What is conflict theory?

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Conflict theory is a theory in sociology that says that the state is always in conflict because of the constant competition for the scarce resources in a society. It is a theory developed by Karl Marx which states that social order can only be maintained if power and domination exist and that consensus and conformity alone will not maintain social order.

Conflict theory explained

Conflict theory asserts that the people who hold both wealth and power will hold on to these two things in any way possible. The theory also says that those with power and wealth will always suppress the powerless and the poor to maintain their social standing.

Based on Marx theory, those in power stay in power through suppression of the poor because of they prefer to control the masses rather than attain social order. And as such they exert capitalistic attempts to hold on to their power.

The conflict theory has been used widely particularly in exploring certain social phenomena such as revolutions and war, poverty and wealth, domestic violence and discrimination.

Example of conflict theory

The financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 with the bail out of banks by the US federal reserve is an example of the conflict theory. This is according to the authors of the book “A Good Book, in Theory”, Alan Sears and James Cairns.

Cairns and Sears said that the financial crisis of the United States which led to the great recession is the result of the instabilities and inequalities pervasive in the Western societies. They explained that the current global economic system structure allows the biggest financial institutions and banks to evade the supervision of the government and that the present structure only benefits few people.

These two authors asserted that the major banks have received aid in the form of bailout from the same government which has always said that they did not have the funds for big-scale social programs like universal healthcare, among others. And as such, these actions support the conflict theory that the pillars of society—in this case the political and economic institutions—only favor the rich and the powerful rather than the working class or the poor.

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