Social conflict theory

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A homeless man outside the outside the United Nations building in New York with the American flag in the background.

Social conflict theory is a Marxist-based social theory which argues that individuals and groups (social classes) within society have differing amounts of material and non-material resources (such as the wealthy vs. the poor) and that the more powerful groups use their power in order to exploit groups with less power.

"Consider paying rent towards housing. The conflict theorist argues that this relationship is unequal and favors the owners. Renters may pay rent for 50 years and still gain absolutely no right or economic interest with the property. It is this type of relationship which the conflict theorist will use to show that social relationships are about power and exploitation." Padgitt continues, "Marx argued that through a dialectic process, social evolution was directed by the result of class conflict. Marxism argues that human history is all about this conflict, a result of the strong-rich exploiting the poor-weak. From such a perspective, money is made through the exploitation of the worker. It is argued thus, that in order for a factory owner to make money, he must pay his workers less than they deserve."[citation needed]

Thus, the social conflict theory states that groups within a capitalist society tend to interact in a destructive way, that allows no mutual benefit and little cooperation. The solution Marxism proposes to this problem is that of a workers' revolution to break the political and economic domination of the capitalist class with the aim of reorganising society along the lines of collective ownership and mass democratic control.

Social conflict theories[edit]

The various institutions of society such as the legal and political system are instruments of ruling class domination and serve to further its interests. Marx believed that western society developed through four main epochs—primitive communism, ancient society, feudal society and capitalist society. Primitive communism is represented by the societies of pre-history and provides the only example of the classless society. From then all societies are divided into two major classes—master and slaves in ancient society, lords and serfs in feudal society and capitalist and wage labourers in capitalist society.

Weber sees class in economic terms. He argues that classes develop in market economies in which individuals compete for economic gain. He defines a class as a group of individuals who share a similar position in market economy and by virtue of that fact receive similar economic rewards. Thus a person's class situation is basically his market situation. Those who share a similar class situation also share similar life chances. Their economic position will directly affect their chances of obtaining the things defined as desirable in their society.

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References[edit]

  • Marx, Karl. 1971. Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Tr. S. W. Ryanzanskaya, edited by M. Dobb. London: Lawrence & Whishart.
  • Skocpol, Theda. 1980. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel M. 1974. The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press.
  • 1980. The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750. New York: Academic Press.

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