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Conflict Theory

Conflict Theory

What Is Conflict Theory?

Conflict theory, first developed by Karl Marx, is a theory that society is in a state of perpetual conflict due to competition for limited resources.

Conflict theory holds that social order is kept up with by control and power, instead of by consensus and conformity. As indicated by conflict theory, those with wealth and power try to hold on to it using any and all means conceivable, mostly by stifling the poor and powerless. A fundamental reason of conflict theory is that people and groups inside society will attempt to try to expand their own wealth and power.

Grasping Conflict Theory

Conflict theory has looked to make sense of a large number of social peculiarities, including wars, revolutions, poverty, discrimination, and domestic savagery. It credits the greater part of the fundamental developments in human history, like majority rules government and civil rights, to capitalistic endeavors to control the majority (rather than a longing for social order). Central precepts of conflict theory are the concepts of social inequality, the division of resources, and the conflicts that exist among different socioeconomic classes.

The central fundamentals of conflict theory can make sense of many types of cultural conflicts since forever ago. A few scholars accept, as Marx did, that cultural conflict is the force that at last drives change and development in society.

Marx's rendition of conflict theory zeroed in on the conflict between two primary classes. Each class comprises of a group of individuals limited by mutual interests and a certain degree of property ownership. Marx guessed about the bourgeoisie, a group that addressed citizenry who hold the majority of the wealth and means. The low class is the other group: It incorporates those considered working-class or poor.

With the rise of capitalism, Marx estimated that the [bourgeoisie](/working class), a minority inside the population, would capitalize on their leverage to persecute the working class, the majority class. This perspective is tied to a common picture associated with conflict theory-based models of society; adherents to this philosophy will generally have faith in a pyramid arrangement in terms of how goods and services are distributed in society. At the highest point of the pyramid is a small group of elites that direct terms and conditions to the larger portion of society since they have an outsized amount of control over resources and power.

Uneven distribution inside society was anticipated to be kept up with through philosophical pressure; the bourgeoisie would force acceptance of the current conditions by the working class. Conflict theory accepts that the elite will set up systems of laws, customs, and other cultural structures to additional support their own dominance while preventing others from joining their positions.

That's what marx estimated, as the working class and poor were exposed to deteriorating conditions, a collective cognizance would raise more awareness about inequality, and this would possibly bring about revolt. If, after the revolt, conditions were adjusted to lean toward the worries of the working class, the conflict circle would eventually repeat yet the other way. The bourgeoisie would eventually turn into the aggressor and revolter, getting a handle on for the return of the structures that formerly kept up with their dominance.

Conflict Theory Assumptions

Current conflict theory has four primary assumptions that are useful to grasp: competition, revolution, structural inequality, and war.


Conflict scholars accept that competition is a steady and, on occasion, a mind-boggling factor in virtually every human relationship and cooperation. Competition exists because of the scarcity of resources, including material resources — money, property, commodities, and that's just the beginning. Past material resources, people and groups inside a society vie for elusive resources too. These can incorporate relaxation time, dominance, social status, sexual partners, and so on. Conflict scholars accept that competition is the default (instead of cooperation).


Given conflict scholars' assumption that conflict happens between social classes, one outcome of this conflict is a revolutionary event. The thought is that change in a power dynamic between groups doesn't occur as the consequence of a progressive variation. Rather, it occurs as the side effect of conflict between these groups. Along these lines, changes to a power dynamic are in many cases sudden and large in scale, as opposed to slow and evolutionary.

Structural inequality

An important assumption of conflict theory is that human relationships and social structures all experience disparities of power. Along these lines, a few people and groups inherently foster more power and reward than others. Following this, those people and groups that benefit from a particular structure of society will generally attempt to keep up with those structures as an approach to holding and improving their power.


Conflict scholars will generally see war as either a unifier or as a "cleaning agent" of societies. In conflict theory, war is the consequence of a cumulative and developing conflict among people and groups and between whole societies. With regards to war, a society might become unified here and there, yet conflict actually stays between various societies. Then again, war may likewise bring about the wholesale finish of a society.

Special Considerations

Marx saw capitalism as part of a historical movement of economic systems. He accepted capitalism was established in commodities, or things that are purchased and sold. For instance, he accepted that labor is a type of commodity. Since laborers have little control or power in the economic system (since they don't possess factories or materials), their worth can be degraded over the long run. This can make an imbalance between business owners and their workers, which can eventually lead to social conflicts. He accepted these issues would eventually be fixed through a social and economic revolution.

Variations of Marx's conflict theory

Max Weber, a German humanist, scholar, law specialist, and political economist, adopted numerous parts of Marx's conflict theory and later further refined a portion of Marx's thoughts. Weber accepted that conflict over property was not limited to one specific scenario. Rather, he accepted that there were numerous layers of conflict existing out of nowhere and in each society.

