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Conflict Theory

Conflict Theory

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Conflict Theory

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  1. Conflict Theory By: Erin Lepird, Sicily Canny, Mago Saldana

  2. Conflict theory vs Marxism • Conflict theory: power is the core of ALL social relationships • Marxism: much like conflict theory but power is gained through economics • Characterized by an economic struggle between the haves and have-nots.

  3. Conflict Theory • Alternative to functionalism • Macrosociological theoretical perspective • Resentment and hostility are constant elements of society • Power differences among social classes • Special interest groups fight over scarce resources of society • Interest groups fight to gain advantages over others

  4. Conflict Theory (Cont’d) • Competition puts society off-balance until dominant group gains control and stability through power

  5. Influences • Karl Marx (1818-1883) • Humanist: wanted all individuals to reach their full human potential • Believed humans make their own history (historical method) • Controlling material production division of labor formation of economic social classes Class struggle • Trying to combine material and ideal factors/ structural and cultural factors

  6. Marx (cont’d) • Society was a two-class system: • Bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production) • Proletariat (workers)

  7. Marx (cont’d) • Class differences have a lot to do with possession of personal property • Believed the exploited would become conscious and unite communism  elimination of class struggle • Main ideas behind communism are stated in the communist manifesto

  8. Max Weber (1864-1920) • Agreed with Marx (economics played a central role in power distinction). • Believed in Two other factors: • Social prestige (status) • Example: someone could be poor and still hold a lot of power because of social prestige  Mother Theresa • Political influence • Example: Politician who has great power, but does not earn a big salary

  9. Max Weber (cont’d) • Weber defined power as “the ability to impose one’s will on another, even when the other objects” (p. 72 CST) • Authority: legitimate power; used with consent of the ruled • Distribution of power and authority = basis of social conflict • HOWEVER: if subordinates believe in the authority= avoided conflict • If authority is not recognized as a legitimate= conflict

  10. Max Weber (cont’d) • People with power want to keep it • People w/out power want to seek it • 3 types of authority: • Rational-legal • Traditional • charismatic

  11. Georg Simmel (1858-1918) • Wanted to develop a mathematics of society • Collection of statements about human relationships and social behavior • Disagreed with Marx that social classes are formed horizontally • There are differences in power and opinions within each group.

  12. Georg Simmel (1858-1918) • Concepts and contributions: • Rejects organic theory • Saw society as the sum of individual interaction • The most important relationship is between leaders and followers, superior and subordinates • Superiordinate and subordinate have a reciprocal relationship

  13. Georg Simmel (1858-1918) • Believed social action always involves harmony and conflict, love and hatred (p.74) • Secrecy: people who hold secrets are in a position of power. • Some groups are formed around secrets and are known as secret societies • are usually in conflict with the greater society • Initiation creates hierarchy

  14. Modern Conflict Theory • Ideas of Marx, Weber, and Simmel resurfaced in America in the 1950’s through two German Sociologists: • Lewis Coser • Ralph Dahrendorf

  15. Lewis Coser (1913-2003) • Defined conflict as “a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure, or eliminate their rivals.” • Conflicts between intergroups and intragroups are part of social life

  16. Lewis Coser (1913-2003) • Conflict is part of relationships and is not necessarily a sign of instability • Conflict serves several functions: • Leads to social change • Can stimulate innovation • During times of war threat, can increase central power

  17. Lewis Coser (1913-2003) • Explored sixteen propositions of conflict through functions • Thought that conflict= boundaries between different groups unity between individual members of that group and determines boundaries of power

  18. Ralf Dahrendorf (1929- ) • Social order is maintained by force from the top • Tension is constant • Extreme social change can happen at any time • “there cannot be conflict unless some degreee of consensus has already been established” (p. 89) • Once reached, conflict temporarily disappears

  19. C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) • Work centered around power • Several dimensions of inequality (like Weber) • Power can be independent from economic class • Version of conflict theory-closer to Weber’s than Marx

  20. C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) • Concept of power elite, rather than ruling class=difference between Marx and Mills • There is a triangle of power: • Military • Industry • Politics • White-collar world kept power elite on top

  21. C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) • There are three types of power: • Authority: power justified by the beliefs of the voluntarily obedient • Manipulation: power wielded unknown to the powerless • Coercion: the “final” form of power, where the powerless are forced to obey the powerful

  22. Randall Collins (1941- ) • “power and status are fundamental relational dimensions at the micro level of social interaction and perhaps at the macro level as well” (p. 96) • Collins believes there are certain goods that every group wants to pursue • Wealth, power, and prestige • “Concluded that coercion and the ability to “force” others to behave a certain way are the primary basis of conflict” (p.96)

  23. Randall Collins (1941- ) • Had a stratified approach to conflict that had 3 basic principles and 5 principles of conflict analysis

  24. Relevancy • Maintains that what social order does, is the result of power elites’ coercion of masses • Those without power seek social change • Two class system by Marx • Contemporary conflict theorists don’t limit power to just economics, but also look at other issues

  25. Relevancy (cont’d) • Three criticisms of conflict theory: • Ignores other ways (i.e. non-forceful ways in which people reach agreements • Sides with people who lack power • Focuses on economic factors as the sole issue for all conflict in society • This primarily is for Marx’s approach

  26. Relevancy (cont’d) • Differences in power are in all types of interaction • Power used to be physical, but now, it’s legal and economic