Conflict Theory

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According to Conflict Theory, society is:

• A struggle for dominance among competing social groups (classes, genders, races, religions, etc.). When conflict theorists look at society, they see the social domination of subordinate groups through the power, authority, and coercion of dominant groups. In the conflict view, the most powerful members of dominant groups create the rules for success and opportunity in society, often denying subordinate groups such success and opportunities; this ensures that the powerful continue to monopolize power, privilege, and authority. You should note that most conflict theorists oppose this sort of coercion and favor a more equal social order. Some support a complete socioeconomic revolution to socialism (Marx), while others are more reformist, or perhaps do not see all social inequalities stemming from the capitalist system (they believe we could solve racial, gender, and class inequality without turning to socialism). However, many conflict theorists focus on capitalism as the source of social inequalities.

The primary cause of social problems, according to the conflict perspective, is the exploitation and oppression of subordinate groups by dominants. Conflict theorists generally view oppression and inequality as wrong, whereas Structural-Functionalists may see it as necessary for the smooth running and integration of society. Structural-Functionalism and Conflict Theory therefore have different VALUE-ORIENTATIONS but can lead to similar insights about inequality (e.g., they both believe that stereotypes and discrimination benefit dominant groups, but conflict theorists say this should end and most structural-functionalists believe it makes perfect sense that subordinates should be discriminated against, since it serves positive social ends). Conflict theory sees social change as rapid, continuous, and inevitable as groups seek to replace each other in the social hierarchy.

Marx’s “Communist Manifesto:”...
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