A. What is Conflict Theory?
Farley (2000:73) contends that conflict theory arose primarily from the work of Marx and was continued in the work of C Wright Mills and Ralf Dahrandorf. The general underlying assumption associated with conflict theory is that society is made up of groups with competing self-interests. Often the competing groups have unequal power. People compete for resources that are in scarce supply. Generally, the resources that are in short supply involve wealth and power. Conflict theory generally consists of the following four points. 1. Conflict Built into Society
Societies naturally tend toward conflict. This occurs because wealth and power are distributed unequally; therefore, different social groups have different and conflicting interests (Farley, 2000:73). 2. One Group Becomes Dominant
Because competing interest groups have unequal power, one group usually becomes dominant. The dominant group then uses its power to control most or all other aspects of the social structure. The dominant group can ensure that society operates in a way that serves the interests of the dominant group. As a result the dominant group controls a vastly disproportionate share of scarce resources such as wealth and social status (Farley, 2000:73-74). 3. Consensus is Artificial
When a consensus appears in a society, it is usually artificial and is unlikely to persist over the long run. A Functionalist might argue that consensus is "necessary" and is, therefore, automatically something desired by all concerned. The conflict theorist contends that a consensus in a society is either based on coercion and/or repression by the dominant group. 4. Conflict in Society is Desirable
Conflict is desirable because it makes possible social change which may lead to more equitable distribution of wealth and power (Farley, 2000:74). 5. Ideology
A central assumption of Marxist theory is that the distribution of wealth by and large determines other aspects of society, such as the political system and the characteristics of culture. This includes the norms, values, and beliefs of the culture. The norms, values, and beliefs of the culture are such that they legitimize the control of wealth. Everyone, the rich and poor alike, accept the cultural beliefs as just and correct. Another term for these beliefs is IDEOLOGY. Marx, however, argued that beliefs in the dominant ideology is not in the interest of the subordinate group. Marx referred to the pattern of the subordinate group's acceptance of an ideology that goes against it's own self interest as false-consciousness. a. False Consciousness
A consensus can also be achieved when a minority group accepts an ideology that is not in its self interest. This is false consciousness. It can occur because the dominant group exerts disproportionate control over the sources of influence and public opinion. It might also come about because the dominant group, through sheer power and force, can create an atmosphere where the subordinate group feels that resistance is futile. In either case, the apparent consensus is fundamentally unstable and is not likely to persist over time (Farley, 2000:74). b. Class Consciousness
Racism can only be dealt with by changing the institutions that are the source of racism. Marx called upon the oppressed to realize how dominant ideology serves to oppress the subordinate group. Arrival at this understanding is called class-consciousness. B. Marx
Karl Marx's writings on class conflict, differing class interests, the ownership and control of the means of production, and the exploitation by one class over the other were precursors to the development of conflict theory. Marx saw class and class conflict as the moving forces in history. A dominant class owns the means of production and exploits other classes. It is then in the interests of the dominated classes to overthrow those in positions of dominance and to establish a social order...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document