In a zero-sum game, one person’s gain is equivalent to another person’s loss. This can create a sense of competition or conflict between individuals or groups who have different interests or objectives.
There are several theories that explain how this dynamic can lead to social issues that divide people.
One theory is social identity theory, which suggests that people define themselves and their place in society in relation to others. This can lead to the formation of distinct social groups with different values, beliefs, and goals. When members of these groups perceive a threat to their identity or status, they may feel compelled to defend their group and its interests, even if it means opposing other groups.
Another theory is the theory of relative deprivation, which proposes that people’s sense of well-being and satisfaction is influenced not just by their absolute level of resources or opportunities, but also by how they compare themselves to others. When people feel that they are not getting their fair share of resources or opportunities compared to others, they may become dissatisfied and demand change.
These theories help explain why social issues that divide people can be so contentious and difficult to resolve. They also suggest that it may be possible to reduce conflict and promote cooperation by finding ways to increase the sense of shared identity and mutual interests among different groups, or by addressing underlying issues of inequality and relative deprivation.