Conflict perspective is a view of society that focuses on social processes of tension, competition, and change. ( The perspective derives its inspiration from the work of Karl Marx, who saw the struggle between social classes as the ‘engine’ of history and the main source of change. ( Modern conflict theory, which is associated with such sociologist as C. W Mills (1956),Ralf Dahrendorf (1959) , and Randall Collins (1975), does not simply focus, as Marx did, on class conflict ; its sees conflict among many groups and interests as fact of social life.
Conflict and Change Conflict theorist assume that societies are in constant state of change, in which conflict is a permanent feature. Conflict does not necessarily mean outright violence; it includes tension, hostility, competition and disagreement over goals and values. This conflict is an occasional event that disrupts the generally smooth workings of society: it is and continuing and inevitable part of social life.
In contrast with the functionalist perspective, social order, according to conflict perspective, is maintained not by popular agreement but rather by force or the implied threat of force.
Conflict theorist regard the functionalist’s vision of general consensus on values as pure fiction: what actually happens, they argue, is that the powerful coerce the rest of population into compliance and conformity. Conflict theorist do not see social conflict as necessarily destructive , although they admit that it may sometimes have that effect. They argue that conflict can have positive results .
It binds groups together as they pursue their own interests, and the conflict among competing groups focuses attention on social problems and leads to beneficial changes that might otherwise not have occurred.
In this way, social movements— such as those for women’s rights or against nuclear power—become an important source of change. The changes caused by social conflict prevent society from stagnating. Who benefits ? The conflict perspective, then, leads the sociologist to inquire into whose interest are involved in, and who benefits or suffers from, existing arrangements. Read why change is constant and inevitable
In analyzing social inequality , for example , conflict theorist argue that it is functional for society as a whole but because some people have been able to achieve political and economic power and have managed to pass on these advantages to their descendants . In the same way , conflict theorist would not see environmental pollution as a “dysfunction” of industrialism. Instead, they would point to the fact that powerful corporate interests make their profits from manufacturing processes that they fully realize pollute the environment.
Social change, in this area as in others , is influenced by the shifting relationships and interest of groups competing for their own advantage. A modern society contains a wide spectrum of opinions, occupations, lifestyles and social groups. On any social issue there are some people who stand to gain and who stand to lose. Social processes cannot be fully understood without referring to this conflict of interest , a conflict whose outcome always favor the strongest party.
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