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).
A central assumption of Marxist theory is that the distribution of wealth by and large determines