(noun) A theory that emphasizes the role of coercion, conflict, and power in society and that social inequality will inevitably occur because of differing interests and values between groups, particularly the competition for scarce resources.
Note: Conflict theory can be applied to many sociological topics such as:
- Deviance and Crime: Conflict theory suggests that deviance and crime occur due to the conflict between the powerful and the powerless or “the haves” and “have nots.”
- Poverty: Conflict theory suggests that the elite use their power to enact and enforce laws to increase and protect their own economic interests and thus lower classes can be reduced to poverty.
Audio Pronunciation: (con·flict the·o·ry)
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- Plural: conflict theories
- While conflict theory originated from the work of Karl Marx (1818–1883), there is not singular conflict theory but rather conflict theories.
- The basic assumption of conflict theory is an individual or group will dominate others and actively avoid being dominated.
- Conflict theory grew out of critique of functionalism.
- Conflict theory scholars include:
- A type of macrosociology.
- Also called:
- conflict framework
- conflict paradigm
- conflict perspective
- conflict theoretical strategy
- social conflict theory (social-conflict theory)
- “Conflict perspectives argue that society is a continuous power struggle among competing groups, often based on class, race, ethnicity, or gender” (Kendall 2006:37).
- Word origin of “conflict” and “theory” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Collins, Randall. 1975. Conflict Sociology: Toward an Explanatory Science. New York: Academic Press.
- Coser, Lewis A. 1956. The Functions of Social Conflict. New York: Free Press.
- Dahrendorf, Ralf. 1959. Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
- Goldstone, Jack. 1991. Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
- Moore, Barrington. 1966. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
- Paige, Jeffrey. 1975. Agrarian Revolution: Social Movements and Export Agriculture in the Underdeveloped World. New York: Free Press.
- Rex, John. 1981. Social Conflict: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis. London: Longman.
- Skocpol, Theda. 1979. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Tilly, Charles. 1978. From Mobilization to Revolution. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
- Turner, Jonathan H. 1984. Societal Stratification: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Wright, Eric Olin. 1997. Class Counts. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
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How to Cite the Definition of Conflict Theory
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “conflict-theory.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved December 12, 2018 (https://sociologydictionary.org/conflict-theory/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
conflict theory. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/conflict-theory/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “conflict theory.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://sociologydictionary.org/conflict-theory/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“conflict theory.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2018. <https://sociologydictionary.org/conflict-theory/>.