Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Essay on Social Conflict Theory

Groups within a society that compete for scarce resources are a central theme in conflict theory. According to conflict theorists, societal and economic structures serve as weapons in the struggle between different social groups and social classes, which in turn helps to perpetuate inequality and the power of the rulers. According to Marxist conflict theory, society has an inherent class struggle, with the proletarian laborers pitted against the bourgeois rulers. Newer iterations of conflict theory probe deeper into the causes, effects, and resolutions of the conflict between capitalist groupings and other social, religious, and ideological subgroups.

A macro-level theoretical framework in sociology, social conflict theory conceptualizes the world as a battlefield where structural inequalities fuel strife and catalyze revolutionary reform. According to this worldview, variables like color, race, gender, and age are related to social inequality. Society is organized in methods that favor a select few to the detriment of the vast majority. I contend that in studying social conflict studies, the focus must always be on the dynamics between the more powerful majority and the more powerless minority.

Karl Marx first proposed the concept of conflict theory, which posits that finite resources drive constant conflict in society. According to proponents of conflict theory, social order is maintained not via agreement and conformity but through dominance and force (Marx, 1848). The conflict theory states that the wealthy and powerful will use all measures necessary to maintain their status quo, including repressing the poor and helpless. One of the cornerstones of conflict theory is the idea that entities in society will strive for self-interest.

With its assumption that the inevitable downfall of capitalism and the fights it engendered would lead to communism, Marx and Engels’ declaration marks a departure from much more utopian communists who just wished for universal harmony. This originates from the bourgeoisie’s belief in a class war with the proletariat’s belief in wage labor. According to Marx and Engels, the capitalist system inevitably leads to the bourgeoisie reducing the earnings of the proletariat till the proletariat lacks any other option but to rise in revolt. During the time of the Industrial Revolution, when Marx and Engels argued, workers were not only paid below a subsistence level, but their employment itself was often dangerous and unpleasant.

The premise of conflict theory is that conflict is an inherent part of human nature, and it applies this lens to the study of any social phenomenon. Marx is not advocating for the positive or negative value of conflict; instead, he is arguing that it is inherent to human nature and provides insight into the current state of affairs. War, violence, revolution, and other types of oppression and discrimination can all be understood through conflict theory, which posits that societal inequalities are at the root of these problems (Nickerson, 2021).

According to Gamson (1966), advocates for both sides acknowledge that they are striving toward different but equally valid ends in a typical disagreement. The “rancorous” conflict, on the other hand, is “marked by the general view that tactics employed to impact the result are ‘dirty,’ ‘underhanded,’ ‘vicious,’ and so on” (Gamson 1966: 71). This method of analyzing community disputes emphasizes the political and socio-demographic structure of a community concerning the sort of conflict that emerges while ignoring any contextual information that the conflict’s subject matter might provide. Based on his analysis of competing agendas and political climates, he concludes that studying legitimation is essential because it helps us comprehend communal conflicts as a whole.

The failure of classical Marxism to adequately address contemporary social and political issues led to the emergence of neo-Marxism. In contrast to previous revolutionary movements, which often resorted to violence to spread their ideas, the current school of thought favored nonviolent means of communication. Economically, neo-Marxist leaders tried to build workable strategies to address class struggle, moving past the uproar of the public protests of the past. Those who support economic determinist interpretations of Marxism, including neo-Marxism, reject the idea that class interests drive mass behavior. There are just too many instances of collective action in history fueled by religious, racial, regional, patriotic, and other cross-class affiliations for such an argument to be credible (Coleman, 1957). Instead, they argue that class relationships provide the causal link between the causes and effects of class action, making collective action historically crucial to the extent that it is grounded in such relationships.

Lewis Coser believed that conflict is innate in both society and human beings; it is a component of our primal behavior as beings. He advanced the ideas of absolute deprivation and relative deprivation. When a human group is exposed to a total shortage of supplies to the point where people can be barely able to exist, this is referred to as absolute deprivation. The bare necessities are absent, including food, clean water, housing, and healthcare. “relative deprivation” refers to people who are well off but still have some means of subsistence and can think about and contrast their circumstances with those of others who are in far better cases (Coser, 1998). When there are significant gaps between the wealthy and the average person, but society generally is not overly underdeveloped, relative deprivation seems to be more likely to arise. Since they lack the means to do so, it has been found that those who live in absolute poverty hardly ever use violence.

Instead of focusing on the merits of competition within the market, neo-Marxists tend to criticize capitalism’s monopolistic and oligarchical tendencies (Lyon,2011). Neo-Marxists, in contrast to traditional Marxists, emphasize an imperialistic and militaristic state to limit wealth accumulation outside the productive economy.

David Harvey and Manuel Castells, two of the most influential contemporary researchers of Marxism and the city, are analyzed in terms of their contributions to our understanding of how urban studies have brought space to the center of one or more aspects of Marxism’s ambitions since the 1960s (Castells, 2007). By analyzing their contributions, we may determine the current state of the spatialized Marxism they have attempted to create. This Marxism of the city that emerged after the 1960s demonstrates how Marxist social theory can potently shed light on urban issues while simultaneously showing how a specifically urban emphasis can enhance Marxism as a social and empirical theory. While the last 25 years of work have successfully developed and deepened Marx’s project of examining capitalism as an economic model, it has treated chiefly his project of comprehending meaningful historical change as the foreground to more contemporary events. Much work went into it, but it has only made a shaky contribution to Marx’s ambition of a social theory for capitalist countries (Bartos, 2002). It is said that neither Harvey nor Castells, in their latter work in the 1980s, addressed the concerns significant convincingly but challenging for Marxist social theory: foundation and overlay, structural and action, and causal determination. These shortcomings are primarily responsible for the lack of success of these Marxist urban studies.

The neo-Marxists have tried to build on Marx’s ideas that perhaps capitalist countries’ legal and political structures arise out of a long-standing class struggle. Because of this, neo-Marxist theories place particular emphasis on the socioeconomic framework of society and the connection between economic inequality and social conceptions of deviance as a means to explain class conflict.

In Conclusion, “conflict theory” describes a broad school of thought in sociology that rejects functionalism and holds the common belief that competition among social groupings over scarce resources is an inherent part of any society. According to proponents of conflict theory, social discord arises from the inevitable presence of power imbalances and disparities in material resources in any given community.


Bartos, O. J., & Wehr, P. (2002). Using conflict theory. Cambridge University Press.

Castells, M. (1997). An introduction to the information age. City2(7), 6-16.

Coleman, J. S. (1957). Community conflict. Free Press.

Coleman, J. S. (1971). Resources for Social Change. Race in the United States.

Coser, L. A. (1998). The functions of social conflict (Vol. 9). Routledge.

Gamson, W. A. (1966). Rancorous conflict in community politics. American Sociological Review, 71-81.

Lyon, L., & Driskell, R. (2011). The community in urban society. Waveland Press.

Marx, K. (1848). The communist manifesto. Vol. 1. Marx/Engels selected works.

Marx, K. (1999). Capital: An abridged edition. OUP Oxford.

Nickerson, C. (2021). Conflict theory.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics