Rise of Conflict Theory • Based upon Marxist ideals and thoughts • Revitalized in the 1950’s by many American sociologists
What is Conflict Theory? • Conflict theory generally surrounds the idea that most struggles in society happen because of conflicts between different social classes or groups • Each group struggles to attain more resources and because resources are scarce, they must struggle with other groups • Groups try to protect their own interests, therefore blocking the progress of other groups
Conflict cont. • Individuals have aggressive impulses and these impulses are expressed in all relationships, especially close relationships • Love and Hate • Outside influences influence our emotions and cause conflict with those around us • From conflict comes social change • American Revolution • Civil Rights (1960’s)
Conflict as a Binding Element • We often mistake conflict as always being a dividing factor, it can instead have quite the opposite reaction • When two groups are pitted against one another, the bonds between members of each group within itself become much closer • Examples • Iowa vs. Iowa State • September 11th • Political Elections, Republicans vs. Democrats
Violence, Conflict, and Change • Violence can often bring about change • Some individuals believe violence is an accomplishment and therefore create as much as possible • Violence can also point out problems that might not be obvious • Prison violence and prison rights • Violence can bring about public activism and force change through public attitudes • Violence in the South during the Civil Rights Movement
Lewis Coser (1913-2003) • Born in 1913 to a family of Jewish bankers…living in Berlin • Left Germany in 1993 for Paris • Worked odd jobs and pursued higher education • Enrolled at the Sorbonne (University of Paris) • Coser was pushed towards sociology by his comparative literature teacher, Professor Jean Marie Carré
Connecting the Functions of Social Conflict • Social conflict creates boundaries between different groups, which creates a strong unity between the individual group members of a group. • Social conflict promotes cohesion and promotes coalitions and associations with outside groups. • Social conflict creates an increase in cohesion inside a group and among several groups which would not normally unite.
Social Change • Coser explained that a society does not die the way biological organisms do, nor is there a precise birth. • In Continuities in the Study of Social Conflict, he discussed his theory of social change. • Change within a system is very slow and marginal. • Change of a system involves a more radical change, such as the creation of new institutions within the system. (a new economic or political system) • New things can be added, or old things can be eliminated, and this process can continue indefinitely. • Social change may result from external forces, or from changes within the system.
Violence • Violence and conflict are often linked, which can lead to social change. • It serves three social functions. • Violence as achievement, the more violence people cause the more they achieve in their own minds. • It’s a danger signal. If a number of people turn to violence then clearly there is a problem with the social system. • Violence is a catalyst. This catalyst function can start the process of correction in solving a social problem, or it can cause an increased level of violence.
Social Theory and Methodology • Coser’s Masters of Sociological Thought was once a textbook used in grad and undergrad social theory courses. It gave great insight into the work of many theorists, but students found it hard to read because it jumps around a lot. • He always emphasized the need for a balanced assessment of theoretical trends, which need time to grow. • In the pursuit of the knowledge of sociology and sound social theory, Coser recommended utilizing a number of methodological techniques.
Selected Propositions 1. Group-Binding Functions of Conflict • Conflict serves as an important agent in establishing full ego identity, autonomy, and differentiation of personality from the outside world. • A group is bound together by the individual members’ similarities and the reinforcing of group awareness of such similarities. • Conflict helps to create and maintain group cohesion • A high level of conflict comes with a high level of group cohesion. • Each group relies on conflict for its identity. • Therefore, conflict is essential to a society.
Selected Propositions 2. Conflict and Hostile Influences • Social conflict cannot be accounted for by drives, impulses, and isolated instances of behavior; rather, it is explained by a pattern of interaction. • Aggressive behavior is related to a group’s structure of interactive relations. • The structural variable linked to direct aggression is the degree of group cohesion. • Coser defined direct aggression as “aggression expressed toward members of the group” • Therefore, high group cohesion leads to high amounts of aggression.
Selected Propositions 3. Hostility in Close Social Relationships • Love and hate are intricately linked. • This idea is most accurately linked to close, intimate relationships rather than all social relationships. • The closer the relationship, the greater the investment, which leads to suppressed, rather than expressed, hostile feelings. • The suppressed feelings are due to the fear of putting the relationship in danger. • As hostility continues to be suppressed, these emotions accumulate and intensify. • This intensity could lead to direct aggression. • Therefore, the love-hate phenomenon found in intimate relationships helps to support Coser’s contention that the high instances of direct aggression are found in highly cohesive groups.
