Conflict theory is one of sociology’s major theoretical frameworks through which to analyze society. Conflict theories encompass Marxist theories that focus on political, social and economic inequalities and their societal implications.
Important terms within conflict theories include inequality, power, authority, competition and exploitation. Conflict theorists view society through a macro-level orientation with a broad focus on the social structures that shape society.
Essentially, inequalities exist because those who are in control have disproportionate resources and actively defend these advantages.(1) Control theories pay attention to class, race and gender because those traits have experienced some of the largest enduring struggles for equality.
Conflict theory is derived from the works of Karl Marx. Marx saw society as fragmented into groups that compete for social and economic resources.(1) Societal order is maintained through domination, with the power in the hands of those with the greatest resources. Conflict theorists believe all interactions in society are based on inequality of resources.(1)
Karl Marx saw the economy as society’s biggest divide of inequality. Marx viewed society as being comprised of two major classes. There is the bourgeoisie who own the means of production and the proletariat who work in the means of production. Society goes through a natural cycle that culminates in revolution, which is a key component of society.
Max Weber also contributed to conflict theories. He explored the connection between the growth of capitalism and the rise of Protestantism. Weber posited that the spread of capitalism happened so quickly because of Protestantism and that cultural influences embedded in religion can impact economic systems.(1)