Last modified on 19 June 2020, at 21:13

Conflict Theory

Conflict Theory
Symbolic Interactionism
Social Constructionism
Deviant Behaviour
Auguste Comte
Karl Marx
Emile Durkheim
Max Weber

Conflict Theory is the Marxist belief that all humans belong to classes or groups, and that each group or class is inherently and forever at war with each other. Each group struggles for dominance and power over the other. For early Marxist thought, these groups were based on economic classes, but over the years the social groups and identity classes have taken on many of the same ideals.[1]


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. [2][3][4]

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.

See also

Further reading

External links

Professional Organizations



  1. The Cult Dynamics of Wokeness, by Dr. James Lindsay
  2. Brym, R.J. (2001). Introducing sociology. In R.J. Brym (Ed.), New society:sociology for the 21st century (pp. 2-25). Toronto: Harcourt.
  3. Abercrombie, N., Hill, S. & Turner, B.S. (2000). The penguin dictionary of sociology (4th ed.). Toronto:Penguin.
  4. Gomme, I.M. (2002). The shadow line: deviance and crime in Canada (3rd ed.). Toronto:Nelson.