Selected Propositions 4. Impact of Conflict on Group Structures • Close relationships may exhibit tendencies toward the suppression of conflict. • If conflict occurs despite suppression, it tends to be disruptive toward the relationship because of the intensity expressed. • This intensity is attributed to the total involvement of the personality and the accumulation of hostility. • Therefore, it is accurate for the participants to fear conflict because of the effects it might have on the relationship.
Selected Propositions 5. Conflict with Another Group that Defines Group Structure • When conflict occurs between groups, the members of each group become more cohesive. • Groups in conflict expect their individual members to be entirely involved. • A group engaged in continued struggle tends to be intolerable of individual deviations within the group. • A member of a threatened group may be allowed only limited departures from group unity. • Those who choose to deviate must either volunteer or be forced to withdraw from the group.
C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) • Mills was an American sociologist who tied many of the theories on conflict to the American society and economy • In a time of suppressed speech because of the Cold War, Mills was outspoken and often targeted because of his criticism on American society
C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) • Born in Waco, Texas into a middle-class Catholic household. • Father was an insurance broker, mother was a homemaker. • By 1939 he had earned both his bachelors and masters from the University of Texas. • Went to the University of Wisconsin to work on his doctoral studies where he worked with Hans Gerth. • Together they worked to introduce the works of Max Weber to an English-speaking audience. • After earning his Ph.D. he moved to New York City to teach at Columbia University in 1945. • Died in 1962 from his fourth heart attack.
Mills and the Conflict Theory • Deeply influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx. • Helped introduce American sociologists to Marxism through his edited anthology, The Marxists (1962). • Didn’t describe himself as a Marxist, but he did see clear differences between his ideas and those of Marx. • The New Men of Power (1948) is a study of the American labor movement. • Wrote that the working class is not a class capable of overthrowing capitalism.
Mills and Marx • Mills was clearly influenced by Marx, but clearly identified differences between himself and Marx • Mills saw major struggle between several classes, but that the major problem stemmed from those in power not just in politics, but in business and the military • Mills did not believe in communism or socialism, but in democracy and social criticism
Power • To Mills the most critical element was power • All desired to have power, but only a few controlled it; the “elite” • Most citizens acknowledged this surrender of power and authority • 3 Types of Power • Authority • US Government today • Manipulation • Puppet government • Coercion • Totalitarianism, Stalinism
Power Elite • Power triangle, or “tripartite elite” • Military, Industry, Politics • The individuals in control of all three were set up to stay in control and work together to keep this power • In each element those in power directly control others • General in command of several thousand troops, they do what is said • Corporate power, those who work do what they are told and believe what is said or else they fear losing their jobs • Those in political power hold the interests of constituents in the balance as well as have the support of the other elements and those in their control
White Collar Worker • Mills observed that a new class was emerging in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s • These were professionals, but not in full control • Instead of creating a new power control this class was more apt to follow what was told and worry about keeping up appearances • New house, car, husband, wife, kids, clothes • Still at the mercy of those in charge
The Sociological Imagination • Reveals how our private lives are influenced by the social environment and the existing social forces • Troubles occur within the character and range of an individual; they have to do with the self and areas of social life that the individual is directly aware of • Issues form the larger picture of institutions in a historical society • With this reasoning, the sociologist acknowledges that social forces, often outside the control of the individual, affect the individual, affect the individual’s life for both good and bad
Ralf Dahrendorf (1929) • Born in Hamburg, Germany • Father was a Social Democratic politician and a member of the German Parliament • Had political differences with the Nazis and the Communists • Lost his job in 1933 when the Nazi’s came to power • Ralf would later be involved in opposition to the Nazi regime and was sent to a concentration camp but escaped when the German guards battled with the Russian army • He is still actively participating in political groups that fight injustice • In 1952 he earned his first doctorate in philosophy and then later earned his doctorate in sociology from the London School of Economics • Widely respected in both Europe and North America
Ralf Dahrendorf • Conflict Theory: • Believe that social order is maintained through coercion by those at the top (in Mills’ case, the power elites) • Tension is a constant in society and radical social change is likely at any point in any given society • Sociological theories can be divided into two parts: • Concentrate on issues of consensus • Concentrate on issues of conflict • There cannot be issues of conflict unless some consensus has already been established • Disagreed with Marx about economic forces being the sole determinant of conflict; instead he thought unequal distribution of political power was a major contributor to conflict
Power and Authority • Dahrendorf maintained that those who have power and authority hope to maintain the status quo, while those who lack them hope to obtain some portion of them • Power implies the coercion of some by others but also said that in some organizations power meant legitimate authority • Had same view of definition as Weber: power is essentially tied to the personality of individuals, whereas authority is always associated with social positions or roles • Dahrendorf was most interested in studying authority • When someone has authority in one setting, that authority does not extend to other social arenas: a boss holds legitimate authority at work but outside of the work setting they cannot legitimately tell people what to do.
