Conflict Theory vs. Empowerment Theory
Western Kentucky University
Conflict Theory vs. Empowerment Theory
Conflict Theory originated from the great German theologian, Karl Marx. Many of the social beliefs that support and strengthen this theory have been rooted in the ideas of Karl Marx himself. He believed that it’s not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence which determines their stream of consciousness. With this being the motto of this theory it’s easy to see that Marx believed that the social infrastructure of each man and woman determines their very place in the society in which they live, not the other way around. This theory believes that the determinate for each individual social life is the work the individual is doing, especially work that produces the necessities of life which are food, clothing, and shelter. Empowerment Theory has the same concept as the Conflict Theory; however, it has a completely different approach. Empowerment is a process by which individuals and groups access their resources in order to better control their own lives. In doing this, they gain the ability to achieve their highest personal potential. This theory originated from the works of Solomon and Friere. It then grew out of social reform movements over time with the assistance of Jane Adams. The concepts of each theory have both some similarities and differences. Both Conflict and the Empowerment Theory have the concept that each individual directly affects his or her own social well being. However, both have a different outlook as to how that is done. The Conflict Theory believes that humans have always seems to look out for themselves and done all they could to survive in society. Humans work and strive for the necessities of life, and everything else just falls into play with each person individually, whereas, the Empowerment Theory looks to use the same methods amongst groups. They address oppression, stratification, and equality, as social barriers, and they don’t blame for lack of resources and power. They believe in taking action on all three levels of society (micro, mezzo, and macro) in order to better improve their own personal lives. On the micro level, this theory builds self efficacy, decreases self blame and adds personal consciousness. On the mezzo level, a newly empowered person would then work with others in making changes. They as a group would recognize their shared feelings and interests and would then begin to realize they aren’t alone. Finally, on the macro level, they believe they can make changes in society, particularly in politics in order to better benefit the social structure, which is the ultimate goal. I feel there are many strengths to each theory and perhaps one big weakness for each theory individually. The weakness of Conflict Theory is that everyone may not contain the self strength, discipline, and knowledge needed to survive in a particular society. The weakness of the Empowerment Theory is that there is too much room for reliability on another’s strength and dedication towards a common goal. The strength of the Empowerment Theory comes from the combination of each individual working together in order have a “snowball” effect. Having too many people relying on their neighbor to bear their weight as well will result in a system failure. Both theories have particular strengths as well, The Conflict Theory motivates the individual to pursue through trials in order to make it within a society and make change for that’s individual’s well being, and the strength of the Empowerment Theory comes from the unity that is formed in order to make change at macro levels of society. When applying these two theories to the Social Work Code of Ethics, three values come to mind. The first is Value of Service: the socials worker’s primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems, the second is the Value of Dignity and Worth of a Person:...
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