Society and Conflict

Conflicts continue to be one of the most prominent in society. This is because people and other facets of society also compete with each other. It is also normal for society to find itself continually in conflict. Conflict may be easy to understand but it can be difficult in some situations to realize how subtle it may also be more and more so that it is not understood clearly. For example, the aspect of conflict between children in the same family may be difficult to understand, particularly when they are subject to the same conditions. Nonetheless, while it can be a complicated phenomenon, employing the social conflict theory can help best understand conflict and its presence in the society.

Conflict can be described as a form of discord or friction in a community or group that arises because one or more sections of the group feel that their actions or beliefs are being rejected by other sections of the group (Jeong, 2008). It is important to note that conflict can occur between people of the same group, in which case it would be referred to as intragroup conflict, or it can also arise between people from two or more groups. It is also imperative to highlight that conflicts in groups, such as that of workers who strike against their seniors, most often follow a particular course that is often aimed at achieving an overall good. Regardless, conflict remains a phenomenon in the society that can either have negative consequences or have positive impacts.

It is a common occurrence finding conflicts in the society. What is however unique is the fact that in every community, it is common occurrence finding different groups that are always in conflict. This is often prevalent in the many sectors and aspects of the society. For instance, in college, athletes tend to feel superior to other groups, and as such, they will tend to be in constant conflict with other groups in the society such as people in the band or even with people in academic groups. Usually, they will do this because of a feeling of superiority that drives them to believe that they are better and more powerful than other groups. Similarly, in sports, different teams will always conflict each other in the bid to gain the stipulated points over the other. Their respective fans will also tend to conflict with another with each side trying to out-do the other. This is, however, prevalent in various other sectors of the society, a fact that shows evidence to the idea that the society is divided and ever in conflict. Another evidence of this can be seen from children with different backgrounds playing together in the field. While they might be all age mates, these children will tend to show some form of conflict among themselves. There are those among them who may want to feel superior to the others by wanting to lead in everything, an act that may not sit well with the others and in the process encouraging conflict.


The social conflict theory can, however, help explain and understand the phenomenon of conflict as revealed in the case above. The theory works to emphasize the role played by coercion and power in the bid to produce social order (Chibucos, Leite & Weis, 2005). In hindsight, it is the theoretical perspective that attempts to reinforce the idea behind conflict being a precursor to social order. The theory stipulates that tensions and wars come about when factors like power, resources, and status are unequally distributed among different people in the society. These engagements according to the theory, eventually emerge as the engine for social change. Power, in such a case, means a lot of things that include an individual’s social status relative to others, control of politics and institutions in the society, accumulated wealth and also material resources. It is also an aspect determine by other range factors that include gender, race, culture, sexuality, and religion.

The social conflict theory originated from the works Karl Max. Karl Max focused on the reasons and consequences of class conflict between different classes in the society, specifically between the capitalists and the proletariat. The proletariat in this context refers to both the poor and the working class. Basing his focus on the social, political and economic implications of capitalism, he posited that the system, based on the being of superior minority class in addition to a troubled majority class (the poor and the working class), resulted in class conflict as the interests of the two groups were at odds (Chibucos, Leite & Weis, 2005). Moreover, resources were also unjustly distributed among them.

According to Marx, an unequal social order became maintained using ideological coercion that developed a consensus and further acceptance of the expectations, values, and conditions as stipulated by the capitalists (Chibucos, Leite & Weis, 2005). However, when situations became worse, the lower classes developed class consciousness and would then revolt against exploitation, demanding changes that would then smooth the conflict. Nonetheless, ineffective changes resulted in more conflicts while effective changes brought about peace.

Since its inception, the theory has gone has undergone different transformations with other theorist using it to build on other theories such as the feminist theory, post-structural theory, and the critical race theory. Regardless, the theory remains macro-oriented paradigm that perceives society as a platform of inequality that produces conflict as well as social change. As such, according to the conflict theory, conflicts can be instrumental in implementing certain positive changes in the society. Through this theory, one learns that conflict is inevitable especially because of the uneven distribution of crucial resources and factors that are crucial for existence or even success in the society. Through the theory, it becomes easy to recognize why athletes, for instance, are often in conflict with other groups such as band members. In retrospect, power and status are often regarded as scarce in the colleges. Once one group is on top of the other, all the other groups either have to choose between accepting this fact or stand up against the group on top to avoid being a follower. This explains why students in athlete tend to conflict with those of other activities. Most often they prefer themselves to on top of power chain because of various factors such as scholarships and mega-contracts with prominent franchises. This arouses a feeling of class that they feel only them can have. An attempt to usurp them from this status is often met with conflict.

Hence, according to the social conflict theory, conflict mainly arises as a means to an end. It is often driven by the need to acquire resources, power, status or recognition. This explains why it lends itself to understanding various other frictions that occur in the society such as race, sexual, religion, gender and cultural frictions. Through conflict theory, one gets to understand why other factors such as these aspects. For instance, the conflict theory helps understand why minority races are often in conflict with white people or among each other in the US.

In conclusion, from the evidence above, it is evident that conflict is an inevitable phenomenon in the society. This is because it is driven by the need to satisfy the vacuum created by the uneven distribution of important resources in the society. However, it can be a complex aspect to understand, employing the social conflict theory can help understand its course and why it is sometimes necessary. Regardless, conflict, according to the theory, remains an important aspect of the society mainly because it eventually enables some form of order in the society.


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Chibucos, T. R., Leite, R. W., & Weis, D. L. (2005). Readings in family theory. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Jeong, H.-W. (2008). Understanding Conflict and Conflict Analysis. London: Sage Publications.

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