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Conflict Theory

  Sociologists use the term conflict theory to refer to any theory or collection of theories which emphasize the role of conflict in human societies. More specifically conflict theory refers to a collection of theories of the 1960s, which provided an alternative model of social life to that of the then dominant branch of sociology, structural-functionalism.

The structural-functionalist school of thought portrayed societies as governed by a consensus of values. Conflict theorists argued that functionalist sociology disregarded conflict of value and interest in society, or at best regarded them as of secondary importance. As an alternative to functionalism, conflict theorists offered a model of society and social change which gave primacy to the role of power, coercion and the pursuit of economic and political interest.

Some versions of conflict theory were based on the ideas of Marx. For Marx, the whole of society was divided into two basic classes representing the interests of capital and labour. The conflict between these two interests, he argued, would eventually transform society. Some, however, drew on the work of Simmel, who believed that conflict had positive functions for social stability and helped to preserve groups and collectivities. DA

See also alienation; authority; bourgeoisie; class; consensus theory; dependency theory; discourses; dominant ideology; ethnicity; feminism; hegemony; ideology; Marxism; race; social control; social order; sociology of knowledge.Further reading L. Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict; , R. Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society; , J. Rex, Social Conflict: a Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis.



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