The 19th C economist and revolutionary Karl Marx, born during the industrial revolution, is the father of conflict theory. Marx examined social organization, with class and status very much central to his ideas. In order to understand the theory and its father however, it is important to understand the historical context in which it developed. Marx ideas came about at the end of the first industrial revolution, and lead into the second. During this time there was a major shift in technological, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions and organization. While these events themselves do not control what we think, it is important to note that current events dictate what we think about. 
Major Events 1830-69
- Railroad construction takes off in the US
- First telegraph – Washington to Baltimore (1844)
- Saxophone invented (1846)
- The Communist Manifesto published (1848)
- Failed harvests in Europe lead to famine
- First transatlantic teleograph cable laid
- First elevator installed
- Revolt in India against British colonial rule
- Origin of the Species published by Charles Darwin (1859)
- First transcontinental railroad in the US is constructed
- Nobel invents dynamite
- American Civil War
- Dominion of Canada is born (1867)
- Marx publishes Das Kapital (1867)
Like Durkheim's functionalism, conflict theory focuses on macrolevel structures. The example from Marx work is the relationship between the proletariat and the bourgeoise. The theory examines how under different circumstances social inequality can create both stability and social change. A central argument to the theory is that the privileged will attempt to maintain privilege, whereas the subordinate groups will attempt to improve their circumstances; the elimination of privilege will decrease conflict, and improve social welfare for everyone.
- American Sociological Association
- Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association
- International Sociological Association
- Brym, R.J. (2001). Introducing sociology. In R.J. Brym (Ed.), New society:sociology for the 21st century (pp. 2-25). Toronto: Harcourt.
- Abercrombie, N., Hill, S. & Turner, B.S. (2000). The penguin dictionary of sociology (4th ed.). Toronto:Penguin.
- Gomme, I.M. (2002). The shadow line: deviance and crime in Canada (3rd ed.). Toronto:Nelson.