Though Marx outlined his perspective on conflict as one among owners and workers, Weber additionally added an emotional part to his thoughts regarding conflict. Weber said: "It is these that underlie the power of religion and make it an important partner of the state; that transform classes into status groups, and do likewise to regional networks under particular circumstances...and that put forth 'authenticity' an essential concentration for attempts at control."

Weber's convictions about conflict stretch out past Marx's since they recommend that a few forms of social connection, including conflict, create convictions and solidarity among people and groups inside a society. Along these lines, a singular's responses to inequality may be different relying upon the groups with which they are associated; whether they see people with significant influence to be genuine, etc.

Conflict scholars of the later twentieth and mid 21st hundreds of years have kept on expanding conflict theory past the severe economic classes set by Marx, albeit economic relations stay a core feature of the imbalances across groups in the different parts of conflict theory. Conflict theory is profoundly compelling in modern and postmodern hypotheses of sexual and racial inequality, peace and conflict studies, and the numerous assortments of identity studies that have arisen across Western scholarly world in the past several decades.

Instances of Conflict Theory

Conflict scholars view the relationship between a housing complex owner and a tenant as being founded basically on conflict rather than balance or congruity, even however there might be more concordance than conflict. They accept that they are defined by getting anything resources they can from one another.

In the above model, a portion of the limited resources that might add to conflicts among tenants and the complex owner incorporate the limited space inside the complex, the limited number of units, the money that tenants pay to the complex owner for rent, etc. At last, conflict scholars consider this dynamic to be one of conflict over these resources.
The complex owner, but charitable, is fundamentally centered around getting however many apartment units filled as could be expected under the circumstances with the goal that they can get however much cash-flow in rent as could be expected, especially if bills, for example, [mortgages](/home loan) and utilities must be covered. This might present conflict between housing complexes, among tenant candidates hoping to move into an apartment, etc. On the opposite side of the conflict, the actual tenants are hoping to get the best apartment feasible for the least amount of money in rent.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent bank bailouts are genuine instances of genuine conflict theory, as per writers Alan Sears and James Cairns in their book A Good Book, in Theory. They view the financial crisis as the inescapable outcome of the imbalances and insecurities of the global economic system, which empower the largest banks and institutions to keep away from government oversight and face gigantic challenges that main reward a chosen handful.

Burns and Cairns note that large banks and big businesses subsequently received bailout funds from the very governments that professed to have lacking funds for large-scale social programs like universal healthcare. This division supports a fundamental assumption of conflict theory, which is that mainstream political institutions and social practices favor predominant groups and people.

This model delineates that conflict can be inherent in a wide range of relationships, including those that don't show up on the surface to be opposing. It likewise demonstrates the way that even a straightforward scenario can lead to different layers of conflict.


  • Conflict theory sees social and economic institutions as instruments of the battle among groups or classes, used to keep up with inequality and the dominance of the ruling class.
  • Conflict theory centers around the competition among groups inside society over limited resources.
  • Later renditions of conflict theory take a gander at different components of conflict among capitalist groups and among different social, strict, and different types of groups.
  • Marxist conflict theory sees society as isolated along lines of economic class between the ordinary working class and the average ruling class.


Who Is Credited With Inventing Conflict Theory?

Conflict theory is credited to Karl Marx, a nineteenth century political savant who drove the development of communism as a school of suspected in economics. Karl Marx's two most well known works are The Communist Manifesto, which he distributed in 1848; and Das Kapital, distributed in 1867. Despite the fact that he lived in the nineteenth century, Marx impacted politics and economics in the twentieth century and is generally viewed as quite possibly of history's most compelling and dubious scholar.

What Is Conflict Theory?

Conflict theory is a sociopolitical theory that originated with Karl Marx. It tries to make sense of political and economic events in terms of a continuous battle over finite resources. In this battle, Marx underlines the hostile relationship between social classes, in particular the relationship between the owners of capital — who Marx calls the "bourgeoisie" — and the working class, which he calls the "low class." Conflict theory affected nineteenth and twentieth century thought and keeps on impacting political discussions right up 'til now.

What Are Some Common Criticisms of Conflict Theory?

One common analysis of conflict theory is that it neglects to capture the manner by which economic connections can mutually benefit the different classes included. For instance, conflict theory depicts the relationship among employers and employees as one of conflict, wherein the employers wish to pay as little as feasible for the employees' labor, while the employees wish to amplify their wages. In practice, notwithstanding, employees and employers frequently have an amicable relationship. Besides, institutions, for example, pension plans and stock-based compensation can additionally obscure the boundary among workers and corporations by giving workers an extra stake in the progress of their employer.