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conflict theory (social conflict theory)

Definition of Conflict Theory

(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.

Examples of Conflict Theory

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.

Conflict Theory Scholars

Conflict Theory Pronunciation

  • IPA Pronunciation
    • American English
      • /ˈkɑnˌflɪk(t) ˈθiəri/
      • /ˈkɑnˌflɪk(t) ˈθɪri/
    • British English
      • /ˈkɒnflɪkt ˈθɪəri/
  • Syllabification: (con·flict the·o·ry)

Usage Notes

  • Plural: conflict theories
  • While conflict theory originated from the work of Karl Marx (1818–1883), there is not a singular conflict theory but rather conflict theories.
  • Conflict theory attempts to explain class conflict.
  • The basic assumption of conflict theory is an individual or group will dominate others and actively avoid being dominated.
  • Conflict theory, functionalism and symbolic interactionism are the typical perspectives studied in sociology but postmodern perspectives are challenging this tradition.
  • Conflict theory grew out of critique of functionalism.
  • A type of macrosociology and theory.
  • Also called:
    • conflict framework
    • conflict paradigm
    • conflict perspective
    • conflict theoretical strategy
    • social conflict theory (social-conflict theory)

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References

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Cite the Definition of Conflict Theory

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “conflict-theory.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved October 13, 2019 (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 October 13, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/conflict-theory/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“conflict theory.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/conflict-theory/>.