This conflict perspective/theory to understand and analyze society is influenced by Marxist theoretical assumptions. It rejects the assumption put forward by the structural-functional perspective. This perspective views society as a dynamic system.
Social change is a core concept for this perspective. Society goes on changing and involving through different conflicts. Classes that emerge through time, the interest of those classes, and unification or conflicts between and among those classes propel society forward and transform it. This perspective views the economy as a major factor in social change.
The main followers of the conflict perspective are Karl Marx, C.W. Mills, Randall Collins, etc. According to these analysts unequal access, oppression, exploitation, limited resources, etc. are responsible for the emergence of conflict and due to these conflicts society undergoes changes. They believe that since there’s no society without conflict, the only reliable way to study society is from the perspective of the conflict.
The conflict theorist assumes that societies are in a constant state of change in which the conflict is the permanent feature. Conflict does not necessarily imply ought right violence. It includes tension, hostility, severe competition, and disagreement over goals and values. Conflict is not deemed as an occasional event that disturbs the smooth functioning of the system. It is regarded as a constant process and an inevitable part of social life.
Conflict theorists see conflict not merely as a class phenomenon but as a part of everyday life in all societies. Thus in studying any culture, organization, or social group, sociologists want to know, “who benefits, who suffers, and who dominates at the expenses of others”. They are concerned with the conflict between women and men, parents and children, cities and villages, rich and poor, upper caste and lower caste, and so on. Conflict theorists are concerned with how society’s institutions including the family, government, religion, education, and media mad help to maintain the privileges of some groups and keep others in a subordinate position.
Assumptions of Conflict Perspective
- Society not a system of equilibrium.
- Society is dynamic.
- The class conflict ultimately produces positive social changes.
- No society exists without conflict.
- Conflict is a universal phenomenon.
- Conflict is a continual process with violent and non-violent forms.
- Conflict is rooted in social structure.
- Each and every event within the social system stimulates change.
- Assumption of lack of consensus in society.
- Based on macro-level theoretical orientation.
Strengths of Conflict Theory
- According to the conflict perspective, inequality can only be overcome through a fundamental transformation.
- It is concerned with economic development and changes.
- This perspective represents the disadvantaged group and the process may cultivate the notion of full participation.
- Followers of this perspective believe that changes in history are the result of new forces of production. Which sweeps away the social relationship of the old order.
- This perspective imagines the exploitation less society.
Limitations/ Weakness of Conflict Theory
- Conflict theory is criticized for focusing so narrowly on the issues of competition and change.
- It fails to come to grips with the more orderly, stable, and less politically controversial aspects of social reality.
- It also overlooks the stability of societies, where change is not always necessary. E.g. many primitive societies of the world are still very little changed.
- Conflict theorists failed to distinguish between positive conflict and negative conflict or forms of conflict.