E.E. Schattschneider’s “scope of conflict”

E.E. Schattschneider’s “scope of conflict” concept describes why “it is the loser who calls for outside help” (Schattschneider, 16).  Nice and Frederickson (1995) explain that the scope of conflict is “simply the size and extent of a conflict,” which may involve various types and levels of private or public organizations (27).  Generally, the loser in the battle will seek to expand the scope of conflict to new participants in order to gain the advantage. Thus, the scope of the conflict will expand since the loser will involve more and more people or organizations for his or her cause.  In intergovernmental relations, contestants “seek the scope of conflict and the decision-making arena that are most likely to produce the desired policy decision… debates about federalism are often debates about policy in disguise” (26-27).

Disagreements over federalism are largely disagreements over public policy because it is policy that determines the ultimate loser once the scope of conflict has ceased to escalate.  For example, Nice and Frederickson tell of a homeowner who complained of a noisy factory. The homeowner was not able to change the factory noise level, so the homeowner involved the local government and won due to the public policy of a “noise ordinance” (26).  The factory expanded the scope of conflict through the state legislature and won due to state public policy. The homeowner expanded the scope of conflict to the national government and won due to new and “stricter legislation” (27). Here, the outcome of the very conflict was determined by the recognized authority’s enforcement of public policy.  The loser continually expanded the scope of conflict until there was no higher public policy alternative.

Schattschneider also described issues that he believed privatized or socialized conflict. For example, issues that privatized conflict were “ideas concerning individualism, free private enterprise, localism, privacy, and economy of government” (7).  Ideas that socialize conflict were: “Universal ideas in the culture, ideas concerning equality, consistency, equal protection of the laws, justice, liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of speech and association, and civil rights…” (7). Schattschneider was careful to explain that the scope of conflict may involve bystanders.  For example, he said that the civil rights movement’s scope was not just about southern Negroes’ protests, “but also the rights of ‘outsiders’ to intervene” (8). In this way, participants may seek to involve everyone in the scope of conflict.


The Politics of Intergovernmental Relations by David C. Nice and Patricia Fredericksen  (Jan 1, 1995)

E. E. Schattschneider’s The Semisovereign People. Peter Mair.  2002. Political Studies Association 1997. Issue: Political Studies, Volume 45, Issue 5,  pages 947–954, December 1997



2 thoughts on “E.E. Schattschneider’s “scope of conflict”

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