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Social conflict is a conflict or confrontation of social powers.

Social conflict is an important aspect of social power. Social conflict refers to the various types of negative social interactions that may occur within a social relationship (e.g., arguments, criticism, hostility, unwanted demands)which, in some circumstances, includes physical violence.[1]

Social conflict describes the nature of conflict, the factors which escalate conflict, and the strategies which may be used to reduce and settle conflict. To this day, many Sociologists differ in opinion as to whether social conflict is limited to hostile or antagonistic opposition, and whether social conflict is a clash of coercive powers or opposing social powers.

Social Conflict is tied to Conflict Theory and Social conflict theory.


Conflict Theory

Conflict theory emphasizes the importance of interests over norms and values. The pursuit of interests generates various types of conflicts that become normal aspects of social life rather then different or abnormal occurrences. Everything becomes driven by resource competition, which becomes the norm. This theory is a concept that operates under three basic notions. The first suggests that society is composed of different groups that compete with each other for resources. The second is that, while these societies may portray a sense cooperation with one another, there is always a constant power struggle between differing social groups as they pursue their own interests. Within said societies, there are certain groups who control specific resources and means of production. Lastly, the theory states that these social groups will use said resources to their own advantage, in the pursuit of their goals. This often leads to those who lack control over resources to being taken advantage of. As a result, many of these dominated groups will struggle with other groups in attempt to gain the control. The majority of the time, the groups with the most resources will gain or maintain power (due to the fact that they have the resources to support their power).

  • The idea that those who have control will maintain control is known as (The Matthew Effect)

One branch of conflict theory is critical criminology. This term is based upon the view that the fundamental causes of crime is oppression, resulting from social and economic forces operating within a given society. This perspective stems from German philosopher, Karl Marx, who believed the justice system and laws favor the rich and powerful in a society and that the poor are punished far more severely for much smaller crimes.

Another branch of conflict theory is the conflict theory of aging. This came about in the 1980's due to a setback in federal spending and a loss of jobs across the nation; the older generations competed with the younger generation for employment. Among those that were the worst effected were women, low-income families, and minorities.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx, a German theorist, emphasized his materialist views on ownership and means of production. He argued that what is most valued is a result of human labor and founded his ideas based on a capitalistic community, meaning a majority of the money is owned by only a small percentage. This causes a distinction between two classes, the industrialists and the working class. The industrialists, the ones that make up the small percentage, own the means of production. The working class are those earning their wages by selling their labor. Problems become noticeable because the upper class is looking to get the most production possible for the least amount of money. A Surplus value is created; the profit industrialists hold onto caused by workers producing more then the employers actually need to repay the cost of hiring laborers. Another occurrence is exploitation; when workers receive less money than what their labor is worth. Marx believed that the gap between industrialists and the laborers would continue to grow. The industrialists would become more and more wealthy, and the laborers continue to move towards poverty. Conflict theory is seen throughout relationships and interactions between two groups of people including races, opposite sexes, and religions.

Max Weber and Karl Marx both have two different approaches to the conflict theory.
Marx supports the ideas of deviance, claiming that individuals choose to engage in such rebellious and conflicting behavior as a response to the inequalities of the capitalist system.
Weber discusses the conflict of stratification and its' effects on power in society. He stresses property, prestige, and power as the main influences to the conflicting behaviors of groups in society.

Here is a famous quote said by Karl Marx...

"The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity -- and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally."

A commodity is any good or service that has been produced by human labor and is put up for sale on a market. What Marx is trying to say in the above quote is that an entrepreneur has more and more to keep up with the more his company and power expands. It becomes more difficult each time his range of power increases. Eventually, the entrepreneur himself will become a commodity because he/she will no longer be able to keep up with their business and will have to put themselves (their company) up for sale on the market.


Stratification is the distribution of a valued good in levels, or could be looked as the inequalities among individuals and groups. Weber determined that there are three levels of stratification and those include: property (economic class), prestige (status), and power (party). Property is related to control and ownership; prestige is the position that gains value determined by interactions with others; power is influence, relations, and position.

Systems of Stratification

These systems share 3 characteristics. They are as follows:

1. The rankings apply to social categories of people who share a common characteristic without necessarily interacting or identifying with each other.

2. People's life experiences and opportunities depend on the ranking of their social category.

3. The ranks of different social categories change very slowly over time.

Conflict Interests

Conflict of interest is a type of conflict interest. We can define a conflict of interest as a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional." "Social conflict is not limited to hostile or antagonistic opposition; it is not wholly a clash of coercive powers as often is implied, but of any opposing social powers".Social conflict is usually recognized through violence, and physical behabior. Yet,its more that just fighting, and killing one another. At times, it can deal with it throw a simple town in a conversation. It is acknowledged by someone's power."

Dr. Coser, a sociologist, disagrees with the majority of American sociologists who, he contends, have badly neglected and misunderstood the concept and function of social conflict. He defines social conflict as '… a struggle over the values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure, or eliminate their rivals'. He believes that the prevalent tendency is to look upon conflict as dysfunctional and pathological.

Types of social conflict:

See also

External links


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