Sociologists use the term “conflict theory” to refer to a specific sociological perspective originating in the work of Karl Marx. Conflict theory views social life as a competition, and focuses on the distribution of resources, power, and prestige. According to conflict theorists, groups within society compete for scarce resources, and this competition leads to conflict.
Conflict theory has its roots in Marx’s idea of class conflict. Marx believed that there was a fundamental conflict between the classes of society: the bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (the working class). This conflict was due to the fact that the bourgeoisie were exploiting the proletariat. Conflict theory has since been expanded and applied to other social phenomena, such as race, gender, and age.
Conflict theory has been used to explain a wide variety of social phenomena, including war, crime, and poverty. Sociologists who subscribe to this perspective believe that social change is the result of conflict between groups. For example, feminists have used conflict theory to explain the subordination of women in society. they argue that this subordination is the result of conflict between men and women over resources such as power and money.
While conflict theory is a powerful tool for understanding social life, it has its limitations. One criticism of conflict theory is that it is too simplistic. It does not take into account the fact that people can cooperate as well as compete with each other. Additionally, conflict theory does not always accurately predict social change. For example, the feminist movement has been successful in achieving social change, despite the fact that men still have more power than women in most societies.
There are three prominent theories in contemporary sociology: Structural Functionalism, Symbolic Interaction, and Conflict. While each theory addresses a different main sociological aspect of organized group membership, interaction, or conflict respectively, I find the latter to be the most relatable. Every person has experienced conflict in life at some point – whether it be with friends, family members, co-workers etc. This theory specifically focuses on how power structures and imbalances shape people’s lives (The Catholic University of America).
The conflict theory looks at society as a competition for limited resources. This perspective is based on the idea that there are haves and have-nots in society, and that the powerful will do whatever it takes to maintain their position. Those in power make the rules and define what is considered deviant or criminal behavior. This perspective is often used to explain crime and poverty, as well as social inequality.
While conflict theory has its merits, it also has some shortcomings. One criticism is that it does not take into account the positive aspects of society, such as cooperation and altruism. Additionally, this theory does not always provide clear solutions to social problems. Despite these criticisms, conflict theory remains a popular sociological perspective.
According to Crossman’s (2013) conflict theory, coercion and power play a key role in the formation of social order. Karl Marx, who saw society as divided into competing factions for social and economic resources, is regarded as the originator of this concept. Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) is considered the father of critical criminology by Walsh (2012), as well as being linked with socialism and communism.
He believed that conflict was an inherent feature of capitalism and that the powerful elite class would always maintain their grip on power and resources. The working class, on the other hand, would always be oppressed and exploited.
While Marx’s ideas were developed in the context of economics, they can also be applied to other areas of social life. For example, Conflict theory has been used to explain gender inequality, racial discrimination, and violence.
At the heart of Marxism is the idea of class struggle between opposing groups. In Marx’s era, these were the affluent bourgeoisie who owned the means of production and the working-class proletariat.
But, Marx believed, the relationship between these groups was not static; it was a history in which the workers could become the oppressors and vice versa. This struggle, he believed, would eventually lead to the overthrow of capitalism and the victory of socialism.”
(Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed.Haralambos & Holborn)
The conflict theory has been prominent throughout history, most notably with Karl Marx. In essence, the conflict theory looks at society through a lens of competition and inequality, rather than cooperation and social cohesion. To Marxist Sociologists, society is defined by economic classes – those who own property/means of production (bourgeoisie) and those who do not (proletariat). The conflict theory posits that there is always competition and struggle between these two classes, as the bourgeoisie tries to maintain their power and position, while the proletariat attempt to overthrow them.
The conflict theory has been used to explain a wide variety of social phenomena, including wars, revolutions, and economic crises. Additionally, the theory can be used to understand why some groups are disadvantaged in society, as well as how social change occurs. While the conflict theory has its strengths, it also has its limitations.
For example, the theory does not take into account cooperation or relationships between different classes, nor does it consider individuals outside of the class context. Additionally, the Marxist view of history is deterministic, meaning that it is inevitable that the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeoisie.
Despite its limitations, the conflict theory is still a valuable tool for understanding society and social change. For anyone interested in sociology or social justice, it is essential to be familiar with this theory.
In a capitalist society, the bourgeoisie (upper class) tries to keep the cost of labor low, while the proletariat (lower class) wants to sell its labor at a high price. Since there are always people willing to work for less money, this creates conflict between the two classes.
The conflict theory has been critiqued for its one-sidedness. Critics argue that it does not take into account the positive aspects of capitalist societies, such as the fact that they have generated wealth and innovation. Supporters of the conflict theory counter that these positive aspects are available only to a small minority of people, while the majority live in poverty and insecurity.
In recent years, the conflict theory has been applied to struggles within capitalist societies, such as the conflict between men and women, or between different ethnic groups. The conflict theory can also be applied to conflicts between different social classes, or between nations.