Class Theory • Dahrendorf viewed the industrial revolution as the beginning of the time when class became used as a tool for social analysis • To create a general theory of class you must have: • The Theory of Class Formation: which must connect the relationship of “real phenomena” class and “theoretical phenomena” class with real patterns of social structure • The Theory of Class Action: is concerned primarily with patterns of class conflict and the regulation of class conflict • Industrial Conflict: • New type of conflict • The interest of the workers is often in conflict with the interest of management • Homo Sociologicus • Longest essay in a collection of ten written by Dahrendorf, believed that sociologists should be as rational as possible and they should find the laws of society
Randall Collins (1941) • Born in Knoxville, Tennessee • Father was a professor of German literature at Maryville College • Joined Army Intelligence during WWII and later became a career diplomat • Received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1963, his master’s degree from Stanford in 1964, and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 • Currently teaching at the University of Pennsylvania
Sociology as a Science • Collins defined sociology as a science, but with the goals of generalizing explanations, practicality, ideological evaluations, and aesthetic interpretation. • Criticized how different sociologists antagonize one another and said that for sociology to make progress as a discipline sociologists need to find a sprit of cooperation • He also thought that sociology will never develop the research technologies of natural science or will never have the rapid discovery mode of natural sciences • Collins also indicated that calling natural sciences “natural” indicated an authoritarian and elitist outlook from scientists of those fields
Conflict Theory • “Whatever else may be going on in social life, human actors are deeply involved in relational issues of control and dominance (power) and of acceptance and positive association (status)” • Three basic principles to Collins’s conflict approach: • People live in self-constructed subjective worlds • Other people may have the power to affect, or even control, an individual’s subjective experience • People frequently try to control the actions of others, who oppose such attempts of control; result is often interpersonal conflict • Collins believed that sociology should be aimed at solving concrete problems in the world: planning and evaluation
Important Concepts • Theory of stratification: all people will pursue their own best interests to the extent of the resources available to them • Interaction ritual chain theory: people behave differently depending on the group that they are in because all social encounters can be ranked by their degree of ritual intensity; people who have a highly vested interest in the group will carry out ritualistic behavior more intensely • Geopolitics: the importance of military technology and organizations to politics • Predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union with this model • Believed that there is enough room in the field of sociology and all areas of research and rival positions only lead to further explanation and knowledge of the social world
Three Primary Criticisms of Conflict Theory • Conflict theory tends to ignore the many areas in which most people arrive at the same consensus about important values of life. Both the rich and the poor usually tend to admire hard-working, courteous people. • Conflict theorists tend to side with the people that lack social power: critics say that this violates scientific objectivity • The focus on economic factors is the sole criteria for all conflict in society. However, most conflict theorists today do take into account gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and other factors that lead to conflict.
Relevancy of Conflict Theory • Power relationships exist everywhere • Physical power has given away to “legal” and “economic” power • Physical power does, however, still exist within the contexts of gangs and prison populations • Now instead of a physically strong person taking a physically weaker person’s land as before, the owner of the land is the person who has legal claims towards the land • “Most of the people, most of the time, act in their best interests”. Therefore there will always be conflict, and a good reason that Conflict Theory will always be relevant!