Born in Berlin (Ludwig Cohen), Coser was the first sociologist to try to bring together structural functionalism and conflict theory; his work was focused on finding the functions of social conflict. Coser argued - with Georg Simmel - that conflict might serve to solidify a loosely structured group. In a society that seems to be disintegrating, conflict with another society, inter-group conflict, may restore the integrative core. For example, the cohesiveness of Israeli Jews might be attributed to the long-standing conflict with the Arabs. Conflict with one group may also serve to produce cohesion by leading to a series of alliances with other groups.
Conflicts within a society, intra-group conflict, can bring some ordinarily isolated individuals into an active role. The protest over the Vietnam War motivated many young people to take vigorous roles in American political life for the first time.
Conflicts also serve a communication function. Prior to conflict, groups may be unsure of their adversary’s position, but as a result of conflict, positions and boundaries between groups often become clarified, leaving individuals better able to decide on a proper course of action in relation to their adversary.
Much like status consistency, conflicts along the same cleavages intensify the severity of the conflict. Cross-cutting cleavages tend to dissipate the severity of the conflict. For example, the coincidence of economic and political disenfranchisement among Palestinians in the West Bank intensify their conflict with Israeli Jews. In contrast, the non-coincidence of economic and political disenfranchisement among Quebeckers reduces somewhat the severity of their conflict with English Canada, especially with the rising prosperity of the French Canadian new middle class operating in the public sector and corporate world.