The project studies the conceptualizations of political conflict in modern German political thought (c. 1890–1968). My approach is political theory, supplemented with conceptual history and metaphor analysis. I focus on the complex relation between military ‘battle’ and economic ‘competition’ and show how limited competition became the main model for democratic politics gradually, in interaction with ‘battle’, and by subtle conceptual shifts. After an overview of the conceptual development, I focus on 5 case studies on the key steps of the shift: Franz Oppenheimer’s and Georg Simmel’s positive reinterpretations of competition, Max Weber’s formalization of battle as a general social category, Hans Kelsen’s competitive democracy, and Ernst Fraenkel’s neopluralist reimplementation of democracy in Germany. Through the cases, I capture the interplay between battle and competition, address the metaphors of political conflict used, and reassess German democratic development in this light.