conflict theory

(noun) A theory that posits conflict and social inequality will inevitable occur because of differing interests and values between groups, particularly the competition for scarce resources such wealth and power.

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Usage Notes:

  • 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 Karl Marx (1818–1883), Georg Simmel (1858–1918), and Max Weber (1864–1920).
  • A type of macrosociology.
  • Also called:
    • conflict framework
    • conflict paradigm
    • conflict perspective
    • conflict theoretical strategy
    • social conflict theory (social-conflict theory)

Related Quotations:

  • “Conflict perspectives argue that society is a continuous power struggle among competing groups, often based on class, race, ethnicity, or gender” (Kendall 2006:37).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Kendall, Diane. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

OpenStax College. 2012. “Theoretical Perspectives.” Connexions. October 9, 2012. (