Conflict Theory - Definition
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What is Conflict Theory?
Conflict theory argues that society, individuals, and groups within social confines interact with one another not on the basis of consensus but on conflict. More specifically, it claims that the society is consistently in a state of conflict, especially when there is unequal distribution of resources or competition for the available resources.
Back to: Management & Organizational Behavior
A Little More on What is Conflict Theory
Per conflict theory, there are various forms of conflict that stem from the bid of different groups in a society to gratify their desires.
For example, all groups in society have different goals and levels of resources they want to attain, thereby causing conflict among the groups.
Different areas and discussions where the conflict theory is used include wealth and poverty, distribution and non-distribution of resources (material and non-material), power, revolutions and others.
Karl Marx and some other theorists believe that conflict is a driving force for change, revolution improvement, and development in the society.
Primary Assumptions of Conflict Theory
The conflict theory rests its tenets on four assumptions which are revolution, competition, structural inequality and war. According to theorists, every conflict can be caused by any of these factors and also have any of them as an outcome.
For better understanding, the four basic assumptions are explained below:
Competition is an important concept in conflict theory, in fact, conflict often occur as a result of competition. For instance, if resources are not sufficient for individuals living in a community, it leads to scarcity, therefore competition for the available resources. People can compete for real estate properties, lands, money, material resources, among others. For proponents of the conflict theory, societies operate based on competition and not cooperation.
Inequality occur in diverse layers of the economy, even at the structural level. Structural inequality occurs when some set of people are placed higher than the others. When the structure of a society benefits specific individuals at the detriment of other people in the society, it is structural inequality. When some individuals in a society have more power, wealth and influence than others, structural inequality occurs.
It is assumed that a conflict can result to revolution, it is one of the effects when conflicts occur between two groups. In most situations, the revolution is not gradual, rather eruptive and occurs abruptly.
When talking about war, conflict theories are of the opinion that sustained or prolonged conflicts between social classes or groups in a society lead to war. When war happens, it cleanses the society and acts as a unifier. Despite that war cleanses a society, some fragments of conflicts still exist. Another effect of war is that it can create division in the society.