Nigeria through theInstitute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA is expected to have a widespread impactin maize production culture in Nigeria. The techniques of producing this maizeis expected to influence the cutlass-hoe system of maize production by manyfarmers in the country.


  1. Defineacculturation.
  2. Distinguish betweenacculturation and assimilation.


In this unit you have learnt about social processes inrural society. Six social processes of interaction have been discussed in theirvarious aspects. These include competition, conflict, cooperation, accommodation,assimilation and acculturation. It is important to recognize that in actualsituations, social interaction does not manifest itself in well defined forms,but in a mixture of various forms or social processes, so that the samesituation may include competition as well as cooperation.


The main points in this unit are as follows:

  • Interactionamong the people of a society occurs within the structure of society inspecific forms referred to as social processes
  • Opposition isthe struggle of one against the other in the attempt to achieve something good.Two forms of opposition are distinguishable, namely, competition and conflict.
  • Cooperation isthe unification of the efforts of one with the other in the attempt to attain agoal.
  • Accommodationis the adjustment by a person or group to a conflict or threat, resulting inthe recognition and acceptance of the relations which define the status of aperson or persons in the group or a large social organization.
  • Assimilationimplies complete merging of divergent cultural groups
  • Acculturationis the acquisition of new cultural traits by individuals and groups and utilizationof these in their new patterns of living.


  1. Writeexplanatory notes on: a) Competition b) Conflict
  2. Discuss theterm “Cooperation”.
  3. Explain thefollowing in detail: a) Accommodation b) Assimilation c) Acculturation


Chitambar, J.B. (1973). Introductory Rural Sociology:A synopsis of

Concepts and Principles. New Eastern Limited, India, 369pp.

Cuber, J.F. (1968). Sociology: A Synopsis of Principles. New York:


Horton, P.B. and Hunt, C.L. (1964). Sociology. New York, McGraw


Jibowo, G. (1992). Essentials of Rural Sociology. Grcem Press Limited,

Abeokuta, 243pp.

Sutherland, R.L., Woodward, J.L. and Maxwell, M.A.(1961).

Introductory Sociology. Philadelphia, Lippincot, 6th edition.